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Jon O' Rocco dead heats in Timaru Cup

Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A pair of rising stars of the South Island’s thoroughbred ranks faced their toughest test so far in the Craigmore Sustainable Holdings Timaru Heritage Cup (1600m) on Thursday, and they rose to the occasion and fought out a thrilling finish.

Dazzling Miss and Jon Ol Rocco were unable to be separated at the finish of the time-honoured $80,000 feature, which has been run since 1875. It was the third time that the Timaru Cup has ended with a dead-heat for first, following on from 1944 (Gamble and Honest Sal) and 1910 (Oiyoi and Tikitere).

Jon Ol Rocco (outside) and Dazzling Miss dead-heating in the Craigmore Sustainable Holdings Timaru Heritage Cup (1600m) on Thursday. Photo: Race Images South

The Terri Rae-trained Dazzling Miss pounced at the home turn on Thursday and took control of the race, but she was soon joined by Andrew Carston’s Jon Ol Rocco. That pair fought tooth and nail through the final 150m, hitting the finish line locked together and sharing the spoils.

The Tom Dyer-owned Jon Ol Rocco has now had 10 starts for four wins, three placings and two fourths and with this win brought Carston up to 250 career victories.

Bought for $40,000 as a yearling at Karaka in 2021, Jon Ol Rocco has made a rapid rise after starting the season in Rating 65 company. He has now earned $96,400 in stakes and is being pointed towards a brand-new $350,000 race at Trentham on January 20.

“To dead-heat for first in the Timaru Cup was a super result,” Carston said. “He’s a horse that we’ve always rated pretty highly, and he’s never run a bad race. Yesterday was his biggest test so far, but Kylie (Williams) gave him a great ride and he delivered.

“His first start of the season was in a Rating 65, so he’s done really well to rise through the grades as quickly as he has. He was a very good second in the Cromwell Cup (2030m) in his previous start too, so he’s just continuing to improve all the time.

“The plan of attack now is the Remutaka Classic (2100m) at Trentham in January. He’s going to have to carry a lot of weight in that race, being a four-win horse now, but we’re pretty keen to give him his chance.”

The Remutaka Classic is restricted to horses with one win or fewer as at midnight on July 31. The race is run under set weights and penalties conditions, meaning Jon Ol Rocco has earned the maximum 4kg penalty with his three additional wins this season.

Jon Ol Rocco’s Timaru Cup heroics provided a perfect start to a busy weekend for Carston, who now turns his attention to his 14-strong contingent at Kurow on Saturday.

“I’ve got a big team in at Kurow, and I think Say Satono would have to be my best winning chance,” the Riccarton trainer said. “She’s shown well above average ability. She was pretty unlucky not to win again last start after a very good win during Cup Week. She’s been working well and I think Kurow will suit her.”

Say Satono will contest the McKeown Petroleum & Coupland’s Working Dog Biscuit (1400m), bringing in a career record of two wins and two second placings from seven starts. The four-year-old is by Satono Aladdin out of the Pentire mare Say No More, who won the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) and Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m).

Carston also has a high opinion of Pegau, who recorded six placings from 13 starts in the North Island before relocating to Canterbury. The Tivaci mare finished fifth at Cromwell in her first start for her new stable on December 3, then took a big step forward with a three-length maiden win at Ashburton two and a half weeks later.

Pegau will be ridden by three-kilogram claimer Yogesh Atchamah in the Murray Scott Memorial (1400m).

“I thought Pegau was pretty impressive in that last-start performance, and she’s another one that I’d expect to go well on Saturday,” Carston said. “But she is going to need some luck from her wide draw.”

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