Wanganui celebrates Sistema Railway victory Sun, 01 Jan 2017
Wanganui went into celebration mode late this afternoon when Start Wondering scored a resounding win in the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway at Ellerslie.
While trainers Evan and JJ Rayner, owners Stephen and Joanne Gudsell and jockey Johnathan Parkes were collecting their bootie at Ellerslie, others back in the River City were set to party. Amongst them were the Railway winner’s original trainer Paul Belsham, who last year changed professions to now be a storeman with dairy products manufacturer Open Country.
Belsham prepared Start Wondering for his first four wins before connections decided to transfer him to Chris Waller in quest of the better stakes of Sydney racing. He won three of his first four starts there but in the next he bled and he was sent back to New Zealand.
By the time he returned to training Belsham had handed in his trainer’s licence and the horse was handed over to the Rayners, for whom he has now scaled the Group One peak.
“Good on them, it’s great to see the horse do that, and good on Parkesy too,” Belsham said from Wanganui. “My wife Bridgette anchored him in the trifecta in the previous race (the City of Auckland Cup) and had a nice collect, then she put some of that on this horse.”
Evan Rayner, the senior member of the father-and-daughter training partnership, has had any number of topline horses from jumpers to two-year-olds, but admits that a summer sprinter of the quality of Start Wondering is something of a novelty.
“He would the best I’ve had as far as top drawer sprinters go,” Rayner said. “He’s a good horse and he’s just proved it.”
Start Wondering will now get his chance to complete the Railway-Telegraph double, and Rayner hasn’t counted the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile out either.
“He’s already won two or three times over a mile and being such a big strong horse I don’t see why the Thorndon should be out of the question.”
Start Wondering is in fact a grandson of a Railway winner, 1987 heroine Diamond Lover, whose son by Zabeel, Eighth Wonder, is the sire of today’s winner.
The Ellerslie carnival has proven a windfall for Parkes, who had not ridden a winner on the track until successful on Volpe Veloce in the Eight Carat Classic on Boxing Day and today added the City of Auckland Cup and the Railway.
“I said to one of the jockeys when we were pulling up that I’d have to pinch myself to realise it was really true,” Parkes said. “He had a good trip just where I wanted to be and he was too good for them.”
The favourite Perfect Fit got across from her wide gate to trail one off the fence and had her chance in the straight, but the winner was too strong, a length and a quarter in front at the finish. Reilly Lincoln was the same margin away third after racing handy but then getting into tight quarters midway through the run home.
He just held out late finisher Natuzzi, with Summer’s Day and Statham right in line next. Snowdrop weakened badly after enjoying a cosy trial, while the most unlucky runner was No More Tears, who was denied galloping room in the straight and was eased right down over the final stages.