Group-performed colt Conqueror has shown he is on target for a trip to New Zealand for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic after resuming from a let-up with a win at Caulfield.
Having his first start since finishing second in the Group Two Sandown Guineas (1600m) on November 16, Conqueror ($3.20) took an inside run early in the straight and was forced to dig in to get the better of Write Your Name in Saturday’s Michele De Silva Handicap (1400m).
The three-year-old, taking on older horses but dropping to benchmark-78 grade, was strong to the line to beat Write Your Name by a head with 1-1/4-lengths to Great Duchess third.
The NZ$1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 25 is Conqueror’s immediate target and co-trainer Ben Hayes believes they can head that way with some confidence the colt can emulate his now-retired former stablemate Long Leaf.
Long Leaf won the same race in New Zealand last year.
“He’s booked his ticket to New Zealand,” Hayes said.
“Long Leaf was probably better performed going into the race because he had won a couple of stakes races as a two-year-old whereas this guy is Group-performed and he has been running against the best.
“So I’d say they are very similar at the same stages of their career and I think Conqueror is probably going to be a better miler than Long Leaf.
“I think he’ll be one of the favourites if he travels over well and does everything right.”
Conqueror only previous victory in his first nine starts was a big-margin success in a Pakenham maiden in July last year.
Conqueror brought up a winning double on the program for both the Lindsay Park stable and jockey Damien Oliver after the earlier success of Tony Nicconi.
“I had to ask him for an effort in the last 200 metres and he responded well,” Oliver said of Conqueror.
“He looked well-placed today coming off those stakes races for three-year-olds and it’s getting to the new year now where the three-year-olds are a bit better suited against the older horses.”
“Back to a restricted race today he was well-placed.”