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Eagle Farm challenge for Derby favourite
25 May 2017

The versatility of the current Gr. 1 Queensland Derby favourite Shocking Luck will be fully tested in his final lead-up this weekend to the June 10 classic.

The three-year-old soared to the top of the market following his hollow win in the Gr. 3 Rough Habit Plate in soft going at Doomben, but Saturday’s Gr. 3 Grand Prix Stakes at Eagle Farm represents a sterner challenge.

“He’s a much better horse on top of the ground and we didn’t think he would handle it last time out,” said Jamie Richards, who trains Shocking Luck with Stephen Autridge.

“It’s going to be worse at Eagle Farm and while we don’t think the two-week turnaround is a problem – he’s thriving and we’re happy - the track isn’t going to come back and it will certainly be cutting out.”

Opie Bosson will again be aboard Shocking Luck and he will also ride Melody Belle (Gr. 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes) and Jimmy Rea (Green Options Handicap).

NZ Racing Desk

Sound Proposition to remain in Australia
24 May 2017

A change of stable is imminent for the Group One winner Sound Proposition.

The Savabeel five-year-old made his final appearance from the Matamata stable of Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott when he was unplaced in his Australian debut in the Gr. 1 Doomben Cup, in which he was tripped up by the heavy going.

The race was won by Sense Of Occasion, who is prepared at Newcastle by Kris Lees – the new trainer of Sound Proposition.

“We’ve been told that’s what is happening and we can’t blame the owners for that,” O’Sullivan said.

“It’s just one of those things, part of the job, and with a good horse there are more opportunities for them overseas. 

“He likes the good tracks and there isn’t much around at home for him. I don’t think he’s a Hawke’s Bay horse, he’s struggled going left-handed in the past.”

Sound Proposition has won four of his 17 starts, including the Easter Stakes in 2016 when it was a Group One contest.

Meanwhile, O’Sullivan has revealed that their Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes winner and Gr. 1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes runner-up Summer Passage is unlikely to race in New Zealand again this year.

“We’ve got a Group One with him here and we can only add value by winning one in Australia,” he said. “He may not even trial here, we’ll probably take off early with him and the main target is likely to be the Coolmore Stud Stakes.”

The Group One three-year-old sprint will be run at Flemington on November 4.

NZ Racing Desk, The Informant

Shocking Luck in top Queensland Derby rehearsal
16 May 2017

Shocking Luck is Hong Kong-bound but not before he attempts to win the Queensland Derby following his emphatic win in the Gr. 3 Rough Habit Plate at Doomben today.

The Kiwi raider drifted from $4.80 to $6 but was untroubled to win by two and three-quarter lengths from Order Again, who was heavily backed into $3.40 equal favouritism with Veladero, who was one and three-quarter lengths away third.

After a second placing over 1500 metres in midweek company at Ipswich earlier in the month, Shocking Luck handled the rise in grade and distance with ease, confirming the high opinion co-trainer Jamie Richards has held in the gelding.

"He's a big skinny New Zealand horse with a stayer's action and we always felt he would come into his own once he stepped up to 2000 metres," Richards said.

After his next run in the Gr. 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Eagle Farm on May 27, Shocking Luck will attempt to emulate Eagle Way, who won last year's Queensland Derby before going to Hong Kong where he has raced successfully.

"David Ellis sold this horse to Phillip Mak in Hong Kong and the intention is to run him in the Grand Prix and Derby before he heads overseas," Richards said of the son of Melbourne Cup winner Shocking.

Any concerns Richards held for Shocking Luck on the soft track proved unfounded.

"Hopefully the tracks continue to improve because believe me he's a much better horse on top of the ground," Richards said. "All going well he can hold his form at his next two starts and there's no reason why he can't."

Order Again produced an eye-catching Derby trial as trainer Brian Smith sweats on gaining a start in the blue-riband event.

The gelding earned A$25,000 for finishing second but Smith is concerned his overall prize money of A$62,000 won't be enough to guarantee a Derby start.

Stephen Rodgers

Gold Fever strikes the races in Matamata
08 Mar 2017

Ideal summer weather, a perfect track and quality fields combined to make Matamata's biggest raceday of the year one to remember.

A capacity crowd flocked to the Matamata racecourse on Saturday for the J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders' Stakes meeting and no-one was left disappointed by the action on the track nor the style on show in the Tuscany Road Fashion in the Field.

The day's headline race, the $100,000 Matamata Breeders' Stakes, was won by one of the strong local contingent, Gold Fever.

It was a first in Matamata's flagship race for co-trainer Jamie Richards, but it marked the fourth for his Te Akau Racing partner Stephen Autridge to go with the wins by Bayremah, Maxamore and Catamarca over a five-year period in the late 1990s.

Saturday's result was something of a replay of last year's Matamata Breeders' Stakes, which was won by Gold Fever's half-sister Gold Rush.

The significant difference was that the latter was trained by Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott and beat the Te Akau runner Sassy 'N' Smart by a nose.

The Wexford training partners claimed a share of Saturday's action when their highly rated colt Summer Passage downed Te Akau's Summer Monsoon in the other two-year-old feature, the Reid & Harrison Slipper.

Gold Fever and Summer Passage were two of six Matamata-trained winners on the nine-race programme but neither may have got the loudest cheer.

That belonged to Massofdash, or more specifically her 21-year-old jockey Tegan Newman, who was having her first ever raceday ride when she brought the Jim Collett-trained mare home for an easy win in the New World Matamata 1400.

The competition was just as keen for the Tuscany Road Fashion in the Field where it was Pokeno woman Belinda Green who was named Surpreme Winner.

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She will go forward to compete at Derby Day Fashion in the Field in Auckland on March 4.

Green said someone thought her outfit looked like "a liquorice lolly" but hoped it was the point of difference judges were looking for.

"Also my headwear was made to match and was a quirky piece. I used fabric from the dress on my headwear." 

It was the third time she had entered Matamata Breeders' Stakes Fashion in the Field.

She enjoyed returning each year because the event was well organised and the prizes "extremely generous from local businesses".

"I loved catching up with fellow fashionistas - a lovely bunch of ladies - all with a common passion for raceday attire.

"This was my first race day with my three-month-old daughter. I'm now learning to juggle going to the races and motherhood responsibilities."

Green has a keen interest in race day headwear which kept her up to date with racing fashion trends.

"I follow the Australian racing fashion scene on social media and am inspired by the creativity and bold looks.

"They are not afraid to push the fashion boundaries over there and it gives me the confidence to try something different in New Zealand."

She enjoyed customising headwear.

"One time, I made three different hats for my dress, I really wanted to make sure my outfit was spot on!"

She has some advice for others looking to impress judges at fashion in the field events.

"When preparing your raceday outfit, pop on the entire ensemble and take a photo of yourself.

"This is really helpful in editing and reviewing your look, adding or subtracting accessories to compliment."

She said competing in a fashion in the field event may appear daunting at first but organisers and other contestants were always helpful and friendly.

"A few minutes on the catwalk gives you such an adrenaline buzz, it's addictive and I highly recommend it."

Fashion in the Field results:

Janes Fashion and Accessories Avante Garde: 1st Belinda Green; 2nd Jane Bennett; 3rd Tammie Stuck. Envisage Raceday Elegance: 1st Sheree Sheehan; 2nd Janelle Burnside; 3rd Alisha Burnside. Moda Models: 1st Ainhoa Tejades; 2nd Alisha Maxwell; 3rd  Jacki  Reynolds. Tuscany Road Supreme Winner: Belinda Green.

Junior Fashion in the Field: 3-4 yrs: Lily Ferguson; Braxton Popplewell; Lennox Thompson. 5-7 yrs: Sofia Gorham; Ashton Knowlton; Mischa Thomson. 8-10 yrs: Liz Bennet; Delta Ritchie; Victoria Roskem. ‚Äč11-13 yrs: Sari Gold; Lily Pearl Hunter.

Dennis Ryan and Lawrence Gullery


Autridge gets his Derby among a sea of orange
08 Mar 2017

While a sea of orange caps went wild in the stand, Stephen Autridge cast his mind back more than 35 years as Gingernuts crossed the line first in the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie today.

On Boxing Day 1981 Autridge had experienced the low point of his time in racing when his mount, New Zealand Derby favourite Altitude, suffered a catastrophic haemorrhage midway through the classic and died minutes later.

Today he stood in the same birdcage that he had trod so sadly through all those years ago and fought back tears that told a quite different story.

“1981. In some ways it seems a long time ago but to be standing here now after finally winning the Derby, it sure takes you back,” said the wistful trainer, who prepares Gingernuts in partnership with Jamie Richards.

For others in the Gingernuts camp, any tears that flowed were pure joy. Blair Alexander, who had joined forces with Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis to syndicate the $42,500 Ready to Run Sale purchase, was the toast of the town.

Through his workplace at the Auckland advertising agency FCB, Alexander drew in a bunch of workmates and friends who today sported tangerine caps with bold blue print declaring “G-Nuts” as the crowd favourite for today’s classic.

“With a bit of luck I might get a pay rise,” declared Alexander, who is the partner of former Te Akau stable jockey Matt Cameron. “No this is great, I don’t think I’ll be taking my cap off tonight!”

Cameron was Gingernuts’ jockey when he hit form in a lowly Rating 65 race at Te Teko in late January, and Johnathan Parkes was on board for the Iffraaj gelding’s amazing first-to-last win in the Avondale Guineas two weeks ago.

But today the responsibility lay with recently reappointed Te Akau jockey Opie Bosson and he rode the type of race that he’s renowned for, settling the chestnut gelding sixth one out from the rail before lodging his bid at just the right time.

While others such as the favourite Savile Row were battling on the home turn, Gingernuts was just getting serious. He swept up wide with 250 metres to run, lay in for a few strides and then surged forward to collar the Australian raider Rising Red and draw away to score by a length.

“I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me and I never spent a penny throughout,” said Bosson, who had ridden Mongolian Khan to victory in the same race two years ago. “He did it easily in the end.

“It’s good to win the race for Te Akau and to get these big results is what we need. It’s awesome for Steve, who has been my number one supporter right from day one.

“Whenever I’ve been down he’s been the one to ring me and cheer me up. I’m stoked to do it for him.”

Bosson, who is Autridge’s godson and served his apprenticeship with him during his first stint with Te Akau, rode four winners on today’s Derby programme. In late January he also won the only other $1 million race on the New Zealand calendar, the Karaka Million on the Fortuna/Te Akau filly Melody Belle.

Hall Of Fame, who was the other 2015 Ready to Run Sale purchase made by Ellis, provided the same combination with a Group One win in mid-January when winning the Levin Classic at Trentham.

D Ryan
The Informant
Hennessy-bred filly becomes Ocean Park's first winner
20 Feb 2017

Cox Plate winner Ocean Park has sired his first winner and appropriately it was bred by the stallion’s trainer and former co-owner Gary Hennessy.

Beerzatbernz, a daughter of the Hennessy-owned Flying Spur mare Flying Rosa, lined up in a 1050-metre two-year-old race at yesterday’s Morphettville meeting in Adelaide as second favourite after second placings in her two preparatory trials.

The Tony McEvoy-trained bay trailed on the fence and for a brief period in the home straight it appeared that she was going to be denied racing room. But after working across heels into the clear, she balanced up and put in long strides over the final stages to score by a long neck from another first starter, Per Incanto filly Uninhibited.

Between himself and Hong Kong-based Steve Yan and Andrew Wong who raced Ocean Park, they have sent a dozen mares to Ocean Park in each of the four years he has stood at Waikato Stud. Beerzatbernz, Ocean Park’s third raceday starter, was sold by Hennessy for A$40,000 at last year’s Melbourne Premier Sale.

“It’s very satisfying to be the breeder of OP’s first winner,” Hennessy said. “My wife Jenny and I went looking for mares that we thought would suit him when he went to stud and this filly is from one of them.

“After Tony had bought her he commented that he thought he got her for unders, but good luck to him. She’s a lovely big scopey filly, a real Oaks type, and looking at how she won yesterday I’d say she’s got a real future.”

It was fitting that Ocean Park's first winner came in a weekend that also features racing at Gisborne, where the son of Thorn Park began his own racing career. He dead-heated for first in a maiden three-year-old event there in November 2011.

He went on to win another seven races including the Gr. 1 Cox Plate, Caulfield Stakes, Underwood Stakes, New Zealand Stakes and Makfi Challenge Stakes and at the end of his landmark season he was awarded the Horse of the Year title. 

Hennessy reports that Ocean Emperor, the Zabeel entire owned in the same three-way partnership that raced Ocean Park, has come through his impressive recent fresh-up win in good order and is likely to line up at next Saturday’s Matamata meeting.

“There’s a 1400-metre race that will suit him on the home track and if I think it’s the right thing to do, we might then look at a race like the Easter.”

Dennis Ryan
The Informant
Late Derby entry confirmed for Gingernuts
20 Feb 2017

Yesterday’s last-to-first Avondale Guineas winner Gingernuts is set to run in the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby.

Te Akau principal and syndicate manager David Ellis has confirmed a $30,000 late nomination fee will be paid by Tuesday’s noon deadline for the son of Iffraaj. Gingernuts will be one of possibly three horses trained by Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards in line for the March 4 Ellerslie classic.

“We’re going to run Gingernuts in the Derby, where he’ll be ridden by Opie Bosson,” Ellis said. “Our other confirmed runner, Beaumarchais, will be ridden by Michael McNab.”

Ellis said a decision around Waikato Guineas runner-up Shocking Luck, who bypassed the Avondale Guineas due to the slow ground, would be made before the late entry deadline.

“Shocking Luck has been sold to a client of Te Akau Racing in Hong Kong, and a decision on whether he goes to the New Zealand Derby, the Queensland Derby, or straight to Hong Kong will be made within the next 24 hours,” Ellis said today.

Ellis signed for Gingernuts for $42,500 at the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale, one of just two selections made with Richards.

“Hall of Fame has already won a Group One (Levin Classic) and now Gingernuts has won a Group Two, and it’s great to have gone to the sale and ended up with two horses of that quality.”

On the strength of his Avondale Guineas win Gingernuts is the big mover on the TAB’s fixed odds Derby market to now share the third line on $8 with Camino Rocoso. Last week’s Herbie Dyke Stakes runner-up Savile Row has assumed $4.50 favouritism from Sacred Elixir ($5) following the latter’s unplaced performance in the Avondale Guineas.

Dennis Ryan
The Informant
Coleman hopes roll continues at Te Rapa
09 Feb 2017

Michael Coleman has an enviable black-type strike rate this season.

While he may not feature in the top 10 in the jockeys' premiership, as far as feature events go he's riding high.

Almost a quarter of Coleman's 30 wins this term have come in stakes races, with the chance of further success at Te Rapa on Saturday.

Coleman, 47, recorded his seventh black type win for the season when successful in the Listed Wairarapa Breeders' Stakes aboard Charmont on Waitangi Day.

His major wins this term include the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas and three other Group races, while he has also been runner-up in three Group One contests.

"I've been getting support from Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman and Stephen Marsh and it's a big help to have their backing," Coleman said.

His mounts at Te Rapa include Savile Row in the Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes, Perfect Fit in the Gr. 1 NRM Sprint and Nicoletta in the Gr. 2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies' Classic.

Savile Row was runner-up in the 2000 Guineas and two starts in a fresh campaign have produced a Rating 85 win at Ellerslie and a second in the Gr. 1 Levin Classic.

Coleman committed himself to the Derby ride on Savile Row following the Ellerslie run, but he missed the Levin Classic mount through suspension.

"He's going well and the 2000 metres will be a nice step up for him," he said. "He should be very competitive."

Perfect Fit will meet a strong line-up in the NRM Sprint, but she is a quality galloper and has been Group One-placed in the Railway Stakes and the Telegraph.

"She doesn't have to improve much to get her head over the line," Coleman said.

Nicoletta warmed up for her clash with the unbeaten Volpe Veloce in the Gr. 2 Sir Tristram Fillies' Classic with a last-start win in the Gr. 3 Desert Gold Stakes.

"She is a very nice filly and still on the way up," Coleman said.

NZ Racing Desk
Golden Slipper goal for Exceed And Excel colt
31 Jan 2017

With another leading buyers’ title all but sewn up and 20 purchases already under his belt this week, Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis is now eyeing one of the few unticked boxes on his bucket list.

For more than a year Ellis has been making regular trips to Cambridge Stud to inspect a colt by Exceed And Excel out of the Group One performer Oasis Rose, with a $3.5 million pot of gold firmly in mind. He took another step towards that goal at Karaka this afternoon, buying the colt for $625,000.

“What I’ve written in my notes for this colt is two words – ‘the race’,” Ellis said. “The race I’ve always really wanted to win is the Golden Slipper, and I believe that this is that sort of colt.

“I first saw him when he was a foal at Cambridge Stud. I’ve been going back to look at him regularly since then. I’ve seen him around 10 times. He’s really impressed me all the way through. He’s absolutely thrived since he arrived at Karaka and he’s a colt with a lovely temperament.

“He’s a beautiful colt, he’s got real class and I thought he was one of the colts of the sale. He’ll be part of our stallions syndicate this year, along with a Redoute’s Choice colt we bought on the Gold Coast (out of the Woodman mare Valadon, bought for A$560,000) and one or two more to follow.”

A daughter of high-quality shuttle stallion Oasis Dream, whose progeny include the young Cambridge Stud shuttler Power, Oasis Rose was bred in Australia by Kia Ora Stud.

Cambridge Stud’s general manager Marcus Corban bought her for A$260,000 at the Inglis Sydney Easter sale, and she carried the colours of Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan to a win and three placings in a six-start career.

Oasis Rose ran second in the Listed Wentwood Grange as a two-year-old, and in November 2012 she finished second and only a head behind Sacred Falls in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas.

“This colt’s pedigree is outstanding,” Ellis said.

Ellis bought 14 horses yesterday for a total of more than $2.18 million, and he has shown no signs of slowing down today.

“And there’s more to come,” he vowed.

Richard Edmunds
The Informant
Trials 7 February 2017
31 Jan 2017
Australian stud career for Xtravagant
27 Jan 2017

Last season’s champion three-year-old Xtravagant has been sold and is destined for a stud career at Newhaven Park in New South Wales.

The deal between Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis and the Kelly family of Newhaven Park was completed this week and Xtravagant is expected to take up duties next spring.

Xtravagant was a surprise withdrawal from last week’s Gr. 1 Telegraph, having been the long-time favourite for the big Trentham sprint but failing to satisfy connections that he would be at peak for the race. Whether he races again for his new owners is a decision that has yet to be made.

In announcing Xtravagant’s change of ownership to The Informant, Ellis took time to reflect on the Pentire colt’s spectacular racing career balanced by some major disappointments.

“He was a horse that the Te Akau team were proud to train and own,” Ellis said. “I bought him for $370,000 as a yearling from the Karaka Premier Sale and he lived right up to our expectations from the start.

“He won his first start as a two-year-old by more than seven lengths pulling up, and then at three he won two Group One races by a combined total of more than 16 lengths.

“His win in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas was for me the thrill of a lifetime. He ran the fastest 1600 metres ever in the Riccarton classic and then he beat all-comers when he won the weight-for-age NRM Sprint at Te Rapa.”

After that win Xtravagant made his first trip to Australia, but came home empty-handed after finishing midfield in the Gr. 1 Australian Guineas. He had one further start at three, easily winning the Gr. 3 Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes from star southern filly First Serve.

“He raced every month at three from September to April and to think he won five times in what was a very demanding season speaks volumes for the horse himself and for his trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards,” Ellis added.

“He was recognised for his achievements when he was voted New Zealand’s champion three-year-old over an outstanding line-up that included seven other Group One winners. An international panel of handicappers rated him New Zealand’s highest rated three-year-old since Bonecrusher in the 1980s.”

Ellis concedes that Xtravagant’s career, comprising six wins from 12 starts and more than $480,000, contained its disappointments as well, but having completed his sale to Newhaven, harbours no regrets.

“At his best he was the measure of any horse around and while he provided us with some huge highs as well as some lows, you can’t have any regrets,” he said. “I selected him at Karaka as a member of a colts’ investment syndicate and in that respect he was an undoubted success.

“The other horses in that syndicate – Splurge, Rocksun and Beacon Of Hope – have all won, and Splurge, who we unfortunately had to geld, is well placed to complete a hat-trick at Trentham this weekend.”

As is his tradition for years, Elis will be in full flight ringside at next week’s National Yearling Sale, where he will bid to once again lead the buyers’ bench.

“I have another colts’ syndicate which is almost fully subscribed and after studying the catalogue and doing our inspections, I’m positive that I will be able to buy a quality bunch of young horses.

“It’s always an exciting time of year for me and everybody at Te Akau. With Xtravagant’s sale (at a reported seven-figure sum), the people who have done well out of him will be able to reinvest.”

Ellis is likewise excited at what awaits Xtravagant in his new life at stud. “The Kelly family of Newhaven Park have a fantastic reputation as breeders and I’m absolutely delighted that Xtravagant will get such a great opportunity there.

“Not only is he by a sire with a superb record with progeny winning over all distances throughout Australasia, but he’s out of a mare by the champion sire Zabeel. It’s also a huge plus that Xtravagant is completely free of Danehill blood, which is so rarely found in modern day pedigrees.

“I understand that the syndicate that the Kellys have formed contains all the big names of Australian breeding and with the entitlements I have I will definitely be supporting him as well.

“Whether he gets to race again is a decision that has yet to be made by his new owners, but if he does they have committed to leaving him with Stephen and Jamie. Whatever they decide, I wish them all the very best.”

Newhaven Park's John Kelly has confirmed that Xtravagant will take up duites at a fee of A$15,000.

"He was a breathtaking racehorse with phenomenal speed," Kelly said. "He is a superb looking individual with a truly international pedigree that is an outcross for Australia's Danehill line mares.

"He has all the attributes we look for in a stallion and we look forward to presenting him to Australian breeders this spring."

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders' Stakes Golf Tournament
26 Jan 2017
Karaka Mile to decide Heroic Valour's future targets
25 Jan 2017

Heroic Valour’s performance at Ellerslie this weekend will determine the future direction of his three-year-old career.

The Group One-winning colt has improved with his first-up run and he will strip a fitter horse for Sunday’s Listed NZB Insurance Karaka 3YO Mile.

“He worked extremely well this (Tuesday) morning and we’re pretty confident he will run very well,” Te Akau principal David Ellis said.

“We’ll decide after Sunday whether he presses on to the Derby or if we keep him to the shorter races, possibly in Melbourne.”

The Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards-trained Heroic Valour has been nominated for the Gr. 1 Australian Guineas over a mile at Flemington on March 4.

Runner-up when resuming under 60.5 kilograms earlier this month, Heroic Valour won the Diamond Stakes last season and this term he added a Group One placing to his record in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas.

His younger barn mate Melody Belle is also in fine order ahead of the sternest test of her fledgling career in Sunday’s Karaka Million.

She was a debut winner at Ruakaka in the spring and was then put aside after she finished third in the Gr. 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes behind the talented pair of Gift Of Power and Hasahalo.

On her return at Ellerslie this month, Melody Belle had little luck in the running after she began awkwardly.

“Michael McNab told me to just forget that run,” Ellis said. “She’s very well and it’s a wide open race.”

The Informant

Gerard takes leaf out of Moroney book of tricks
18 Jan 2017

Pam Gerard has gladly taken a leaf out of her senior training partner Mike Moroney’s book of tricks for preparing stayers in the countdown to the Wallaceville Estate Wellington Cup.

Last year the former South Islander took over from Chad Ormsby as resident trainer at Ballymore Stables' Matamata base. Amongst the horses that came with her appointment was 2016 Wellington Cup winner Mister Impatience, who will be having just his third race this preparation when he lines up in Saturday's Trentham two-miler.

Twelve months ago the English-bred gelding snatched a nose win over Pentathlon at close to 30-to-one odds, but after two further unplaced efforts he required surgery to remove a fetlock chip. A downside to his recuperation was the amount of weight he put on during his let-up, but after two races and an intensive training programme Gerard believes the seven-year-old might just be up to his weekend challenge.

“His first run back was over a mile and he was only getting warm as the rest of them were pulling up, then in the City of Auckland Cup it was probably a better run than it looked even though he finished a fair way back,” said Gerard.

“He’s really tidied up with that run and we’ve been able to pour the work into him since.”

Part of that training programme included a stern workout at Matamata yesterday, beginning with a warm-up and followed by two separate 1200-metre gallops on the course proper. In the first he recorded 1:23, with the last 1000m in 1:07.8 and 600m in 39.4. He was slower off the mark next time round, but he finished full of running after 1200m in 1:26.2, 1:08.1 and 39.2.

“That’s something Mike does quite a bit with his stayers and it’s certainly opened my eyes, even after the work I used to put into my jumpers,” said Gerard, whose list of credits includes the 2003 Waikato-Great Northern Hurdle double with Narousa.

“It’s the only time we’ve done it with him this preparation, but the way he got through the work looked pretty good to me.”

Her opinion was backed by work rider Michael Coleman, who will switch to Waikato Cup runner-up Snow Secret on Saturday while Sam Spratt combines again with Mister Impatience.

“That was nice work, especially the way he finished off the last part,” said Coleman, whose association with Ballymore Stables includes the 2000 Wellington Cup on Second Coming.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Xtravagant out of Telegraph
18 Jan 2017

Saturday’s JR & N Berkett Telegraph has been thrown wide open with the withdrawal this morning of long-time favourite Xtravagant.

The four-year-old’s managing owner David Ellis made the shock announcement to www.theinformant.co.nz after witnessing his main gallop at Matamata, followed by discussions with trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards and stable jockey Opie Bosson.

Xtravagant was partnered by his one-win stablemate Gingernuts over 1000 metres on the plough in 1:02.2 and 35.2. While the time was respectable it wasn’t outstanding, and nor were Bosson’s comments when he came off the track.

With a waver of his hand, Bosson suggested the work was “at best fair”, prompting connections to consider the situation and make the ultimate call.

“He worked okay only, not good enough to take him down to Wellington,” Ellis said afterwards. “It’s a big call but one that we all agree on.

“We will review his future in the days ahead.”

Xtravagant’s Telegraph defection continues a frustrating season for last year’s champion three-year-old. With form headed by the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas and NRM Sprint, big things were expected of him in Melbourne in the spring but he failed in two starts.

Brought home and freshened up with the Telegraph his designated first-up target, he resumed with an easy trial win followed by a smart gallop at Ellerslie late last month. His second in a trial at Cambridge last week was acceptable given he went down by only a head to Turn Me Loose, but the evidence of this morning’s work was a turning point.

After suspending betting immediately following Xtravagant’s withdrawal, the TAB has released an updated Telegraph market headed by Railway winner Start Wondering at $4, followed by Perfect Fit at $5, First Serve $6 and Odyssey Moon $7.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Guineas runner-up Savile Row out to go one better at Trentham
13 Jan 2017

Jonathan Scully already knew Kevin Hickman had a smart horse on his hands in Savile Row, and comments from co-trainer Michael Moroney this week comparing the colt to former stable star Xcellent have just confirmed it.

Scully, racing manager for Valachi Downs proprietor and Savile Row's breeder-owner Kevin Hickman, is brimming with confidence ahead of the colt’s tilt at Saturday's Gr. 1 Randwick Meats Levin Classic at Trentham. 

"It's amazing that Mike would even contemplate comparing him with Xcellent, because everyone knows how highly he rated him," Scully said. "It just confirms to us that we've got a pretty special horse on our hands.

"It's great to have a home-bred colt racing in Group One races in Kevin's colours. Hopefully after Saturday, we might have a potential stallion on our hands. We don't normally keep our colts, but there weren't enough people wanting to buy him at the sales so we brought him home."

Runner-up to Ugo Foscolo in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, Scully believes Savile Row's edge came from his strength and maturity for his age.

"You'd think he's a four-year-old, but he's only three and that for starters always holds you in pretty good stead," Scully said.

"At Ellerslie the other day it was like he was toying with them - and that was a pretty good field of older Rating 85 gallopers. 

"We've just got to try and not get too excited until he gets his Group One, but that's not easy. His win at Ellerslie took Kevin and me by surprise. We thought it would be just a nice pipe-cleaner, but the way he won gave us goosebumps."

TAB bookmakers have the Michael Moroney and Pam Gerrard-trained Savile Row on the second line of betting for the Levin Classic at $4.80 behind the $2.90 favourite Hall Of Fame, which surprises Scully.

"He's at great odds," he said. "We've got the draw (barrier two) and Hall Of Fame is inside us too. Pam wants him ridden a little handier than he was in the 2000 Guineas."

Savile Row is the TAB's $10 equal second favourite for the Gr. 1 Vodafone New Zealand Debry at Ellerslie on March 4 with Highlad, in a market headed by Sacred Elixir at $5.

He is at $16 for the weight-for-age Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on February 11.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

Perfect Fit impresses in Tauranga exhibition gallop
22 Dec 2016

Group One-winning mare Perfect Fit warmed up for the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day with a bold exhibition gallop at Tauranga this afternoon.

Ridden by regular pilot Michael Coleman, the Elusive City mare ran 1000 metres in 59 seconds and clocked a rapid 33.08 for the last 600.

“She went very well, I was very happy with the work,” co-trainer Ken Kelso told www.theinformant.co.nz. “Michael was really happy as well, which is always good to hear.

“The idea was to give her a nice hitout today and I think we accomplished that. There’s a bit of time between the Counties Bowl and the Railway, and an exhibition gallop is a nice way to get some work into her and keep her ticking over without having to take her to the races or trials. We did the same thing last season before she won the Westbury Classic, so we’re following the same pattern again.

“I think we’re all on track for the Railway now. This should bring her forward nicely and have her pretty much at her peak on New Year’s Day. It’ll be important to draw a good alley, of course, but as far as the things we can control are concerned I’m very happy.”

Perfect Fit is currently rated a $7 chance for the Railway, sharing the second line of favouritism with Natuzzi and Xtravagant. Just ahead of them at $6 is Start Wondering.

Bred and part-owned by Haunui Bloodstock, Perfect Fit has had 13 starts for six wins, five placings and $273,500 in prize-money. Her wins include this year’s Gr. 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and Gr. 2 Westbury Classic, while she resumed for this season with a close third in the Listed Counties Bowl.

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

Capella on another Group One path
21 Dec 2016

Capella has at least one top-flight feature on her summer programme.

The Rip Van Winkle mare showed she was approaching her best form again when she finished a close last-start second when resuming at Ellerslie earlier this month.

“I’m very happy with her, it was a good run and a bit of a relief really,” trainer Danica Guy said.

“It was a nice effort going forward – we’re looking at the Rich Hill Mile and maybe the Thorndon Mile and then the Herbie Dyke Stakes.

“The Herbie Dyke is her main target and a trip to Trentham for the Thorndon will depend on her next run.”

Capella enjoyed a strong three-year-old season, which saw her successful in the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic before she went to Sydney. She performed creditably to finish fifth and seventh in the Gr. 1 Vinery Stud Stakes and the Gr. 1 ATC Oaks respectively.

She was spelled on her return, but was then well below par in Group One appearances in the Makfi Challenge Stakes and the Windsor Park Plate during the Hawke’s Bay carnival.

“She was working well and eating well and the signs were good, but when we took her to the races there was just no petrol in the tank,” Guy said.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

High fives all round as Volpe Veloce wins Group III Eulogy Stakes
14 Dec 2016

Volpe Veloce gave favourite punters and her trainer a minor scare at Awapuni but in just a couple of explosive strides, she reinforced what all the hype is about.

The smart filly kept her unbeaten record intact with a one-and-a-half length win in the Group III Eulogy Stakes (1600m) on Saturday to take her record to five wins from as many starts.

Volpe Veloce highlighted an unforgettable day for Matamata trainer Graham Richardson who picked up a hat-trick of wins at Awapuni and just for good measure grabbed a fourth at Te Rapa.

"I can't even tell you if I've done it before, I'm not sure, but it's been a great day," Richardson said.

"I'm just absolutely chuffed for all the staff and all the owners and the horses themselves." 

Richardson said he could not be happier with how Volpe Veloce keeps stepping up every start.

She will need to step up again in her next start when she heads to either the Group II Cambridge Stud Eight Carat Classic at Ellerslie on Boxing Day or the Group I Levin Classic at Trentham on January 14 but class alone makes her a strong chance of retaining her unbeaten record at either venue.

"It's not a decision we can make now, we'll just have to see how she is in the next few days but it will be one or the other," Richardson said.

Richardson admitted he was a little worried as his classy filly took her time to fully let down in the $70,000 three-year-old feature on Saturday but the contest was quickly over once she knuckled down.

"She's got a very good brain on her. She relaxes beautifully and she just seems to put herself in the right places in her races," Richardson said.

A $1.40 favourite, Volpe Veloce beat home Rip Into Ghia with a further neck back to Storytime in third.

Johnathan Parkes gave the daughter of Foxwedge a perfect trip, one out and one back, and she rewarded him with their fourth consecutive win together.

The final 150m of the 1600m trip was so good, it was almost as if she had just been playing with the field.

"It was really encouraging in the fact that the way she did that it looks like she will get 2000m and possibly further," Richardson said.

Volpe Veloce also holds nominations for the New Zealand Derby (March 4) and the New Zealand Oaks (March 18).

Richardson believes she still has a bit to learn and he is confident she will be a better horse next year.

He picked up the first race of the day at Awapuni with Wildflower in a rating 65 over 1400m and Pure Lorde was successful in race four, a Dunstan Stayers Championship qualifier at rating 65 over 2100m.

Richardson's win at Te Rapa came with Los Vargas in a rating 85 over 1200m.

Matt Kermeen

Stuff

Unbeaten Volpe Veloce heads Graham Richardson's powerful weekend team
09 Dec 2016

Volpe Veloce is fast capturing the attention of thoroughbred fans.

The expensive Karaka yearling is living right up to her $240,000 price tag and can justify it further in the Group III Eulogy Stakes (1600m) on Saturday at Awapuni.

Matamata trainer Graham Richardson is trying to absorb the inevitable pressure that builds each time she returns home unbeaten. 

Currently the Foxwedge 3-year-old is four from four in her short career and there's no way Richardson is taking anything for granted.

"It's always a worry and without a doubt the pressure builds a bit," he said. "But we will take it race by race just so it takes the pressure off the horse, the owners and the trainer.

"We will let the horse do the talking - saying that, she has still got a lot to learn and the biggest worry for me is that she gets there so easily when she is asked for an effort and then tends to look around a bit."

Not everything went Volpe Veloce's way in the spring, with plans to contest the 1000 Guineas (1600m) abandoned after an interrupted her lead-up.

She has won each of her starts by at least two lengths and comfortably won an age group race at Tauranga last start.

"She has thrived since. We couldn't be happier with her," Richardson said."The only query is the 1600 which she hasn't been tried at yet but I think she will get it.

 "She switches off and relaxes and is very sensible in a race and Johnathan knows her well."

Johnathan Parkes has ridden Volpe Veloce in her last three starts and is able to stick with the filly this weekend.

The rival Richardson has strong respect for is the Paul Shailer-trained Rayas who ran a bold second in the Wellington Stakes to Lincoln Blue when last tested.

Plans for Volpe Veloce beyond the Eulogy are uncertain, but provided she races well, there is a chance she will not run again until the Levin Classic at Trentham on January 14.

Established stayer Dubai Shuttle and Pure Lorde complete Richardson's Awapuni team.

"Dubai Shuffle needs to be wound into his work early while Pure Lorde goes very well," he said. "She is a lovely staying horse and I expect her to go well and justify a spot in the Dunstan Stayers' Final."

At Te Rapa he is looking for Snapshot to return to his best in the Listed Swap Contractors Sprint.

"His work has been good, he's got a good draw, the 1400 suits and the track will be spot on and Craig [Grylls] knows him well.

"If we can teach him to relax, which he is learning to do, races like the Rich Hill Mile and Thorndon will suit him."

Los Vargas also runs at Te Rapa and is a horse rated highly by her trainer.

"If she goes well on Saturday we will obviously have to look at the Railway Stakes."

Tim Ryan

Stuff News

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