Mon, 05 March 2018
Additional reporting courtesy of The Informant
Three-year-old filly Astor (NZ) (Iffraaj) has always showed plenty of talent, it has been her racing manners and pre-race performances that have been a source of frustration for connections. However, a change of stable and environment has worked the oracle for the talented filly and on Saturday, she finally delivered with an emphatic victory in the Listed Musfhasa Stakes at Ellerslie on Derby Day giving her trainer Cody Cole, his first stakes success.
“This will mean a lot to Cody – I know how much work he’s done with this filly,” jockey Sam Collett said after the race.
Previously trained by Danica Guy, Astor’s debut for Cole was a second placing to Melody Belle in the Gr. 3 Mongolian Khan Trophy in January. She then returned to Ellerslie two weeks ago for an effortless win in a lower grade, scoring by three and three-quarter lengths.
Collett took advantage of Astor’s number-one gate on Saturday, going straight to the lead from the start of the 1300-metre event.
There were some nervous moments just after the home turn as she was tackled and headed by Caesour’s Dream, but Astor rose to the challenge. She clawed her way back to the lead and shook free to win by a length and three-quarters, with Collett fist-pumping as she passed the post.
“I wasn’t too worried when the other horse came up beside her – I knew she had plenty to offer,” she said. “She found that second kick, like good horses do.”
Raced by Gary Harding, Astor has now had eight starts for four wins, three placings and more than $86,000 in prize-money.
“It’s amazing to have a horse of this quality so early in my training career,” Cole said, with mother Lou standing proudly nearby.
“She’d been a bit funny in a stable environment, but she seemed very happy at the farm and Gary gave her to me to have a go. It’s great.
"She sometimes takes a little while to find that kick in the straight, but she went away from them very nicely late in the race.
“We’ll see how she comes through this before making any plans. We could look at the Wellington Guineas – the more black type we can get, the better. But it’s a big trip to Wellington, and that’s another two-week back-up. We’ll just wait and see.”
Astor was bred by Haunui Farm client Rob Tunnicliffe and was a graduate of Haunui's 2016 Select Sale draft where she was purchased by Gary Harding for $95,000.