A dominant winner over high class filly Rising Romance in the Group I New Zealand Derby last year, top class four year-old Puccini (4h Encosta de Lago x Miss Opera, by Paris Opera) struck his best form to post his second win at the highest level when taking out the Group I Thorndon Mile at Trentham in New Zealand on Saturday.
Puccini (in blue and gold colours on the inside) burst between runners in the straight to win the 1600 metre feature, but connections had to withstand a protest hearing before celebrations could begin in earnest.
Senior stipendiary steward Ross Neal said there was contact between the two runners, but in his opinion it occurred too close to the winning post for it to have influenced the initial outcome.
Puccini‘s victory capped off a stellar day for his owners Paul and Cushla Smithies, who race Puccini under their Monovale Holdings banner.
The Cambridge couple also bred and subsequently sold the Group III Wellfield Desert Gold Stakes winner Platinum Witness.
The Peter and Jacob McKay-prepared Puccini has won twice at Group III level this season, so was deserving of another elite feature race win.
“He’s a very good miler, but he will be better over more ground when he relaxes,” Peter McKay said.
“It was a top effort today and when he’s ridden quietly he’s got an enormous finish.”
Puccini has the overall record of eight wins and six placings from 24 starts and is one of over 100 stakes-winners for champion sire Encosta de Lago.
A half-brother to multiple Group I winner Sir Slick, who won the Thorndon Mile twice, Puccini is one of six winners from six foals to race from stakes-winning Paris Opera mare Miss Opera.