Trainer backs his mare and gets a Group 1 reward

4 min read
Stephen Ralph was a member of a club with the smallest of numbers at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day with his belief in sprinter Santa Monica (NZ) shared by just a select few.

The Te Aroha trainer had unwavering confidence that his mare could roll the fancied runners in the G1 Sistema Railway S. and for anyone that cared to listen to him – and there weren’t many takers – they were well-rewarded.

Santa Monica got the job done at odds of 76-1 and in the process dented a host of short-course reputations.

“She’s been knocking on the door and I knew she could win this.” - Stephen Ralph

“She’s been knocking on the door and I knew she could win this,” Ralph said. “The only horse I feared was Melody Belle.”

Santa Monica causes an upset in the G1 Railway S.

Ridden by her regular partner Trudy Thornton, Santa Monica raced in the body of the field and then cut loose down the outside to burn punters’ fingers badly.

“That was great work by Trudy. She knows the horse so well and she summed up everything perfectly,” Ralph said. “We haven’t been able to buy a trick with this horse, she’s been unlucky.”

Second G1 winner for Per Incanto

Santa Monica is the second Group 1 winner for her sire Per Incanto (USA) (Street Cry {Ire}), who has 41 catalogued in the upcoming New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale, including 18 in the Premier session.

She also becomes the fourth stakes winner this season for the Little Avondale stallion who currently occupies third position on the New Zealand General Sires' Premiership.

Per Incanto

Santa Monica has now won five of her 28 starts for owners Stuart and Cherie Hope, who joined forces with Ralph more than a decade ago.

“We formed a partnership which has been 13 years in the making so it hasn’t happened overnight,” Ralph said.

“We formed a partnership which has been 13 years in the making so it hasn’t happened overnight.” - Stephen Ralph

From a strong racing background, Ralph's father John, a former Group 1-winning trainer, was on course to witness the victory.

“Dad wasn’t going to come and then he turned up at the last minute,” Ralph said.

“It’s my first Group 1 winner and she’s got that ability so she’s only doing what she should be doing.”

Ralph’s day was completed by Santa Monica’s stablemate Marissa (NZ) (Fully Fledged {NZ}), who came out in the next race and knocked off her Rating 72 rivals in the Barfoot & Thompson H.

Stephen Ralph celebrates his first Group 1 winner as a trainer

Hot pace suited

For jockey Thornton, it was her second consecutive carnival strike at the highest level after she partnered Authentic Paddy (NZ) (Howbaddouwantit {USA}) to win the G1 Zabeel Classic 12 months ago.

The 55-year-old is still going strong and enjoying her job more than 1,000 winners down the line.

“I’m just so pleased for the horse and the owners and for Stephen.” - Trudy Thornton

“I’m just so pleased for the horse and the owners and for Stephen,” Thornton said. “The mare is a tough competitor and she always tries her heart out.”

The pace of the race, set up by Gift Of Power (NZ) (Power {GB}), had been the key to Santa Monica’s boil-over victory.

“The speed was on, which really suited her,” Thornton said. “She likes it really firm as well and she’s so much happier on good ground.”

Best of the rest

Santa Monica had a neck to spare at the post on the Cameron Lammas-ridden Princess Kereru (NZ) (Pins), whose co-trainer Ken Kelso was delighted with his 5-year-old’s performance.

“It was a huge effort and a great ride by Cameron (Lammas),” said the Matamata conditioner, who operates in partnership with his wife Bev and Mark Donoghue.

“I thought we were home for a while. She just got in the worst part of the track, but I’m not making any excuses.

“It’s terrific to get a Group 1 placing and a great result for the stable and for all the staff who do all the hard work.”

The well-supported Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) was gallant in her pursuit of a third consecutive Group 1 win. She had to go back from a wide gate and finished powerfully off a three-wide run.

The defending Railway champion Volpe Veloce (Foxwedge) also did particularly well to get home for fourth money after also settling well near the tail of the field off a horror draw.