IN Racing
Dionysus lifts stable spirits with Waikato Cup victory
Consistent stayer Dionysus provided Roger James and Robert Wellwood with a positive end to a tough week when scoring a fighting victory in the Gr.3 SkyCity Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m) on Saturday at Te Rapa.
Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | December 16, 2023
Dionysus winning the Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m). (Kenton Wright)

Consistent stayer Dionysus provided Roger James and Robert Wellwood with a positive end to a tough week when scoring a fighting victory in the Gr.3 SkyCity Hamilton Waikato Cup (2400m) on Saturday at Te Rapa.

The Cambridge training partners announced the retirement of superstar mare Prowess earlier in the week, but were back at the fore on Friday at Tauranga with Hastobeawinner victorious over 1400m, and headed to Te Rapa with the Cup favourite on Saturday.

With the scratching of well-fancied runner Aromatic, Dionysus became the prominent public-elect for the Cup starting a warm $2.20 favourite, with punters backing Prise De Fer on the back-up closing at $5.30.

Dionysus jumped away in his typically tardy fashion, with a prepared Warren Kennedy quickly finding cover and slotting him into a comfortable position third-last in the early stages. The tempo was steady up front with Margaret Jean heading the field, Kennedy stalking Prise De Fer’s every move and had Dionysus travelling beautifully widest on the home turn.

Looming large on the outside, Dionysus moved up to challenge Prise De Fer, and the last 200m became a three-horse war as $27 hope Coruba Jak threatened an upset. Kingsclere’s charge proved too strong in the final bounds to score by a ½ length, with Prise De Fer gallant under the 59kg in second and Coruba Jak gaining a Group placing finishing seven lengths ahead of the remaining runners.

Kennedy regained the ride aboard the son of Ocean Park after claiming the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) last season, followed by a third in the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m).

“He went absolutely fantastic,” Kennedy said.

“He’s a lovely horse and I think Roger and Robert have really brought him on the right way. He’s super fit at the moment and enjoying his racing, he can be a handful but he did everything right today, bar jumping out of the gates which he never gets right.

“The race didn’t map out as I thought it would, I looked up and saw El Nymph back where I was, so I wondered where the pace would come from, but they keep a reasonable gallop all the way round. I got on the back of Prise De Fer who I thought was probably the next best, he tracked me through and this horse settled beautifully in the run, he was breathing well.

“I wanted to put the horse (Prise De Fer) with the biggest weight under pressure early, so I challenged him at the top of the straight and got a bit of a lead. This horse (Dionysus) was floating around quite a bit waiting for the challenge to come, and when Prise De Fer got within a neck of me, the horse realised he had to go again and kicked on.”

James was complimentary of the Cambridge trainers’ team following the victory, which couldn’t have come at better notice.

“There’s no ‘I’ in team, and we’re fortunate we have a champion team behind us. Days like this reward everybody,” he said.

“Warren had it in his mind that he didn’t want to be snookered on the fence, he’s a class rider and he’d thought of everything we’d thought of. He rode him a treat.

Now a winner of six races and over $394,000 in stakes, James indicated Dionysus will now be set to defend his crown in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on New Year’s Day at Pukekohe, whilst holding nominations for each of the Gr.3 NZ Campus For Sport and Innovation Wellington Cup (3200m), Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m), and the Gr.2 Barfoot and Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m).

“That’s the plan at this stage (Queen Elizabeth II Cup), but as always we’ll take him home and make certain he’s okay before we move on.”

Bred by Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan, Dionysus was purchased for $45,000 by James and Wellwood out of Cambridge Stud’s Book 1 draft at the 2019 Karaka Yearling Sales, for prominent owners Ron and Fran Dixon.

“Ron was my first ever owner, he loves his racing and he’s been fortunate enough to have a lot of good horses along the way. Hopefully this is not his last.”