Iman picked up where stablemate Paula Michele left off by winning the $60,000 Nevele R Stud New Zealand Oaks on a dismally wet night.
Ten days earlier, Paula Michele, also trained by Brian Hughes, was untested to score in the Nevele R New Zealand Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship. Both were driven by Maurice McKendry, who has found rich pickings at Addington this season from age group races. In February, he won the $180,000 New Zealand Yearling Sales Series final for 2-year-olds behind Kamwood Kango.
And on Friday night, McKendry is poised for an even bigger payout. He will steer Iman in the $100,000 DB Draught Fillies Final - and few will have one to beat her after her Oaks success - and Kamwood Kango in the $150,000 ANZ Bank Sires' Stakes Final. While Kamwood Kango will have his work cut out against Corumba, The Court Owl and other high-class 2-year-olds, Iman should get her way against the fillies.
Iman went into the Oaks without recent racing, although she had had two trials since winning at Auckland on March 31. McKendry had her trailing on the outer, but he abandoned that shelter after 800 metres and was soon in front. "She's a good stayer. I thought she would win the race by outstaying them," said McKendry. Iman never gave McKendry a moment's worry, even when OK Laura made a lightning dab along the inside right at the end, and Go Anna and Vance Royale made a rush wider made a rush wider out to dead-heat for third. "She's got a bit of class and she will probably improve a bit with that run," he said. Hughes agrees. "She will improve a ton," he said. Hughes modestly says Iman is "above average" but McKendry was more to the point when he said: "She is the best 3-year-old filly I have driven. She's been lucky with her draws, but she has won from three back, and she's won from sitting parked."
Hughes, who races Iman with long-standing stable client Don Cudby, has gained such excellent results by breeding to the best he can. Both Paula Michele and Iman are daughters of the wonderful stallion Vance Hanover, also sire of the grand racemare Vulcan Lady who went to Cup class for Hughes and Cudby before being sold.
The loss of Vance Hanover to the racing industry was emphasised by Mr Bob McArdle, co-proprietor with Wayne Francis of Nevele R Stud, in his presentation of the Oaks trophy. Runner-up OK Laura is from the first crop of Nevele R sire, OK Bye.
Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRNZ Weekly