With a Gr.1 Toorak Handicap (1600m), A$7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m) and multiple Group One placings to his name, I’m Thunderstruck had already done enough to be fondly remembered by racing fans on both sides of the Tasman – but a remarkable performance at Flemington on Saturday has further enhanced the Kiwi-bred gelding’s legacy.
The five-year-old, who was born and raised at Trelawney Stud, scored a heart-stopping win in the Gr.1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m), catching the runaway leader Alligator Blood in the final stride.
I’m Thunderstruck was sent out as a $2.60 favourite on the strength of his flying finish into second in last month’s Gr.1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, but at the top of the Flemington home straight on Saturday, his prospects – and those of the rest of the field – appeared to have been blown to pieces by Alligator Blood.
Sent straight to the lead by Tim Clark, Alligator Blood threw down the gauntlet and opened up a massive lead early in the run home, and none of his rivals seemed to be making up any ground.
I’m Thunderstruck emerged from the pack in behind him and gradually began to gather momentum, but Alligator Blood was showing no sign of slowing down and still led by three lengths with less than 200m remaining.
Just when it looked like Alligator Blood would stay out of reach, I’m Thunderstruck found even more and began to claw his way up alongside his rival. He dived at the line and snatched an extraordinary victory by a nose. The best of the rest was Mo’unga, who finished another three lengths away in third.
“Alligator Blood kicked strongly, and not many horses would have run him down,” winning rider Mark Zahra said. “I got to within half a length and wasn’t sure if I had much left, but then he lifted again. It was a massive win, a great performance and a great effort by the horse.”
Trained by Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr for an OTI Racing syndicate, I’m Thunderstruck has now won seven of his 16 starts and over A$7.1 million in stakes.
“He was pretty brave today,” Price said. “He was in an awkward spot, behind heels, and Alligator Blood was off and gone.
“I thought, ‘He’s probably the best horse in the race, Alligator Blood, and we’re not going to run him down.’ But that’s probably the beauty of Flemington.
“I’ve seen Alligator Blood win some huge races, so I’ve got total respect for him. For us to be able to run that horse down, I just thought it’s a good indicator of things to come.
“Now he’ll go into the Underwood (Gr.1, 1800m), into the Might And Power (Gr.1, 2000m) and into the Cox Plate (Gr.1, 2040m).
“I could have done with a second-up run where you’re easing into it, rather than having to throw everything at the horse at once. But credit to the horse – he was able to pull out the big guns.”
I’m Thunderstruck was bred by Cambridge couple Tony Forlong and Jennifer Jones.
Previously based in Kumeu, chartered accountant Forlong and accomplished rider Jones purchased I’m Thunderstruck’s dam Primadonna Girl for just $2400 through good friend Danny Rolston, former Bloodstock Sales Manager for New Zealand Bloodstock.
Initially trained in New Zealand by Daniel Miller, I’m Thunderstruck was purchased by bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo for OTI Racing after his 1000m trial win at Te Aroha two years ago. – NZ Racing Desk