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Farm labour has Derby winner primed for new campaign

Six weeks of farm work has Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Sherwood Forest in good fettle for a spring preparation, according to his new trainer Bill Thurlow.

Sherwood Forest , who won the 2020 edition of the Classic at Ellerslie for Cambridge trainer Tony Pike, begins a new preparation for Waverley's Thurlow in Saturday's Gr.3 Boehringer Ingelheim Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni.

Thurlow has no expectation of a winning return but said he couldn't be any happier with his new acquisition.

"We're pretty happy with him but he will just need a run," Thurlow said.

"He's drawn wide so he's probably going to have to go back from the outside gate and I'm just hoping to see him running on well. If he does that, we'll be rapt because this is just a starting point race.

"I couldn't expect him to be a winning chance this weekend. After this, he could go to something like the Egmont Cup and be competitive."

A winner of four of his 23 starts and more than $770,000 in stakes earnings, Sherwood Forest has gone winless since his Derby triumph some two-and-a-half years ago.

However, Thurlow said the Fastnet Rock six-year-old gelding had thrived in his training, relishing the variation of beach gallops and farm work under the care of Thurlow's daughter Emma.

"I had him at the beach and he's done a bit of farm work and just tried to change things around with him a bit," Thurlow said.

"We've just tried a change of environment and we're hoping a bit of farm work might revitalise him. Tony has done a magnificent job with the horse and he's run really well for him but he just hasn't been able to win since the Derby. 

"He's been in work since May so he's done plenty of base work. He seems great. He spent six weeks up on the sheep farm with Emma and just did a bit of work up there each day and he just loved that.

"Sometimes that can really spark some of those older horses. We don't know yet, but that's what we're hoping for and it looks like it's worked anyway.

"If we can keep him in that bit lesser company, that might help a bit too. We'll stay away from the best until we need We're just rapt to have him. He's such a lovely horse. He's a beautiful horse and a real pleasure to have around."

Bred by former New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chairman Matthew Goodson and his wife Dianna Perron and raced by the couple along with Gordon and Margot Calder and Deborah Martin, Sherwood Forest holds nominations for both the Gr.3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton on November 12 and the Gr.2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton on November 9.

"We'll try to get him to Christchurch if we can. That's our main plan," said Thurlow, who prepared Glory Days to win the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie in 2019.

"The New Zealand Cup might just be a bit too soon now. You can get behind quite quickly. He's entered for that and the Coupland's Mile so we'll just play it by ear. Ideally it would be the Cup but that might come around a bit quick.

"Later in the season, we'd like to think he could be competitive in a race like the Auckland Cup because he can stay; he's proved that. He's a different type of horse to Glory Days. She had a lot of natural speed whereas this bloke sticks on."

Thurlow was hoping to have a team of horses campaigning at Christchurch for New Zealand Cup week, with Darlington County also nominated for both the Coupland's Mile and New Zealand Cup and Establishment another entered for the Cup, though he conceded that one of the wettest winters on record has played havoc with his team's build-up.

"It's been hard work with how wet it's been. We've had our annual calendar year rainfall already this year so it's been extremely wet," he said.

"There's a few pencilled in for the trip at the moment but we'll see who gets there. There's been no jumpouts so you're just trying to do the best you can with the hand you've been dealt really. Everyone is looking for some sunshine now to boost our spirits."

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