Posted On: Monday, 13 March 2017
That was the word from Cranbourne-based Kiwi trainer Trent Busuttin who, with Natalie Young, trains Saturday's Gr.3 Sky High Stakes winner Tavago.
The Cambridge Stud product bounced back from a debilitating illness which steamrolled his spring campaign with a convincing 3 1/4-length win over another former Kiwi, Antonio Giuseppe at Rosehill. It was the latter's first defeat at Rosehill and the pair now share favouritism for the Sydney Cup.
It has been a long time between drinks for Tavistock gelding Tavago's connections as the Gr.1 Australian Derby winner spent a lengthy period in the spelling paddock after a disappointing run in the Underwood Stakes last September.
"It was too bad to be true and we found we had a sick horse on our hands. He went into the paddock feeling very sorry for himself," Busuttin said.
Having already taken the gelding's first time owners to the heights of Group One success Busuttin did not relish the task of telling them that their Derby hero was going to miss the spring carnival while he recovered.
"They were great," he said. "They copped it on the chin and sat back and let us do our thing and they are getting the rewards now."
Tavago was purchased by first time owner Craig Oldfield and his partner Pam Hatchard after being caught up in the excitement while watching the 2014 yearling sales coverage on TV.
They had initially asked a friend to enquire about an earlier lot which was passed in. With that lot already having found a home, Cambridge Stud's Marcus Corban suggested the son of Tavistock and the Stravinsky mare Sara Ann as another option.
"They asked me to come and have a look at him and I liked him," Busuttin recalled.
Busuttin then had a lengthy phone conversation with Oldfield, who he had not previously met as he convinced the first time owner to take a punt.
"I told him he was a nice horse at a good price," Busuttin said.
While Oldfield and Hatchard maintained the majority shareholding in the horse they convinced a couple of friends Keith Banks and Ross Taylor, to join them in the ownership.
It was far from immediate success and the rookie owners might have been left scratching their heads after Tavago's first four trials.
"He was unplaced in each of them and they were moderate at best," Busuttin said.
"To be fair we knew he would be a staying type but he was a very, very average track worker."
Once he got to the races though, he was different horse, his debut second placing quickly followed by a win over 1600m at Te Rapa.
"He was just one of those horses which switched on for raceday," Busuttin said.
Next up he tackled black type with a trip to Otaki and the Gr.3 Wellington Stakes.
Oldfield and Hatchard had recently returned from an extended overseas trip so it was the first time they were on hand to watch their pride and joy.
"He won by a head and was very impressive so we decided to press forward towards the NZ Derby," Busuttin said.
An unlucky third in the Karaka Mile which saw him hampered in the straight and then only go down by a nose and a head was followed by a diabolic run in the Waikato Guineas.
"He ran a very bad last and jarred up so we had to patch him up to get him to the New Zealand Derby," Busuttin said.
"He was slow away and wouldn't stretch out for the first half of the race but he rattled home with amazing sectionals."
It is now history that the Tavistock gelding was back to his best by the time the Australian Derby rolled around and, with Sydney delivering a wet track he was a convincing 3 1/4-length victor over subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka.
"Coming into last spring there was a question mark over his form and there was talk about him being a wet track horse," Busuttin said.
"His big wins have been on wet tracks and he genuinely enjoys the cut out of the ground but he can perform on a dead track."
The nature of Saturday's win though was enough to convince Busuttin that Tavago is back to his best and to begin tentatively looking towards a spring campaign in Melbourne. Before that though, there is the small matter of the A$1.5m BMW and A$2m Sydney Cup to get through.
"We're on the top of our game now and if we continue to improve and get conditions to suit in the BMW then I wouldn't be swapping him for any other horse in the field." - NZ Racing Desk
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