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Industry loses prolific Pentire
22 Nov 2017

New Zealand has lost one of its most successful and undoubtedly versatile stallions with the death yesterday of Rich Hill Stud’s Pentire.

The English-bred son of Be My Guest and the Mill Reef mare Gull Nook was the Walton farm’s foundation sire and subsequently made his mark from his base near Matamata at the elite level throughout Australasia and further afield.

“He was 25, but I thought he was going to live forever - he was still serving and so healthy and well,” Rich Hill studmaster John Thompson said.

“We noticed after lunch on Monday he looked a bit uncomfortable and I got a bad feeling about it, in 20 years we’d only had the vet to him twice.

“We got him to the clinic and he went into surgery and when they opened him up they found a tumour that the intestine had wrapped around.

“They removed the growth and the intestine hadn’t been compromised. They got him into recovery, but sadly he didn’t wake up.”

A top-quality racehorse with a Timeform rating of 132 at three and four, Pentire was the dual Group One winner of the Irish Champion Stakes (2000m) and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (2400m) before his retirement in 1997.

“He was due to arrive the same day our first-born was due, it was a toss-up whether John would attend the arrival of his foundation stallion or his first-born,” Thompson’s wife Colleen said.

“Fortunately, our daughter Emma arrived on time, but Pentire’s flight was delayed. He arrived three days later and he’s been part of the family ever since.”

Instrumental in Rich Hill securing Pentire was bloodstock agent Michael Otto.

“Shadai Farm had Pentire and at the time they were looking to break into Australasia and Michael knew we were looking for a stallion and we ended up standing him,” Thompson said.

Pentire has left 16 individual Group One winners, nine of them in Australia, of 33 races, 13 across the Tasman, from 1200 to 3200 metres with his son Mufhasa a 10-time winner at the highest level. His record was further rewarded with two New Zealand Horse of the Year titles.

Xcellent was another outstanding representative with multiple Group One victories and a Melbourne Cup placing, while Prince Of Penzance sparked Rich Hill celebrations three years ago when he won the Flemington feature.

Pentire’s Group One roll of honour also features Xtravagant, now at stud in New South Wales, plus Zarita, Rangirangdoo, Pantani, Art Success, Penny Gem, Pentane, Recurring, Markus Maximus, Say No More, Chenille, Volatile Mix and Ferlax.

At the time of his death, he was New Zealand’s leading active sire of Group One winners and only Redoute’s Choice and Fastnet Rock could boast more individual Group One winners from their Australasian-bred progeny.

Pentire’s stud career also featured a remarkable comeback after falling out of favour.

“He only had 12 foals in 2002 and that would have finished most stallions,” Thompson said. “I was surprised at the time by the lack of interest of New Zealand breeders, but he bounced right back.”

Pentire shuttled between Japan and New Zealand in the early years and, following two shuttle seasons to Germany, he was permanently repatriated to Rich Hill in 2005. He was represented by stakes winners in both Japan and Germany and winners in 24 other countries.

“It just won’t be the same around here without him, but his legacy will live on and Pentire is always going to be seen as a strength in any pedigree,” Thompson said.

“He’s had four Group One winners in the last two seasons and I’m certain there are more to come.”

Pentire was laid to rest at Rich Hill today.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Gingernuts safely through surgery - prognosis encouraging
14 Nov 2017

Stricken galloper Gingernuts has made it through the most crucial stage of his recovery from Saturday’s sudden injury and has been given a 50/50 chance of racing again.

That encouraging prognosis followed surgery today at the University of Melbourne Werribee Veterinary Clinic necessitated by the pastern injury Gingernuts suffered when cantering to the start for the Gr. 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington.

“An email from the Werribee Clinic said that the CT scan to further evaluate the injury confirmed a fracture of the long pastern bone and which was actually worse than originally thought,” Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis told www.theinformant.co.nz.

“The decision was made to place Gingernuts under general anaesthetic and conduct surgery, when four compressions screws were inserted and a small fragment was removed from the fetlock joint arthroscopically.

“The fracture came together well and barring any further complications, the prognosis is that he stands a 50/50 chance for a return to racing.”

Gingernuts is expected to spend a week under supervision at the Werribee Clinic before he is moved to a suitable recovery facility and in time returns to New Zealand.

“Initially it was gut-wrenching and since then we’ve had to manage the situation as best we can,” Ellis added. “Today’s news is encouraging, but we are not in a position at this stage to make any plans.

“The main thing is the horse’s welfare and we can assume that even in a best case scenario, the earliest he would race again would be next season.”

Dennis Ryan

Star apprentice claims Junior Sportsman trophy at district awards
13 Nov 2017

Sam Weatherley, last season’s champion apprentice, has had another accolade added to his burgeoning career.

The 18-year-old is currently in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where he and jockey mentor Noel Harris are attending the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies Training and Education Conference.

In his absence last night he was announced as the winner of the Junior Sportsman of the Year title at the annual Matamata-Piako District Sports Awards. Nominated by the Matamata Racing Club, he was up against a strong line-up of young sporting talent.

“It’s great to see both Sam and racing recognised in such a way,” said Weatherley’s boss, former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan, who was himself the recipient of the MPD Sportsman of the Year award back in 2003. “He’s a credit to his family and himself the way his career has developed in such a short time.”

O’Sullivan, who is a member of both the New Zealand Sports and Racing Halls of Fame, went on to win the 2004 Waikato Sportsman of the Year award and was a finalist for the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year title.

Weatherley’s award qualifies him for the emerging talent category at the Waikato Regional Sports Awards early next year. He is due back in New Zealand on Monday and will then have to repack his travelling kit to ride at Riccarton on the second day of the New Zealand Cup carnival on Wednesday.

His most significant mount will be the Wayne Hillis-trained Watch This Space in the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile. Weatherley took his current season tally to 23 – and fourth place on the national premiership – when he rode Watch This Space to victory in the Carbine Club Trophy at Ellerslie on Tuesday.

Guineas favourite Embellish no clear standout
10 Nov 2017

With three in-form runners in Saturday's Group I feature at Riccarton, Jamie Richards is finding it mission impossible to tip the stable's leading prospect.

With training partner Stephen Autridge, the Matamata horseman will be represented by Embellish, Te Akau Shark and Age Of Fire in the Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).

"It's very, very hard to split them," Richards said. 

Ever Loyal is a $5.50 third favourite for the 2000 Guineas.
RACE IMAGES

Ever Loyal is a $5.50 third favourite for the 2000 Guineas.

"They have all done nothing wrong and they are all fit and happy and working well."

The Savabeel colt Embellish is the pre-post favourite after consecutive wins at Ruakaka and Trentham, beating race rival Ever Loyal the first time and downing the older horses at his latest appearance. He will be ridden on Saturday by Opie Bosson.

"I know that Opie just loves Embellish and the horse isn't a brilliant trackworker, but he is up to the mark," Richards said.

Te Akau Shark is yet to be tested with an unbeaten record after wins at Te Rapa and Matamata.

"He's still quite new and having his third start in a Group I, but he deserves his place," Richards said.

The son of Rip Van Winkle will be partnered by Michael McNab, while Matt Cameron has the ride on Fastnet Rock's son Age Of Fire.

"Age Of Fire is probably the smokie in the race and he will love the mile at Riccarton being out of a Galileo mare," Richards said.

"We're sure they will all run very well. They are lightly-tried horses and Embellish was the only one to run at two so they are still yet to peak." 

Embellish is a $3.20 favourite ahead of Sensei ($4.80), Ever Loyal ($5.50), Bostonian ($6.50) and Te Akau Shark $7.

Meanwhile, Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is confident he has progressive stayer Bee Tee Junior on target for his assault on a Christchurch Cup Week double.

The lightly raced six-year-old has the Group III Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup (3200m) as his main target next week, but Ritchie warns he will be equally competitive in Saturday's Listed Redwood Metropolitan Trophy Handicap (2500m), the traditional lead-up event to the Cup.

"He's travelled down well and I'm expecting a good performance from him on the weekend," he said.

"He's not as well off in the weights this week, but it's not a big field and he will love the 2500m distance of the race.

"At his last start he simply fell asleep at the back of the field and lobbed along without a care in the world until he was asked for his effort. He switched on nicely and showed a sharp turn of foot and that's what I will be looking for this time as well.

"He appeals as the type to appreciate the big Riccarton track, although my only concern is that it doesn't get too hard underfoot on the day.

"He can handle it on top of the ground, but you wouldn't want to see them have to race on a really firm track two weeks in a row as that could pose a problem."

Ritchie had planned on having a two-pronged attack on Saturday's contest, however stablemate Where Are You endured a tough trip south and will need a couple of easy days to recover.

"With the terrible wind her flight got buffeted around and she got down and scraped a knee," he said.

"She was a little worse for wear coming off the plane which meant we had no option but to miss the race.

"Thankfully, it's mainly superficial so she will be right to start on the last day of the carnival." 

– NZ Racing Desk.

Michael Dee replaces suspended Bowman on Gingernuts
09 Nov 2017

Leading Emirates Stakes contender Gingernuts will be ridden by Michael Dee in the Group One race at Flemington with Hugh Bowman losing an appeal against a careless riding suspension.

Te Akau Racing, which manages the syndicate that races the triple Group One winner, has turned to its former apprentice to guide the four-year-old on Saturday's A$2 million 2000-metre weight-for-age race.

Stable rider Opie Bosson, who has ridden Gingernuts to win the New Zealand Derby, Rosehill Guineas and Windsor Park Plate, will stay at home for the 2000 Guineas meeting at Riccarton in Christchurch.

Bowman, who rides Four Koalas in tomorrow's VRC Oaks at Flemington, will begin an 11-meeting suspension after the meeting.

He was outed for his ride on Warranty in a support race on the Melbourne Cup programme and lost his appeal today.

"Former Te Akau apprentice Mick Dee will now do the riding on Saturday," Te Akau principal David Ellis said.

A son of former trainer Richard, Dee started out as a probationary apprentice with trainers Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen. He then transferred to trainer Kevin Myers and spent a period with Te Akau before completing his apprenticeship with Caulfield trainer Mick Price.

Dee has come of age this spring with Group One wins in the Metropolitan in Sydney on the Lloyd Williams-owned Foundry and Shillelagh in last Saturday's Kennedy Mile for trainer Chris Waller.

The Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards-trained Gingernuts won the Windsor Park Plate on September 23 and was a close runner-up in the Livamol Classic, which was rescheduled to October 22 when the original meeting was abandoned because of slippery conditions.

That put paid to his Caulfield Cup ambitions and he was diverted to the Emirates, for which he is the $6.50 third favourite behind English visitor Folkswood ($5) and three-year-old Cliff's Edge ($5.50).

The Informant

Gingernuts confirmed for single hit Melbourne raid
30 Oct 2017

Last-start Livamol Classic runner-up Gingernuts has been confirmed to head to Melbourne for a one-hit raid on the Emirates Stakes.

The triple Group One winner was surprisingly beaten by Wait A Sec as the odds-on favourite in the Livamol Classic but has made pleasing progress in the meantime. After a meeting this morning between trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards and syndicate manager David Ellis, the decision was made to book him on a flight to Melbourne on Wednesday.

“He’s come through Hastings in good shape and is ticking all the boxes,” Autridge told www.theinformant.co.nz. “He’ll get there 10 days before the race and that’s the only one he’ll have over there.”

A lot of speculation surrounds the likely makeup of the 2000-metre Emirates Stakes, which has replaced the 1600-metre feature that was traditionally run on the final day of Melbourne Cup week. Winx is unlikely to be there, with trainer Chris Waller describing that as a “40 per cent” chance immediately after the champion mare had completed a hat-trick of Cox Plate wins at Moonee Valley yesterday.

Humidor, who gave Winx a fright before going down by a long neck in the Cox Plate, is headed to the Melbourne Cup, but third placegetter Folkswood has been confirmed for the A$2 million weight-for-age feature.

Whether regular rider Opie Bosson will make the trip has yet to be decided. The Emirates clashes with the first day of the New Zealand Cup carnival, when Te Akau is likely to have three runners in the Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas including yesterday’s Trentham winner Embellish and fellow unbeaten three-year-old Te Akau Shark.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Grazia heads Saturday treble for Te Akau
30 Oct 2017

The powerful Te Akau Racing operation notched an impressive winning treble yesterday including stakes success for promising mare Grazia in the Listed Christchurch Casino Spring Classic at Riccarton.

Given a beautiful run in transit, Grazia dashed clear to win by three and a half lengths. Team Te Akau had targeted the race since the end of her previous campaign, where she had won three of her last five starts.

Beaten a nose on the same course earlier in October, after resuming there with a close fifth to stablemate Imperium in September, both times over a mile, the step up in distance and carrying minimum weight (53kg) were key components in the success.

“We thought she would have won a race by now, down here, but she’s been held up by wet tracks and other bits and pieces,” co-trainer Jamie Richards said.

“We sent her down for this stakes race and it’s worked out really well. I thought Sam Weatherley made the right decision to slide forward on her, it was very important. He got her into a lovely rhythm and she quickened up superbly.”

It was Weatherley’s second victory of the day in the Te Akau colours, having earlier won on the flying two-year-old filly Avantage.

An impressive debut winner on the course earlier in the month, Avantage had no problem making it two from two in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series 800-metre event.

“I was absolutely thrilled because the owners of Avantage turned down $750,000 for her, after she won her first race,” said Te Akau principal David Ellis, who purchased the filly at Karaka in January this year for $210,000.

“To turn down that sort of money showed what good sports they are. She was a foal share with Coolmore Stud and Southlander Willy Calder, and when Opie (Bosson) rode her at the trials he told us she was the real deal. She’s a Fastnet Rock filly out of a Zabeel mare and they just keep getting better.”

The flying filly will now take aim at the Listed Welcome Stakes on 18 November, a race that the stable has compiled a powerful record in with a roll of honour that includes Sassy ‘N’ Smart, Bespoke, Encosta Diablo and Maroofity.

Smart three-year-old Embellish closed out Te Akau’s day when he delivered an emphatic performance against the older horses at Trentham to establish himself as the outright favourite for the Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld 2000 Guineas at Riccarton next month.

The brother to Group One winner Diademe needed a win to cement a start in the Guineas, and he couldn’t have been more impressive as he dashed away in the run home to win comfortably in the hands of leading rider Opie Bosson.

“Wasn’t that a beautiful Opie Bosson ride?” commented Ellis. “He’s a pretty exciting colt and will now travel on down to Riccarton on Sunday and join the team there.

“We bought this horse to hopefully stand at stud one day and he needs to win a classic race like the 2000 Guineas to pull it off.”

TAB bookmakers reacted to the win by shortening the Savabeel colt into outright favourite at $4 on the fixed odds market for the 2000 Guineas, ahead of stablemate Te Akau Shark at $7.

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Glen Boss booked for Summer Passage in Caulfield Guineas
10 Oct 2017

Singapore-based jockey Glen Boss has been engaged for the mount on Kiwi colt Summer Passage in Saturday’s A$2 million Caulfield Guineas.

The ride became available on the last-start Guineas Prelude runner-up due to Mark Zahra, his rider to date at the Melbourne spring carnival, being committed to race rival Catchy on Saturday.

Best known for his Melbourne Cup hat-trick on Makybe Diva, 48-year-old Boss has ridden for the past year in Singapore, where he is fourth equal on the premiership with 43 wins. He still returns to Australia when feasible, most recently when second on the Chris Waller-trained Tom Melbourne in the Epsom Handicap the weekend before last.

“If Chris Waller is prepared to use him he must be riding well,” commented Summer Passage’s co-trainer Lance O’Sullivan when confirming the engagement. “He rang us for the ride, so we’re happy to have him on.”

Boss will stay with Tom Melbourne for Saturday's Toorak Handicap as well as landing the ride on Irish stayer Riven Light in the Caulfield Stakes. 

Summer Passage was the standout in two-year-old male ranks last season, completing a feature double in the Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes and then finishing second in the Gr. 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick. He followed a first-up eighth placing in the Gr. 2 Danehill Stakes with a second in the Gr. 3 Guineas Prelude, earning a high rank in the entries for Saturday’s big three-year-old race.

“We’ve been on the back foot with him, mainly because of the wet spring at home, but we’re happy enough with him,” O’Sullivan said. “His first-up run was satisfactory and it was very pleasing to see him run so well last time.

“He’s come on well from each race, but the way the programme has turned out we’ve had to go two weeks by two weeks with him and I’d just like to see him carrying a few kilos more in condition.

“Still, he’s very bright and full of himself, his blood is good and we believe he’s a top five chance on Saturday. Now it’s a matter of getting a good draw and then the right run to see what he can do.”

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Watch This Space kicks on from fresh-up win
25 Sep 2017

Watch This Space has earned a return to stakes company after maintaining the unbeaten start to his spring campaign.

Last season’s Gr. 2 Japan-New Zealand International Trophy winner returned with a first-up victory at Ruakaka and he was untroubled to add today’s L. I. Redshaw Memorial at Hastings to his record.

Trainer Wayne Hills said Watch This Space would now be returning to Hawke’s Bay on October 7 for the Gr. 3 Spring Sprint.

“He’ll run on the last day here and he’s still in the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile, but I’m not sure at this stage if we’ll go down to Christchurch. There’s other options – the Rich Hill Mile and the Thorndon Mile are nice races for him.”

Watch This Space was ridden again by champion apprentice Sam Weatherley, who had no concerns at any stage of the race after settling behind the front-runner Irish Moon.

“From the two barrier we got a beautiful run in the trail and everything panned out as I thought it would,” he said. “The leader rolled out on the turn and I was happy to cut the corner and then get out a bit wider.”

Watch This Space responded to Weatherley’s urgings to draw clear and score by a length and a half. Mighty Solomon made late ground for second and the pacemaker Irish Moon boxed on for third ahead of the topweight Amarula.

The Informant

Chance To Dance strengthens Livamol hand for Autridge and Richards
25 Sep 2017

Black-type races at Hastings and Pukekohe this weekend have seen the Te Akau training partnership of Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards form a powerful two-pronged team for the Gr. 1 Livamol Classic on Saturday week.

A day after last season’s New Zealand Derby and Rosehill Guineas winner Gingernuts finished over the top of six other individual Group One winners for a superb victory in the Windsor Park Plate at Hastings, imported Irish-bred stayer Chance To Dance made his New Zealand debut a winning one with a powerful performance in this afternoon’s $50,000 Listed Haunui Farm Karaka Classic at Pukekohe.

The 60-kilogram topweight in today’s 1600-metre feature, Chance To Dance was ridden by Opie Bosson in the colours of John Galvin’s Fortuna syndicates which were carried to a black-type treble last season by champion two-year-old Melody Belle.

Chance To Dance settled around halfway back in the 14-horse field in the early part of the race as Admiral set a solid pace in an attempt to repeat his bold front-running Karaka Classic victory of 12 months ago.

After producing a kick at the top of the straight, Admiral was swallowed up around the 250-metre mark by former Hong Kong galloper Brilliant Shine and the unheralded local gelding Waipipi Lad. Just as that pair appeared to have the finish all to themselves, Chance To Dance dived through between them and snatched a $12.50 upset win by a long head.

The win saw Chance To Dance shorten to $7 equal second favouritism with Mime and Volkstok’n’barrell for the 2040-metre Livamol Classic at Hastings on October 7. Last year’s Livamol Classic winner Willie Cazals was a fast-finishing third in the Karaka Classic in his final lead-up before his Hastings heroics.

The $2 favourite is Gingernuts, with Autridge and Richards now leaning strongly towards the Livamol in preference to a clash with Winx in the Turnbull Stakes in Melbourne.

“Chance To Dance will go to the Livamol now and Gingernuts is heading that way too, so we could have a pretty strong hand in the race,” Richards told www.theinformant.co.nz.

“Chance To Dance had a fair bit against him today, first-up over 1600 metres on a heavy track and with a big weight, and he had only had a quiet trial to prepare him. He won it very well. He’s a lovely horse and great to have around the stable.

“It’s great for the owners – John has brought in a lot of people who are new to the game. This win for them today, plus yesterday with Gingernuts, that’s what racing’s all about.”

Chance To Dance has now won eight of his 29 starts and more than $480,000 in prize-money.

Today’s win was a welcome one for Galvin and the Fortuna Chance To Dance Syndicate, who have had a roller-coaster ride since the son of Teofilo was purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis at the Chairman’s Sale in Sydney just under six months ago.

He crossed the line in second place in the Sydney Cup before it was declared a no-race due to a fatal breakdown during the first lap.

“We bought him about 10 days before the first running of the Sydney Cup,” Galvin recalled. “He was a Lloyd Williams cast-off, if you like. Mark Walker recommended we take a close look at him and we decided to buy him.

“We all know what happened in the Sydney Cup, the race was abandoned, and then he ran in it again two weeks later and finished fifth.

“The plan was always to bring him back to New Zealand and race here during the spring, then perhaps campaign in Australia again after that.

“He’s won first-up before in Melbourne and he’s a class horse. He’d been working with Gingernuts and he hasn’t given him an inch in their trackwork. He was a bit vulnerable today with his weight, but he is a quality horse.

“Jamie said to me a moment ago that the bad news is that Gingernuts is now likely to go to the Livamol too. I don’t see why that’s bad news – we’re happy to take Gingernuts on.”

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

Guineas plan for Greenpark Gem
22 Sep 2017

Greenpark Gem will be a force to be reckoned with next year, but she might still rise to a more immediate Group One challenge.

The talented filly remains in the mix for November’s gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas, a race her trainers Mandy and Matt Brown claimed last year with La Diosa.

The latter also won the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes prior to her classic success, and the Browns are hoping for a repeat from Greenpark Gem this Saturday.

“She’s a big filly, 16.1 hands, so she’s got a frame to fill out and she’s probably going to be better in the autumn, but we’ll keep her ticking along,” Mandy Brown said. “You only get one chance at the Guineas and it’s on our doorstep so we’re hopeful she can make it.

“She’s always showed us a lot of ability, but she still has a way to go regarding her racing manners.”

A daughter of Highly Recommended, Greenpark Gem was a trial winner before she made a successful debut at Riccarton earlier this month.

“She was quite green in her trial and we honestly thought she would need the race day experience, although ability-wise we knew she could win,” Browne said.

“I wish I had more by Highly Recommended in the stable, she’s a gorgeous filly with a very kind nature, but she is aggressive in her work. 

“If she runs well on Saturday she will head to Ashburton next,” Brown said, referring to the Listed John Grigg Stakes (1400m) on October 21.

The Informant

Matamata two-year-old feature upgraded to Group Three
21 Sep 2017

The Matamata Racing Club received some good news last week with confirmation that one of the feature events on its annual calendar has been upgraded.

Since 1979 the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes has been New Zealand’s highest rated race for two-year-old fillies, accorded a Group Two rating and a stake of $100,000. That race is the headline act at Matamata’s February Premier meeting, while the two-year-old males do battle in the Reid & Harrison Slipper.

That race was first run in 1987 and in the years since has been won by some of the country’s best age-group performers. Star two-year-olds on the roll of honour roll include Keeninsky, Darci Brahma and Jokers Wild, the winners from 2004 to 2006, while the two most recent editions have been won by next start Group One winners Heroic Valour and Summer Passage.

The grading of all New Zealand black type races is overseen by the NZ Pattern Committee, whose task it is to evaluate the full range from Group One to Listed. The Matamata Slipper has more than held its own in the latter category, but until recently the clash with the week earlier Gr. 3 Taranaki Classic stood in the way of an upgrade.

That dates impasse has been resolved in the 2017-18 schedule, with the Taranaki Classic now being run on the first Saturday in February, and it is anticipated that the three-week gap will enhance both races, as well as the J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.

Further to the Reid & Harrison Slipper upgrade, the Matamata Racing Club’s new summer schedule of five racedays during December, January and February has allowed for additional two-year-old opportunities ahead of the club’s big day on February 24. With an emphasis on feature two-year-old racing elsewhere through early summer, Matamata has until now missed out on valuable lead-up races to its two late February features, but with the extra dates maiden two-year-old races have been scheduled for the Matamata meetings on Friday January 12 and Friday February 2. 

Ellis honoured with Outstanding Contribution Award
11 Sep 2017

Te Akau principal David Ellis had a double celebration at tonight’s New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards in Auckland – one of his yearling purchases was named champion two-year-old, and then later in the evening the man himself was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution to Racing Award.

Melody Belle, who Ellis bought for $57,500 at the 2016 Premier Sale at Karaka, won the Karaka Million and the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes before going to Brisbane and adding the Gr. 2 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Eagle Farm. Raced by one of John Galvin’s Fortuna syndicates, Melody Belle earned more than $865,000 in prize-money.

The Commands filly was a comfortable winner in this season's two-year-old category, receiving 46 votes. The runner-up, transtasman Group One performer Summer Passage, got 11.

Melody Belle is the latest in a long line of Ellis purchases to have been crowned champions of their generation, following the likes of Xtravagant, Costa Viva, Darci Brahma, Princess Coup, King’s Chapel, Warhorse, Maroofity and Singaporean award winners War Affair and Flying Fulton.

The Outstanding Contribution to Racing Award honoured Ellis’ three decades of heavy involvement in ownership and syndication, dating back to a first Group One win as an owner with Cosmetique in the 1986 Easter Handicap.

Ellis has been the leading buyer at the Karaka yearling sales every year for more than a decade with a total spend in excess of $60 million, and Te Akau has become an industry leader in racehorse syndication.

One of the biggest Te Akau success stories in recent times has been Gingernuts, a $42,500 purchase at the Ready to Run Sale who has so far earned almost $1.1 million in prize-money for a group of mostly first-time owners with victories in this year's Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas, Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby and Gr. 1 Rosehill Guineas.

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

Matamata trio all set for Hastings Group One
29 Aug 2017

Five days out from the new season’s first Group One feature, connections of the three leading Matamata-trained candidates are all satisfied with their Tarzino Trophy prospects.

Graham Richardson, co-trainer of $3 fixed odds favourite Volpe Veloce, reports that the Foxwedge mare has done everything right since her impressive fresh-up win at Te Rapa earlier this month.

“All very good with her,” said Richardson. “She’s been ticking over nicely the past couple of weeks and she should be spot-on for Saturday.

“She’s a very clean-winded horse and doesn’t need a lot of fast work, so she’ll probably have a hitout by herself in the morning. If we think it’s the right thing to do we might take her for bit of a day out at the races here on Wednesday – just for a look and a walk around, that’s all.”

Karyn McQuade couldn’t be happier with the progress Underthemoonlight has made since her win in the Gr. 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa nine days ago.

“It was eight weeks between runs and we expected her to take a lot of improvement out of the race – and she has,” McQuade said. “She felt great in her first piece of work after Te Rapa, so all’s sweet, we’re looking forward to the weekend.”

Underthemoonlight, who is on the third line of betting at $10, relished the heavy conditions in her Foxbridge Plate win, but McQuade remains open-minded about what she will have to contend with on the weekend.

“She doesn’t have to have a slow or heavy track, just so long as there’s some cushion underneath. Mind you, we also know she’ll cope if there’s any rain about whereas it won’t suit some of the opposition.”

Included in that category is Group One-winning mare Perfect Fit, whose co-trainer Ken Kelso is counting on a significant improvement from the track that brought her undone in the Foxbridge Plate.

“There’s no denying, it was a disappointing result, but the ground is all we can put it down to,” Kelso said. “The main thing is she came through it well, we can’t fault her, and Michael (Coleman) was happy with her work here on Saturday morning.

“All we want is a good track, so here’s hoping.”

Hastings course manager Richard Fenwick, who confirmed Dead4 reading after taking his penetrometer readings this morning, is hedging his bets on the forecast for rain on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s blowing here and there’s no sign of the rain they predicted for today,” he said. “What happens leading up to the weekend will all depend on what quarter the wind comes from.

“A south-easterly will mean rain whereas a south-westerly will be safe. It’s always hard to read the weather this time of year, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Dennis Ryn

The Informant

Hello M'Lady on a hat-trick
25 Aug 2017

Group-placed mare Hello M’Lady will be tested tomorrow when she steps up in grade against some smart horses in the ITM PSP Open Sprint at New Plymouth over 1300 metres.

The four-year-old Shocking mare is unbeaten in her current campaign, winning both of her races with ease at Rotorua. While she was impressive in those races, trainer and part-owner Vicki Prendergast is wary of the step up in class.

“They have been pretty soft fields, so they don’t tell you a whole lot,” she said. 

“We always knew she was pretty smart, she showed that last season when she placed in the stakes races (Gr. 3 Bonecrusher Stakes and Listed Wanganui Guineas).

“She just needed to get some confidence and we needed to get her out of maiden grade, so we started her in a couple of soft fields and it paid off.”

In her two wins Hello M’Lady has drawn wide, dropped back early before improving from the 600-metre mark and racing away from her opposition. She has once again drawn a wide barrier and similar tactics are likely to be adopted.

Prendergast is happy with the way her stable star has been working since her last start, but said tomorrow’s race will answer a lot of questions.

“We have been pretty soft on her the first couple of weeks after her last start," she said. “That may have been a week too long, but I didn’t want to cart her all the way down to Tauherenikau last weekend. 

“She has galloped lovely this week and I think she is just as ready as she was for her last couple of races, but she is up in a lot higher grade now so we’re really only doing it to see what we have got and see where we stand.”

The once-unwanted Hello M’Lady has quickly become a favourite in Prendergast’s Matamata stable.

“She was given to us and we tried to give her away, but no one wanted her so we pottered along with her,” she said.

“She is just really nice to have around, she’s a great little horse and is always ready to give you a cuddle. We quite like having her around otherwise we would have sold her by now, we’ve had plenty of offers.”

Already Group-placed, she could add to that tally next month with a likely run in the Gr. 3 Spring Sprint on the last day of the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival.

“There are not many other races for her because she doesn’t have enough points for any of the earlier races,” Prendergast said. “We’ll then look at giving her a spell after that.” 

NZ Racing Desk

Matamata Racing Club 2016/17 Awards
18 Aug 2017

Matamata Racing Club 2016/17 Awards

J.W. McAnnalley Champion Sprinter/Miler: 

PERFECT FIT

D.W. Moss Champion Stayer:

WILLIE CAZALS

R.C. Blake Champion 2-Year-Old:

MELODY BELLE

 J.C. Tucker Champion 3-Year-Old:

GINGERNUTS

W.L. Tisch Champion Jumps Jockey:

REECE COLE

Lindsay Family Champion Apprentice Jockey:

SAM  WEATHERLEY

 B.R. Tims Champion Jockey:

SAMANTHA COLLETT

 D.G.M Benjamin Champion Breeder:

KEVIN HICKMAN/VALACHI DOWNS

 C.C.E. Thompson Champion Owner:

TE AKAU GINGERNUTS SYNDICATE 

 D.J. O’Sullivan Champion Trainer:

STEPHEN AUTRIDGE/JAMIE RICHARDS

 J.B. Christophers Track Rider/Stablehand:

ROB NORMAN

2016-17 Matamata Horse of the Year:

          GINGERNUTS

Weatherley rounds off big season with Rotorua hat-trick
31 Jul 2017

A hat-trick and a career-first black-type win at Rotorua today proved the perfect finale to Sam Weatherley’s championship season.

Weatherley’s winning sequence began on the Murray Baker/Andrew Forsman-trained Bowie, followed by Gentil Tonton in the Woods Contracting Taumarunui Gold Cup and completed by a six-length romp on the Kevin Myers-trained Mandalay.

Those three wins took Weatherley’s tally for the season to 67 and a clear-cut win in the apprentice jockeys’ premiership. Having ridden eight winners after beginning his apprenticeship with Lance O’Sullivan in June last year, he hasn’t looked back this season.

Ironically, Gentil Tonton was until recently trained by O’Sullivan and his partner Andrew Scott, but today was having his second start for Cambridge trainer John Bell.

“I had ridden the horse in his last couple of starts for us and I was happy when John decided to keep me on,” the 18-year-old said. “When it rained during the week I thought the ground would be perfect for him today, but then the rain stopped and it’s quite puggy.

“It wasn’t his favourite ground and he never really travelled in the run, but the solid pace up front suited him and he really dug in the last bit.

The Irish-bred son of champion European stayer Yeats took the $65,000 feature by half a length from course specialist Pump Up The Volume, who put up a big effort under 59.5 kilograms after being second-last through the middle stages.

Jochen Rindt gave his all trying for his second win in the race, leading until the challengers came and going down by just over a length. Stokers Rock fought on after being in the party on the turn to be next across the line, while the well fancied Francis Drake finished fifth after also looking likely at the top of the straight.

Gentil Tonton’s sixth win from 27starts was a windfall for John Bell, who now also owns the six-year-old.

“When I was approached to take the horse it was on the understanding that it would be for his Hong Kong owner, but then I got word that he didn’t want to continue with him. You could say I’m happy the way things have worked out.

“When he came to me I decided to change things around, take off the blinkers and tongue-tie, replace the ring bit with a snaffle and give him different work.

“He’s gradually come round and this week knowing what a clean-winded horse he is, he did minimal fast work and came to the races a happy horse.”

D Ryan

The Informant

Te Teko trial for Summer Passage
25 Jul 2017

A slight change of plan will see the Group One winner Summer Passage make a domestic appearance next month ahead of his Melbourne spring carnival campaign.

“We will be giving him a trial at Te Teko and then he’ll go to Australia after that and have a trial there before he kicks off,” said Lance O’Sullivan, who trains in partnership with Andrew Scott.

Successful in the Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes and runner-up in the Gr. 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick, the colt is likely to resume in the Gr. 2 Danehill Stakes, a race won last year by the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Saracino, over 1200 metres on September 16.

Summer Passage’s major target is the Gr. 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on November 4. 

Guy chases two spots in Tarzino Trophy field
25 Jul 2017

Danica Guy is facing a race against the ratings to have dual representation in the opening Group One contest of the new season.

The Matamata trainer has the capable pair of Capella and Galaxy Miss short-listed for the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings, but work has to be done to get them into the final line-up.

Rising five-year-old Capella has been sparingly raced and is the winner of three of her 12 starts, including the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic last season and she was also fourth in the Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby.

The daughter of Rip Van Winkle has been restricted to four appearances this term and she hasn’t raced since finishing fifth in the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile.

“She’s coming up really well and she’s had her first gallop,” Guy said. “I don’t know if she will make it into the first race at Hawke’s Bay on rating points, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

“She is a really happy horse though and we’ll probably look for a nice Rating 85 race somewhere for her first-up.”

Capella currently sits on a rating of 84 with Galaxy Miss four points better.

“I gave her a couple of weeks off after her last run,” Guy said. “She’s back in work now and I may run her in an open 1200 at Te Rapa.

“We’ll see if she can get to the Foxbridge Plate and Hawke’s Bay. We would love to pinch some black type with her before she goes off to stud.”

Galaxy Miss has won six races and ran fourth at her last appearance in the Listed Tauranga Classic, her first outing at stakes level.

Spring plans confirmed for Volpe Veloce
21 Jul 2017

A spring trip to Melbourne has been ruled out for Volpe Veloce with domestic Group One success the sole focus of her upcoming campaign.

The Foxwedge filly enjoyed an outstanding three-year-old campaign with five wins from six appearances, including the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic, the Gr. 3 Eulogy Stakes and the Listed Karaka Mile.

Completing the full black type set will now be top priority for trainers Graham Richardson and Gavin Parker.

“She is a very, very good filly and we want to concentrate on winning a Group One here and then we may look at Sydney in the autumn,” Richardson said.

Volpe Veloce will resume in an open 1200-metre handicap at Te Rapa on August 5 as her lead in to the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings on September 2

“The Foxbridge Plate is too close to Hawke’s Bay and this way there is three weeks between runs,” Richardson said. “All going well, she will go back for the Windsor Park Plate and then we’ll be looking at races like the Captain Cook Stakes and the Telegraph.”

Volpe Veloce hasn’t raced since she finished fourth, her first defeat, in the Gr. 2 Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic in February.

“We gave her a decent holiday and she’s really strengthened up, we’re very happy with her,” Richardson said.

To further her preparation, Volpe Veloce travelled to Taupo racecourse on Wednesday for a gallop.

“The track was between dead and slow, which was ideal,” Richardson said. “She ran an easy 1000 metres in 1:04, the last 600 in 37.5.

“Johnathan Parkes came up to ride her and he was really rapt with the filly.”

NZ Racing Desk

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