The Otaki stable of Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard boasts the best strike-rate in New Zealand this season, and a quality quartet of runners at Trentham on Saturday could further embellish their impressive record.
Benner and Wynyard have won 15 races so far this season, which puts them in 16th place on the national trainers’ premiership. But they have saddled only 44 starters, giving them a strike-rate of a winner every 2.93 runners – clearly better than any other stable in the top 100.
“We can’t really complain, things have been going pretty well for us this season,” Benner said. “We’ve got some nice horses around us, and now we’re hoping for a big day on Saturday.”
The only thing missing from Benner and Wynyard’s CV this season is black-type success, and they have three chances to rectify that this weekend.
The headline acts are Bonham and Invisible Spirit, who will take on star northern colt Brando in the Group 1 Devan Plastics Levin Classic (1600m). Bonham has tasted defeat only once in her four-start career, finishing a close and creditable seventh in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.
The Per Incanto filly has won all of her other three appearances, including a brilliant victory over 1400m at Awapuni last Saturday. Raced by prominent stable client Gary Harding, Bonham will be ridden by Lisa Allpress and sits on the third line of Levin Classic betting at $10.
“She pulled up sensationally well from last week’s race,” Benner said. “It was a relatively soft run for her in the end. They didn’t run the race at a crazy tempo, she had a nice trip and she really only sprinted in the last furlong or two.
“She came through that run so well, we couldn’t see any reason not to back her up this Saturday. Group 1s are so important for lovely fillies like her, so we were keen to take a shot at it. We’re expecting her to be very competitive over that 1600m at Trentham.”
Stablemate Invisible Spirit has won twice in his six-start career, including a stylish performance at Trentham last month. He has never finished further back than fourth, and he is rated a $31 chance.
“He’s been super consistent,” Benner said. “It might be a bit of an ask this weekend up against the big ones, but he’ll definitely be a runner’s chance. He’s nicely drawn (gate one) and has a good little record behind him. We won’t be surprised if he runs well.”
Another Harding runner, the promising colt Titled, will line up in the Listed IRT No.1 Wellesley Stakes (1000m). The son of Exceed and Excel was a $500,000 yearling purchase at Karaka last year, and he flew home from last to run second on debut at Tauherenikau on January 2.
Titled is the $4 second favourite in a Wellesley Stakes market headed by Quattro Quinta at $2.05. “He’s a really smart colt who ran a big race on debut,” Benner said. “He’s taken a lot of improvement from that run. This is probably the last time you’ll ever see him line up over 1000m, but he’s going into the race in great order. We’re very happy with him.”
Rounding out the Benner-Wynyard quartet is Wononeohwon, who has been a strong winner of two of his three starts. He was late-scratched after a minor incident at the starting gates at Awapuni last Saturday.
“We just had to put him back through the barriers in a quiet trial on Tuesday this week,” Benner said. “I was really happy with how he went there. He’s taken no harm from that little mishap last Saturday and he’s looking great.”