Two years ago, champion trainer David Hayes took his tough multiple Australian group II winner Niconero to the west from his eastern state home in an attempt to win a grade I race.
Hayes set Niconero up in two races that year, and after a terrific showing first up in the $1-million Railway Stakes (Aust-I), where he placed third, Niconero (Danewin--Nicola Lass) stormed home to win the $500,000 Kingston Town Stakes (Aust-I) over 1 1/8 miles.
Last year, the dreaded EI (equine influenza) curse crippled West Australian racing so Niconero did not go.
This year, however, he took the six-hour flight across again.
And it was pretty much a carbon copy of two years ago.
After a brilliant fourth in the 2008 renewal of the Railway, Niconero charged home at a great rate to claim the Dec. 6 Kingston Town Stakes at Ascot again. And it was the same result, with the same jockey--Brad Rawiller--for the same trainer David Hayes, at the same price of 9-2.
This time, Niconero, who was perfectly placed midfield and with cover of the 16 runners, finished powerfully to win by nearly two lengths from the Railway winner Gilden Venom (Golden Snake--Daughter’s Charm), with perennial Australian group I place getter Sniper’s Bullet (Bite the Bullet--Yallah Terrace) a game head away third.
Hayes said immediately after the event that his 7-year-old gelding, who has now won $2.2 million in purses from his 50 starts to date, would return to Perth in 2009 to try to win his third Kingston Town Classic. Thus far, he has won 11 of his 50 starts with 10 placings.
“He’s a wonderful old horse,” Hayes added. “A real gentleman who puts in every effort every time. And it helps that he seems to love Ascot, loves Perth, and we’ll come back again next year.”
Hayes loves the place, too. Niconero broke the former Hayes-trained champion Better Loosen Up’s race record in a wonderful effort with a fast tempo set by the Mike Moroney-trained Mission Critical.
“There was a bit of a thought that there wasn’t enough pace, but that was to change as the race unfolded, and he loved the tempo today. I was so thrilled for him because he beat a great horse’s record,” Hayes said.
“Brad (Rawiller) was supremely confident going into the race and during it. He really thought that he should have won the Railway, and he (Niconero) trained on and improved.”
For the Hayes stable, the Kingston Town Classic was also a disappointment with its other runner, The Fuzz, bombing the start by 10 lengths and always trailing the field throughout before passing one horse in the run to the line.
Locally trained rising 5-year-old star Gilded Venom was superb and by far best of the locals. He sat almost midfield with Niconero on his back, and as he did in winning the Railway, he launched an assault at the top of the lane. And he charged with gusto, too.
This time though, Niconero, just that little bit fitter and meeting Gilded Venom about three pounds better at the weights, finished over the top of him.
Sniper’s Bullet, who chalked up his fouth placing at the Australian group I level, hit the front momentarily in the stretch after traveling with the pacemakers throughout. He held his fight right to the end and has earned his connections $1.35 million thus far in purses.
Local champ Marasco, having his fourth run in 30 days, finished on well to grab sixth.