Classie Brigade looking to overcome adversity in cup
He may be in the twilight of his career at eight years of age and the veteran of this year's cup, but no-one is letting on to Classie Brigade which steps out for his second tilt at the great race at Addington this afternoon. Added to this is the draw on the outside of the second line which has negated his amazing turn of foot from the stand start. However, this is a horse that has learnt to do it tough throughout his career and luck allowing will aim to give driver John Dunn his first win in the big two mile contest.
The winner of four of his last five starts, which have included a Group Two and two Group Threes, Classie Brigade is quite simply in the best form of his 66 start career, a career that has already netted 19 wins and a further 22 placings. While his victory in last Monday's Kaikoura Cup was reminiscent of his win in that race last year, eight days before placing third in the 2019 cup, he has already shown versatility this campaign and an ability to come off the pace. No more was this exemplified than his win at Addington over the 2600m two starts ago, coming from last at the quarter before winning in a canter in a new New Zealand record of 3.08.9 for the distance.
Classie Brigade began his career under the guidance of Nigel McGrath, stepping out six times in the 2014-2015 season, producing the one placing. It was as a three year old in the 2015-2016 season however, that he really started to show his class, with six victories as well as five Group Race placings that included the Group One Sires Stakes - 3rd behind Lazarus and Chase The Dream and New Zealand Derby - 2nd behind Lazarus. He was quickly showing himself to be the real deal.
As a four year old, the wins kept coming, especially through the summer where he won four on end, including the Ashburton Cup over the two miles in 3.58.3, the Group Three Central Otago Cup and the Group Three Northern Southland Cup in 3.53.5, a time only bettered once in history, by you guessed it, the old foe Lazarus, when successful in the New Zealand Cup of 2016.
Sidelined for over a year with injury, which saw him miss the bulk of his five year old season, Classie Brigade resumed later that season, winning first up at Alexandra Park. He would have a further four starts for the McGrath stable before another injury issue put paid to much of the 2018-2019 season. When he finally resumed in May of last year, it was for Robert Dunn and the stable's Woodend Base. From three late season starts, he recorded a mile win at Ashburton and a placing behind boom southerner U May Cullect in fast time at Addington.
It was last season that we would see Classie Brigade return to his very best form. Group wins were recorded in the Group Three Maurice Holmes Vase and Group Two Kaikoura Cup along with placings in the Hannon Memorial and Canterbury Classic, two traditional warm-ups to the 2019 Cup. He was at his peak heading into the big two miler and put in a mighty run for third behind Cruz Bromac after being held up for a run in the straight. He franked this form with a further Group One placing three days later running second behind Chase Auckland after leading through in the free-for-all on Show Day.
Following a Covid interrupted season, Classie Brigade retuned to the racetrack in July and has had the nine starts in his lead in to this year's cup, recording the four wins and a further three placings. His only failure was when running 7th from a 20m handicap in the National Handicap back in August.
While the draw is far from ideal, as he has done throughout his career, Classie Brigade will no doubt find a way to overcome adversity. He has the best manners in the race that will no doubt aid Johnny in trying to plot the best path for the Bettor's Delight gelding. He is proven over the two mile trip - the fastest time over the trip of any in the race and is tough and durable as he showed coming from off the pace in last year's cup. One thing that you can be sure of and that is Classie Brigade giving a sight, given the right opportunity that he needs to shine.
Classie Brigade is joined in the cup by Henry Hubert and Heisenberg, both owned by long time stable clients, Ross and Angela Gordon. Heisenberg is a novice at this level, but has shown that he can handle the two miles when winning last year's Ashburton Cup. He is generally safe from a stand and if he can find the markers early ranks as a place chance at big odds with luck. The same applies to Henry Hubert. which like Classie Brigade had no luck in running 6th in last year's cup for his partner tomorrow in Gavin Smith. While down on his best form this campaign, a peak run tomorrow would not rule him out of the minor placings.
Like always the cup is sure to be a great race. Good luck to all our owners involved. Enjoy it for the great occasion that it is.
Photo: Emily Morgan
Article by Mike Drury
Posted: Mon 09 Nov 2020