Pounamu, once considered a bridesmaid of Western Australian racing, can now claim status as Group 1 champion after scoring a surprising win in the Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot on Saturday.
Pounamu, started at $26 and despite a top first up win in the Group 3 Asian Beau Stakes (1400m) and a sound sixth in the Railway Stakes (1600m), he was considered suspect at weight for age level.
The former New South Wales galloper, trained by Alan Mathews and patiently handled by Pat Carbery, charged home from 11th on the corner and defeated Material Man by a half- length with Achernar Star third.
Achernar Star and favourite Black Heart Bart, who finished ninth, copped heavy interference from Perfect Jewel soon after the start.
Perfect Jewel’s jockey, William Pike, was later charged by stewards and fined $2000 after pleading guilty to careless riding, ruling him out for 28 days and the remainder of the Perth carnival.
Godolphin’s It’s Somewhat was the best of the interstate raiders, finishing fifth and two lengths adrift of Pounamu.
Mathews, who is recognised as the Cups king after winning a record six Perth cups, said Pounamu was finally starting to reap the dividends of his natural ability.
“He is a nice horse who has been a work in progress,” Mathews said.
“He’s finally got his head around about what we want him to do.
“We always said he had the ability, but he wouldn’t have the concentration span to get his head around doing it at the right time.
“This is just great.”
Carbery, who has ridden Pounamu in 23 of his 24 WA starts, said winning a Group 1 was special, but to achieve it in partnership with Mathews, a close friend for more than 20 years, added special significance.
“We have won a heap of races together and he has always stuck solid,” Carbery said.
“Probably the only time I haven’t ridden winners for him has been when I’m injured.
“To win a Group 1 for Alan and the team means more to me because of that.
“It’s my way of repaying him for staying solid with me.
“I don’t know if he appreciates how solid he is.
“This is my way of paying him back.”
Pounamu won his first two races in Perth before running a series of minor placings. His record now stands at nine wins from 37 starts and more than a million dollars in prize money.
“He took us a while to work him out,” Carbery said.
“His form turnaround is the way we now train him.”
Carbery said Pounamu got further back than he anticipated but the gelding was in the zone.
“He doesn’t like to be hustled and bustled and that’s the way you have to ride him,” Carbery said.
“He got a great toe into the race.”