Well-performed stayer Annie Higgins (NZ) looks set for another lucrative summer after turning up the heat in the G3 Counties Cup at Pukekohe on Saturday.
The O’Reilly mare produced a storming finish to snatch victory in a race that took on a different look following the withdrawal of public-elect Thunderbird One (Storm Creek) at the barrier.
Annie Higgins assumed favouritism and the Leith Innes mount was able to justify the weight of support, albeit by a head. “That was heart in the mouth stuff,” Matamata trainer Lance Noble said. “But Leith timed it to perfection.”
Annie Higgins (6m O’Reilly – Diva Belle by Carnegie) settled midfield early on and didn’t fully hit top gear until late in the straight to edge out Noble Warrior (Le Bec Fin) and Atacama (Pentire).
“She’s a really tough and honest mare and gives 100% every time,” Noble said. “She needed every bit of the 2100 metres so it’s onwards and upwards now to the Waikato Cup.”
Owner-breeder Marie Leicester named Annie Higgins after her mother and she began her black-type career with a Listed victory in the 2011 Sunline Vase at Ellerslie.
The Matamata mare won last year’s G3 Waikato Cup at Te Rapa and was then beaten a half-head by Blood Brotha in the G1 Wellington Cup.
Annie Higgins is the last surviving descendant of 1987 NZ Filly of the Year Tri Belle. Leicester had catalogued her for the 2009 NZB Karaka yearling sale but withdrew the filly shortly after her dam Diva Belle, an unraced daughter of Tri Belle, died.