It may have been plan B but nonetheless Atomic Force is now both a dual Group 1 champion and an international Group 1 champion.
He claimed that honour with his win in the Railway Stakes across the ditch on the weekend which adds to his Galaxy triumph in Sydney last autumn.
Darren Smith made no secrets of his disappointment at missing out on an invitation to the international meeting in Hong Kong at the end of last year and this in many ways is a big ‘I told you so’ to the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“New Zealand was always plan b if we didn’t get to Hong Kong, that’s the way it happened and everyone’s happy,” Smith said.
Atomic Force was made to work for this victory as well, a tough run in transit leaving him with plenty to do up the straight.
In fact at one stage he was four wide without cover but Smith said jockey Nash Rawiller didn’t do a lot wrong.
“Nash didn’t panic at all, he was patient and the horse did the job,” he said.
While it certainly counts as an international Group 1 Smith admits in many ways it was like they hadn’t even left.
“It was very similar to home, we stayed at Hamilton,” he said.
“When I arrived it was just perfect conditions for the horse.”
There could be more to come as well with Atomic Force to have another Group 1 test in the Telegraph Handicap over 1200m at Trentham on January 21.
“He pulled up very well, he’s headed to Cambridge,” Smith said.
“Floated the next morning and out to a nice paddock.”
In his post race speech Smith accepted he was perhaps just short of the genuine top liners but said there’s not many on that list.
“He’s a six year old gelding, he’s sound, keep him happy and hopefully keep him winning,” he said.
Perhaps the best assessment of the partnership between Smith and Atomic Force though belongs to Dean Watt from the Dynamic Syndications ownership group.
“Before going to Darren, this horse had three city trainers and won two races, and each of those stables sacked him as a bush horse,” Watt said.
“Since joining Darren, he’s had 23 races for 23 prize cheques, won two Group 1 races, had nine wins and won over $1 million in stakes. So to you Darren, we’re eternally grateful.”