Australia’s champion sire Fastnet Rock featured in New Zealand on Saturday with an exciting Group I winner when lightly raced Albany Reunion (4g Fastnet Rock x Secret Silence, by Fusaichi Pegasus) snatched a narrow victory in the Group I Easter Handicap at Ellerslie.
His owner Eric Watson savoured a satisfying distraction from the woes at the Auckland Warriors when Albany Reunion claimed the final Group I prize of the NZ racing season.
The high-flying businessman has endured a testing time as a co-owner of the beleaguered rugby league club so a winning goal kicked at Ellerslie came as a welcome relief.
Watson bred Albany Reunion and races the son of Fastnet Rock with Tim Connell and Saturday’s success was the fourth of the gelding’s eight-start career under the guiding hand of trainer Nigel Tiley.
“I said after he won here last time that he was a serious Group One horse,” Tiley said.
“After he trialled strongly the other day I knew he was there and that easy trial was the key to success.”
Fourth in the Group I Telegraph Handicap Trentham in the summer, Albany Reunion then won a Rating 85 sprint at Ellerslie in March and a trial win at Avondale on April Fools’ Day topped off his Easter preparation.
The gelding drew a wide gate on Saturday and raced three wide without cover to the turn and he responded gallantly to Mark Du Plessis’ urgings in the straight to earn a half-head winning margin.
“No matter how many times I went through the race I couldn’t see myself anywhere else but three wide without cover,” Du Plessis said.
“He was on the ball today, the penny has dropped with him, but the best is yet to come and I never hit him behind the saddle.”
Albany Reunion is a full brother to stakes-winner Fast Dragon and is one of three winners from Secret Silence, a winning half-sister by Fusaichi Pegasus to stakes-winner Sunrise Silence.
He is the 15th Group I winner for Fastnet Rock, who also featured with a smart stakes-winner in Adelaide when the Gai Waterhouse trained mare Driefontein (4m Fastnet Rock x Follow Gold, by Export Gold) downed dual Group I winner Platelet to win the Group III SAJC RN Irwin Stakes.
A $75,000 Magic Millions purchase for Star Thoroughbreds from the Widden Stud draft, Driefontein won the Magic Millions Classic at two and has the overall record of seven wins from 23 starts with prizemoney topping $1.8 million.
Driefontein was bred by Bylong Park Thoroughbreds and is one of five winners for slick stakes-winner Follow Gold, a sister to another speedy juvenile stakes-winner in Export Gold.