La Vesuvius erupts with good win at Taree

Patrick Cleave (right) with La Vesuvius after his maiden win at Scone last month. Photo: Bradley Photos.

The Patrick Cleave-trained La Vesuvius erupted for a very impressive victory in the Class One/Maiden Handicap (1600m) at Taree on Monday.

Ridden by Ben Looker, the three-year-old started a well-supported $1.90 favourite.

The Newcastle galloper began well from gate seven, taking up the lead initially before eventually settling into third, just on the leader’s heels. 

Turning for home, Looker peeled three and four wide, and despite the Eurozone gelding appearing a little green, he pulled away for a dominant 1.74 lengths win. 

What made the win all the more impressive is that La Vesuvius was stepping up from maiden class after breaking through at start number four at Scone over 1400m last month. 

“It was a very suitable race for him,” Cleave said after his galloper’s win at Taree.

“The maiden he won at Scone looks to be quite strong with provincial form coming out of it, and we knew once he got up to a mile, he would be hard to beat. 

“It was a set weights race, so he got in very well, and it was just a suitable option at the right time.

“His first two runs this prep were more educational than anything, and we knew he wouldn’t be suited until seven furlongs or further, and I’d be surprised if he runs over less than 1400m again his life.”

La Vesuvius debuted as a two-year-old at Dubbo in February 2022, but injury meant he almost never raced again, with Cleave forced to take his time with the talented gelding. 

“He’s always been a nice horse, and I’ve always thought a fair bit of him,” Cleave said. 

“He was injured at the end of his two-year-old season, leading into his three-year-old spring season, and I wasn’t sure if we would get him back, but we took a step-by-step approach, and it’s a credit to his owners, who have given him the right treatment and care during his time off.

“To be honest, we had multiple vets look at him but only brought him back on the advice of a specialist from New Zealand.  

“Still, it’s very week-by-week with him, and it will be like that while he is still a young horse.”

With back-to-back wins under his belt, Cleave will give La Vesuvius a well-earned break before setting him up for bigger races later this year. 

“He’s not a horse I’ll ever back up quickly, and we need to take care of him at home and not put too much pressure on him,” Cleave said. 

“He will go out to the paddock tomorrow morning for a two-week freshen-up. 

“He’s been in work since early October, and it’s been a very slow preparation getting him back – it’s been close to eight months.” 

Being a provincial stable, Cleave hopes La Vesuvius can take advantage of the weekend Midway Handicaps before potential metropolitan targets. 

“After the break, we’ll start him off in the country, but I think he is a horse that will progress to city grade,” Cleave said. 

“There’s a very tempting Midway in the middle of August, but I’m not going to set that in stone, and we’ll take it as it comes with him. 

“If he gets there, it will be a suitable race for him being an 1800m Benchmark 72, but we’ll see if he gets there first.”

Cleave, born and bred in New Zealand, has a wealth of experience at just 29 years of age, having spent time with Lloyd Williams before taking on foreman roles with Peter and Paul Snowden and, most recently, Kris Lees. 

Now striking out on his own as a trainer in Newcastle, Cleave is keen to make his mark and isn’t afraid to take his team into the country to find suitable races. 

“This will be my first full season on my own,” Cleave said. 

“I’ve had my licence for a couple of seasons but juggle it with being Foreman for Kris Lees.

“I’ve got five in work, and that will soon be ten, so I’m not going to produce a massive number of winners or anything, but we’ve got a good strike rate.”

La Vesuvius’ win at Taree headlined an excellent day of racing, and for all results from Taree, click here.