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NZ Briefs for 13th March 2019

Sweeney bags first win; Eminent in terrific form ahead of Ranvet;

Sweeney bags first win

It was a memorable day at Matamata on Wednesday for Te Awamutu trainer Debbie Sweeney after she recorded her first win as a solo trainer when First Rock took out the Rees Tavern 1200.

Sweeney had won 260 races in partnership with her father Graeme Sanders before his retirement last year and Sweeney was pleased to get on the board on her own account.

“I had been struggling to get a win, I had been close a couple of times, but it’s great (to get the win today),” Sweeney said.

First Rock competed in the first two-year-old race of the season back in September and Sweeney was happy to record the win after three previous runner-up results.

“On the turn she was travelling really well, so I was hopeful,” Sweeney said. “She has always shown a lot of promise and she is going to be a lovely three-year-old filly.”

The win could be a sign of bigger things for Sweeney and her two-year-old El Roca filly who holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni later this month.

“We’ll see how she pulls up from this, but we will probably have a look at that (Sires’ Produce),” she said.

Eminent in terrific form ahead of Ranvet

Eminent will need some of his champion trainer's gold medal-winning form to have any chance at a Group One victory during Sydney's autumn carnival.

Star jockey James McDonald said the five-year-old felt terrific after he gave him a workout at the Canterbury Racecourse quarantine centre on Wednesday.

McDonald said the unknown question is whether Eminent can recapture his form in time for March 23 to be competitive in the Gr.1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens.

New trainer Sir Mark Todd told reporters the team still did not know what to expect of the regally-bred son of Frankel since he had only taken the horse into his care in October.

"We've come here knowing that at his best he's a very good horse but we've still got some questions to answer," Todd said.

"Even when I was training I never ran a horse first-up over 1 1⁄4 m so we're in unknown territory."

The dual New Zealand Olympic equestrian gold medallist, who has not trained racehorses in more than a decade, had to hurriedly get his licence before taking over from English trainer Martyn Meade.

"Obviously Martyn Meade did a very good job in his early stages. Eminent was a good two-year-old and a very good three-year-old," he said.

Todd has had previous success in training during the early 2000s before he returned to eventing, having won the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) with Bramble Rose and the 2007 Gr.1 Wellington Cup (3200m) with Willy Smith.

A long-time lover of racing, he has also booked Eminent for a clash with champion mare Winx in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 13.

"Winx is not just an Australian icon she's worldwide," Todd said.

"If we go well in the Ranvet and get a chance to run there it would be an amazing occasion to be a part of it and hopefully our horse is good enough he can make it into a horse race."

Principally owned by New Zealand Bloodstock's Sir Peter Vela, Eminent raced in Europe where he had several wins including a French Group Two race in 2017 before a drop in form last year left him unplaced in all four runs, three at Group One level.

En route to stud in New Zealand, Eminent spent time doing dressage and jumps work with Todd before it was decided to try the entire in Australia for one last season.

The 63-year-old will return to the United Kingdom following the Queen Elizabeth to compete in the Badminton Horse Trials but said he hopes to get a few more horses to train.

"I've always loved racing so we'll just see what happens," he said.


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