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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

Zabeel Classic next for Sound Proposition
06 Dec 2016

Group One winner Sound Proposition is likely to have his next start in the Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

The Savabeel gelding, who won the Easter Stakes in April, resumed with a fast-finishing fourth over 1400 metres in October before tailing the field home in the Gr. 2 Tauranga Stakes on November 12.

“Michael Coleman (jockey) said he never felt comfortable in the (Dead6) track conditions that day,” co-trainer Andrew Scott said.

“It was a bit disappointing, but he came through the race really well. He’s going to run in the Zabeel Classic on Boxing Day next. We know he gets around Ellerslie nicely and he loves it there. Stepping straight up to 2000 metres is a bit tough, but he’s got that distance easily before and we think it will be no problem for him.

“He’ll be an interesting runner. He’s got a long way to bounce back from that last performance, and he still has to prove that he can step up to weight-for-age, but I’m sure he’ll be competitive at least.”

Sound Proposition will be part of what is shaping up to be a strong Ellerslie carnival team for Scott and his training partner Lance O’Sullivan.

“We’re aiming Princess Rihanna towards the Karaka Million, and she’ll run in the Eclipse Stakes on New Year’s Day,” Scott said. “That will be a valuable experience at Ellerslie ahead of the Million, and hopefully she can pick up a few more dollars of prize-money to absolutely secure her place in the field.

“She’s owned by a group of guys up in Hong Kong, including Simon Leung who is the commentator in Hong Kong for the Chinese side of things. They’re all excited by this filly and very keen to have a crack at the Million.

“She did it very well on debut down at Otaki the other day. The turn of foot she showed and the professional manner that she did it in was very encouraging. She looks like quite a natural two-year-old.

“She’s made good progress since then. She took the trip down there and back in her stride, and I think it’s been the making of her. She seems more settled now and like a real racehorse.”

Well-performed three-year-old filly Glass Slipper will also make her return to competition during the carnival.

“We’ll bring her back in the Eight Carat Classic on Boxing Day,” Scott said.

While she is still a maiden, Glass Slipper has been placed in the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes, Gr. 3 Eclipse Stakes and Listed Soliloquy Stakes. She was found to have a poor post-race recovery after finishing ninth in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas last time out.

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

No Fuss Gus on Group One trail
05 Dec 2016

Two Group One assignments are on next year’s programme for No Fuss Gus.

The promising three-year-old has impressed in a brief career, and his last-start run for third in the Gr. 3 Wellington Stakes at Otaki provided another positive pointer for future age-group tests.

“He had a tough run and it probably didn’t help him having an 800-metre gallop after the false start,” said Nick Fairweather, racing manager for trainers Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard.

“All credit to the horse, he could have been forgiven for dropping off at the top of the straight, but he ran home really strongly.”

A son of Savabeel, No Fuss Gus has been nominated for the Gr. 1 Randwick Meats Levin Classic at Trentham on January 14 and the Gr. 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie on March 4.

“He’s come through his last race really well and he’ll probably head toward the Levin Classic and then a little break before one or two lead-up runs to the Derby,” Fairweather said.

“He’s a very relaxed horse and the way he travels in his races we don’t think he’ll have any trouble in getting over a bit more ground.”

No Fuss Gus was a debut winner at Pukekohe Park in October before he finished fourth behind the unbeaten stakes winner Volpe Veloce at Tauranga.

“We expected him to go well in his first start, but to win over 1200 metres was a bit of a surprise,” Fairweather said. “He was quite weak as a two-year-old and he has really matured now.” 

Genuine filly Hello M'Lady chases deserved win
24 Nov 2016

Well-performed maiden three-year-old Hello M’Lady is overdue to take a winning trick and she has a couple of factors in her favour when seeking that elusive victory at Otaki tomorrow.

She is used to keeping black-type company, and the mile won’t hold any fears for her either in the Gr. 3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes.

“She deserves to get one and I hope it’s at Otaki,” part-owner and trainer Vicki Prendergast said.

Hello M’Lady has placed in seven of her eight starts, including a runner-up finish in the Gr. 3 Bonecrusher Stakes and a third in the Listed Wanganui Guineas, and most recently she finished fourth over 1600 metres at Ellerslie.

“She was a bit disappointing last time, but the track didn’t really suit her,” Prendergast said. “We were expecting rain and it didn’t come.

“I think she’s right back in it now and she turned in a beautiful gallop on Tuesday.”

Her connections are also keen on a Gr. 1 Wellfield New Zealand Oaks preparation for the daughter of Shocking, who they believe will have no trouble coping with middle-distances.

“We plan to race her over Christmas and the New Year so she will need a break at some stage,” Prendergast said.

“We’ll see what happens on Friday, but the problem with her is that if you give her a week off it takes two months to get the weight back off her.”

NZ Racing Desk
NZ Derby tailor-made for Moroney and Gerard's Savile Row
16 Nov 2016

The New Zealand Derby trip is expected to be tailor-made for Savile Row.

The Group I 2000 Guineas runner-up's next major target will be the Classic over 2400m at Ellerslie on March 4 following his excellent effort behind Ugo Foscolo at Riccarton.

"He's having a few days off and then he'll come back to start a Derby campaign," said Nick Fairweather, racing manager to trainers Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard.

"His owner Kevin Hickman was very keen on getting to the 2000 Guineas in his home town and you can't blame him and it turned out well.

"The horse relished the mile and the further he goes after Christmas the better he'll be. He'll go over more ground for sure."

Savile Row won at his only appearance last season and following a sixth placing in the Group III Bonecrusher Stakes he finished third in the Listed Barneswood Farm Stakes.

"We thought the Guineas may have come up a touch too soon, he's still immature and learning – he'd only had the three starts before Riccarton," Fairweather said.

"He'll have this short break and then kick off again somewhere in January. He's an exciting horse and hopefully we can make him into a stallion prospect, he's very well bred."

Savile Row is a son of Makfi and the imported Daylami mare Fleece, who won two races for Hickman from Robert Priscott's stable. 

Hall Of Fame to put Te Akau and Matt Cameron back on the honours board?
04 Nov 2016

Matt Cameron has a chance to win a second 2000 Guineas in as many years when he rides Hall Of Fame at Riccarton on Saturday.
Race Images

Matt Cameron has a chance to win a second 2000 Guineas in as many years when he rides Hall Of Fame at Riccarton on Saturday.

Team Te Akau aren't looking for anything too extravagant, a 2000 Guineas win by a nose will do.

Co-trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards line up smart colts Hall Of Fame and Heroic Valour in Saturday's Group I Sothys 2000 Guineas at Riccarton Park.

The Canterbury Jockey Club meeting kicks off the official start of Canterbury's cup week.

Autridge and Richards tasted their first Group I success of their newly formed partnership in the same race last year when Xtravagant​ was way too good from the outside gate to win by an almost unbelievable eight and a half lengths.

Leading jockey Matt Cameron, who rode Xtravagant to the flamboyant win and went on to do the Guineas double along with Autridge and Richards when Risque won the 1000 Guineas seven days later, chose to ride Hall Of Fame.

Mongolian Falcon is a $2.90 favourite with bookmakers but the money is coming for the second favourite Hall Of Fame following the barrier draw.

The Savabeel​ colt has moved in from $5.50 to $4.80 on Thursday after drawing barrier three.

Mongolian Falcon will jump from barrier four with Leith Innes aboard and Heroic Valour ($8.50) and Michael McNab will jump from barrier eight.

Richards expects the $400,000 race to be a tactical affair and even after the draw he struggles to separate the stablemates.

Cameron's decision to ride Hall Of Fame comes on the back of dominant wins in the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial and the Listed Zacinto Stakes.

"We've always held him (Hall Of Fame) in very high regard and he's not far behind the other guy (Heroic Valour), he might even be going better than him at the moment," Richards said.

But even Richards acknowledged those two wins at Riccarton have not been against the same quality opposition as the Hawke's Bay Guineas and the James and Annie Sarten Memorial but Hall Of Fame can only win that races he is placed in and he has done that by a combined eight and a quarter lengths.

"I'm not sure on what he's been beating but what he has done is do it in very good fashion," Richards said.

Cameron is likely to be positive and use Hall Of Fame's barrier draw of three and be up on the speed.

Heroic Valour's draw is not all bad as Richards said McNab will likely be looking to settle around the middle of the 11-strong pack.

"He's still a little bit green but he has the ability," Richards said of the Fastnet Rock colt.

Richards said both Hall Of Fame and Heroic Valour worked individually on Tuesday and had impressed.

"We're very happy with both of them, we just need a bit of luck in the running."

Autridge and Richards will not have a runner in the 1000 Guineas on Saturday week.

Meanwhile, Richards said Xtravagant is back in work, following his failed Australian campaign, but no racing plan has been set at this stage.

 Matt Kermeen

 Stuff

Shillelagh picks up stakes placing at Flemington
03 Nov 2016

Kiwi mare Shillelagh did her connections proud on Melbourne Cup day at Flemington yesterday, finishing a close and commendable second in the Gr. 3 Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes.

Ridden by international superstar jockey Joao Moreira, the Savabeel mare was slowly away in the 1400-metre feature but recovered and surged to the front in the home straight. She was run down in the last few strides by Artistry and was beaten by half a length.

“It was a terrific run and it was great to see her pick up some black type,” co-trainer Jamie Richards said. “It was just unfortunate that she missed the kick – we haven’t had any luck with her in this Melbourne campaign.

“But Moreira gave her a peach of a ride, saving ground and pinching runs to get her into contention. She just got bombed on the line, but we were proud of her effort.

“We don’t have any other plans locked in at this stage. We’ll keep our options open, and we’ll sit down today with her owners Christopher and Susanna Grace to work out where we go from here.”

Shillelagh has now had 10 starts for five wins, two placings and more than $110,000 in prize-money.

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

McKay sticks to northern focus
28 Oct 2016

Peter McKay's focus will remain in the north after withdrawing talented three-year-old Barcelo from next week's Gr. 1 Sothys New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.

Instead his trio of Antonio Lombardo, Amarula and Barcelo will tackle northern features in the coming weeks.

Multiple Group One performer Antonio Lombardo will cap his lead-up for the Gr. 2 Tauranga Stakes on November 12 when he contests Saturday's Chesters Plumbing and Bathroom Handicap at the same track.

"Hopefully he can win it. He likes Tauranga and it's a bit of a come-down for him, running in a $15,000 race," McKay said.

"I had looked at running him at Te Rapa last Monday, but I had Amarula in there and I thought it was best to split them. If he goes well on Saturday, he can go back to Tauranga for that weight-for-age race in a couple of weeks. He seems pretty bright."

Amarula finished second to Thee Auld Hussie at Te Rapa on Monday, beaten a length and three-quarters while giving the winner a 4.5kg advantage. He could still clash with his stablemate in the Tauranga Stakes.

"The other option I'm toying with is throwing in a nomination for the weight-for-age race at Ellerslie next Tuesday. I've been wanting to get him up to 2000 metres, but we'll just see," McKay said.

With both Amarula and Antonio Lombardo sitting in the mid-to-high 90s with their ratings, weight-for-age racing looks the most suitable option, as McKay said Antonio Lombardo had struggled to regain winning form carrying big weights in handicaps.

"He's been racing well but he's in a situation now that he's lugging a bit of weight and he's only a little horse. He's not just quite there taking on the best company and having to give the other horses weight," McKay said.

Nonetheless, Antonio Lombardo did place in the Gr. 3 Spring Sprint at Hastings earlier this month under 59.5 kilograms and six previous visits to Tauranga have yielded two wins and three placings.

McKay said Barcelo would most likely have his next start in the 1400-metre three-year-old race at Tauranga on November 12 ahead of the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial (1500m) at Ellerslie on November 26. 

Aotearower brings Olympians a stroke of galloping luck at Rotorua
19 Oct 2016

A crew of Olympic rowers had a stroke of luck at Saturday's Rotorua races.

Their beautiful mare with the wonderful name Aotearower racing in the famous Cambridge Stud colours dug deep over the final few 100 metres of the Rydes Hotel Rotorua 1215 in the hands of jockeyMichael Coleman to win.

Owned by Cambridge Stud the horse is raced in partnership by stud principals Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan with international past and present rowing stars Hamish Bond, Eric Murray, Mahe Drysdale, Nathan Cohen, Joseph Sullivan and the large and vocal Social Racing No 2 Syndicate.

In contrast to her famous owners, Aotearower is no superstar but she's a fairly handy galloper and Saturday's was her fourth win for Matamata trainers Ken and Bev Kelso.

Her second win was at Matamata in February when Bond decided to cycle from his training base in Cambridge to the racecourse 30-odd kilometres away to watch the race.

He got his timing wrong and arrived to see the rumps of the horses disappearing into the distance as they finished the race.

Ken Kelso thinks she could give owners another thrill or two before she retires from the track to take up broodmare duties in Cambridge.

But the race is on, she has an imminent date with Cambridge Stud's handsome superstar sire Tavistock.

But Coleman reckons she's a bit like Murray and Bond and she's getting better with age.

The  top jockey dismounted from the 5-year-old on Saturday and said she's getting bigger and stronger and racing like a horse in career-best form and capable of winning a black-type race.

Her owners were missing from the Rotorua grandstands on Saturday but if she doesn't keep her date with Tavistock and lines up in some feature races in the next few months they might jump on their bikes and get to the races.

Saturday's win was a pleasant surprise for connections with doubts around her conditioning to handle the wet Rotorua conditions.

"I was surprised a little bit that she was ready to do that," Kelso said. "She is pretty good on her day, no doubt about that."

Tim Ryan

Stuff News

Stunning Underthemoonlight wins Taranaki Breeders' Stakes for Matamata
11 Oct 2016

Horrendous weather may have forced the abandonment of a local showpiece, but Matamata mares Underthemoonlight and Rocknrolla headed to Hawera for today’s Gr. 3 Rich Hill Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes and ensured the training centre still had cause for celebration.

The pair finished first and third in the $80,000 weight-for-age fillies and mares’ feature as Underthemoonlight stole the show in a stunning six-length demolition of her rivals.

“It’s so disappointing what happened at Matamata, but this was just amazing and it’s given us something to celebrate anyway,” said Underthemoonlight’s trainer and part-owner Karyn McQuade, who also had Kindaleica entered for the Matamata Cup at today’s abandoned meeting.

“The weather’s been unbelievable at home. Pony clubs, A & P shows and pretty much everything else is being called off. The ground is just saturated. We knew it wasn’t looking good for Cup day, but we had our fingers crossed that it might be okay. But then they apparently had a whole lot more rain yesterday and there was nothing they can do.”

Underthemoonlight’s richly deserved first black-type win emphatically erased the McQuade team’s disappointment. Ridden by talented central districts apprentice Tim Johnson, the five-year-old settled just behind midfield as Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained runners Bonniegirl and Honey Rider showed the way.

As those two well-supported runners began to labour in the testing ground approaching the home turn, Underthemoonlight cut the corner and went into hyperdrive. The rest of the field fell back into her distant wake as Underthemoonlight blasted her way down the Hawera straight.

The win was Underthemoonlight’s third from 15 career starts and took her prize-money earnings past $120,000. She had previously run fourth in two stakes events, behind Summer’s Day in the Listed Tauranga Classic and a desperately unlucky run behind top-class colt Saracino in the Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate.

“It was a fantastic performance today, a really great win,” McQuade told www.theinformant.co.nz. “She really deserved to win a good race like this. She’s been close in a few good races, especially the Foxbridge. She’s been blocked at crucial times and then hasn’t been able to produce her big finishing burst.

“Today she was brilliant. She got a little bit further back in the field than we wanted, although I don’t think Tim had much choice in that matter. But he used his brains, saved ground at the turn and then the mare did the rest. She really showed everyone what she’s capable of today.”

Slice Of Class and Rocknrolla rattled home from the rear of the field to finish second and third. Rocknrolla is a recent addition to Karen Fursdon’s stable from the Ruakaka base of Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs, transferred south in the hope of picking up black type before being retired to stud. This was her first stakes placing.

Bonniegirl held on for fourth, with the Gold Trail Stakes winner Honey Rider struggling on the Slow9 track and finishing eighth.

While the original plan was for Underthemoonlight’s campaign to draw to a close with today’s race, her stunning performance may change that.

“She’s been up for a long time now and we’re getting to the point of turning her out, this was going to be her last run,” McQuade said. “But with the weather the way it is, depending on how she comes through this race, we may bring her back for one more run in the Group Three at Rotorua next week.”

The Breeders’ Stakes was the second black-type win of Johnson’s riding career, and both have come in Taranaki – he rode Longchamp to victory in the Listed Opunake Cup at New Plymouth in July.

Underthemoonlight is by the in-form stallion El Hermano, who completed a double at this afternoon’s meeting when Laddie Of Oakview won the last race on the card.

Today’s Group Three win took El Hermano’s prize-money for the season past $200,000 and thrust him into the top three on the 2015-16 New Zealand sires’ premiership behind Savabeel and Iffraaj. His runners have earned more than $220,000 this season, headed by Group One placings for El Pescado and Farm Boy.

Richard Edmunds 

The Informant

Team Wealleans Matamata Cup Raceday 8th Ocobter 2016
07 Oct 2016

The Matamata Cup meeting scheduled for Saturday 8 October has been abandoned. The decision was taken following an inspection of the track this afternoon by a delegation of Club representatives, senior jockeys and trainers. The track has been inundated with rain in recent days and forecast fine conditions today did not eventuate with further rainfall resulting in significant surface water at the junction of the 1600m chute and the course proper. The inspection team was unanimous in its view that the meeting could not proceed.

 NZTR, the Northern Regional Programming Committee and the Matamata RC will consider what races, if any, can be appropriately rescheduled in coming weeks. The New Zealand Trainers Association will be included in that process and further announcements made in due course.

Willie Cazals gives connections heartwarming win at Hastings
03 Oct 2016

Being on course for Willie Cazals' win in the Group I Livamol Classic gave Waikato bloodstock agent Stuart Hale has greatest moment in racing.

Hale bought Willie Cazals for clients of Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz after his second in the Derby Italiano in Rome in 2011. Willie Cazals broke down in Hong Kong and came to New Zealand to recover before joining Matamata trainers Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott 12 months ago.

A carefully-designed training programme, which includes a lot of swimming, led to the 9-year-old's brilliant win in the $250,000 Livamol Classic at Hastings on Saturday.

Stuart Hale at Hastings beside the statue depicting the racing colours of Willie Cazals.
Supplied

Stuart Hale at Hastings beside the statue depicting the racing colours of Willie Cazals.

"I was quite emotional to be honest, I screamed [for Willie Cazals] all the way up the straight," said Hale, a bloodstock for 30 years.

"I knew he had a Group I win in him but I thought it was getting a bit late [in his career]."

Hale was told about Willie Cazals when the grey raced in Italy. His record there was four wins and a second from five starts. 

When Willie Cazals finished second in the Derby Italiano, the third horse home, Danedream, was four lengths back. Danedream went on to win a big race in Germany and the famous Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France.

Hale transacted Willie Cazals sale for NZ$1.5 million from an Italian owner to the Hong Kong buyers, Hermitage Thoroughbreds Pty Ltd. The stayer had 16 starts in Hong Kong before bowed tendons forced his retirement there. He had one win for trainer Cruz and chalked up second placings in a Group I and a Group III.

"He beat Red Cadeaux three times [in Hong Kong]," Hale said.

 Red Cadeaux was second in three Melbourne Cups.

Willie Cazals' win in the Livamol Classic came at his fourth New Zealand start. He resumed racing after an 18-month break with a ninth in the Group II Foxbridge Plate (Te Rapa, August 13), followed by an eighth in an open 1600m (Hastings, August 27) and a third in a Listed open 1600m (Pukekohe, September 18). 

Hale said Willie Cazals had to be led to the start by the clerk of the course and jockeys had to ride him patiently early in races, otherwise he fired up and overraced.

The bloodstock agent had a good feeling about Willie Cazals before the stayer stepped on to the track on Saturday. O'Sullivan and Scott presented him in mint condition.

"He showed his international class yesterday," Hale said of Willie Cazals.

"He's got a great finish." 

Willie Cazals raced as Cazals in Italy but when arriving in Hong Kong, one of his owners changed it in memory of a friend who died.   

Hale reckoned he had sold between 30 and 40 horses to clients of Tony Cruz. The first, Coup Stravinsky, won two of six starts for Christchurch trainer Michael Pitman before Hale negotiated his sale.

Coup Stravinsky was a big winner in Hong Kong racing as Regency Horse.

Hale's biggest thrill in racing before Willie Cazals nailed the Livamol Classic was as breeder of the 1987 Melbourne Cup winner Kensei.

"I've got a wonderful clientele and Tony's my No 1 client," Hale said. 

Cruz, who is equal fourth with three others on the Hong Kong trainers' premiership this season, was unable to crack a win at Sha Tin on Saturday night. However, he managed two seconds and three thirds.

Te Akau mare Shillelagh set to pick up Xtravagant's slack at Caulfield
03 Oct 2016

Te Akau mare Shillelagh will be aimed at stakes company after she overcame adversity to score at Caulfield.

Her co-trainer Stephen Autridge said the mare will return to Caulfield in 11 days following her win in the Ladbrokes Up For The Challenge Handicap on Saturday.

Sent out the $3.30 favourite, Shillelagh charged home to score by a nose from Sovereign Nation ($9) with Master Reset ($21) one and three-quarter lengths away third.

Autridge said Shillelagh would run in Group III Ladies Day Vase (1600m) on October 12.

"The way she won today she'll have no trouble going to the mile next time," Autridge said.

"It didn't really go to plan for her today but she finished it off really good."

Shillelagh travelled over with stable star Xtravagant​ who proved a flop in two Melbourne spring starts.

After finishing last in the Bobbie Lewis Stakes at Flemington, Xtravagant led before tiring in the Group I Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield last Saturday.

"We brought her and Xtravagant over and he's halfway home today," Autridge said.

Oliver, who had earlier wins aboard Hell Or Highwater​ and Sylpheed​, said Shillelagh was a "flashing light" when fifth at Caulfield on September 17.

"She's a bit cantankerous. She's got a few attitude things but she can certainly gallop," Oliver said.

"I think she's worth having a go at some stakes grade mares races coming up."

Weekend double for in-form Brosnan team
26 Sep 2016

A maiden victory for promising hurdler Our Countess at Te Aroha today put the icing on the cake for trainers Peter and Jessica Brosnan after they celebrated success at Ellerslie just 24 hours earlier.

The Matamata husband and wife team produced their in-form mare Embraceable You to score in convincing fashion over 1400 metres in the last race of the day, a victory that could pave the way for bigger and better things for next winter.

The five-year-old mare has been a revelation in recent weeks, winning three of her last five starts, which has Peter Brosnan thinking about what could be in her next campaign.

“She has come into her own of late and I think she can only get better as she matures further,” he said. “We thought we had a pretty handy horse on our hands after she won her maiden last year but she didn’t really kick on after that.

“We gave her a spell and it took a few runs to get her fitness up to scratch this time but since she won at Avondale last month she has just blossomed.”

Brosnan was keen on the Ekraar mare’s chances as he made his way to the races yesterday, although the constant rain he struck on the trip north had him worried whether the Ellerslie programme would continue.

“We were in the last race and I did start to worry they might call them off if the visibility got too bad or something like that,” he said. “I knew my mare would handle the conditions as she loves it with the track like it was so I was just praying they would keep the meeting going.

“She was backing up after a tough run at Pukekohe last weekend but her fitness really told as she was in front most of the way down the straight and just kept giving all the way to the post.”

Brosnan is keen to keep Embraceable You going while the tracks remain rain-affected, with a run over 2000 metres or more part of a longer term plan.

“She is out of a Zabeel mare so I do think she can go beyond a mile in her next campaign,” he said. “While the tracks are wet she can have another start or two with one of those likely to be over a middle-distance.

“If she shows she can handle that then it will bode well for next winter where we would like to try and win one of the nice winter staying races.”

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

O'Sullivan and Scott pair push Guineas claims
15 Sep 2016

Two three-year-olds from the Matamata stable of Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott pushed their New Zealand 2000 Guineas claims with convincing performances against older horses at Te Rapa this afternoon.

Smart Missile colt Cha Siu Bao scored a dominant win by three and a half lengths in the Yardhouse Bar Maiden, then the highly rated Sweet Leader picked up his second win from three career starts in the Riv Bar & Bistro 1400 at Rating 65 level.

“They’re both going in the right direction,” Scott said. “They’re performing in a manner that suggests they can carry on towards races like the 2000 Guineas. That’s the really pleasing thing about today.”

Sweet Leader had already made a big impression with his maiden win at Taupo, roaring home from off the pace to win over 1000 metres. But today the O’Reilly colt added a different dimension to his running style, racing handy to the pace throughout the 1400-metre contest and taking the lead a long way from home.

Despite racing greenly in the final stages he asserted his superiority, comfortably holding out a fast-finishing Preetha Varma. Sweet Leader clocked 35.13 seconds for his last 600.

“It wasn’t really the plan to lead today, but it showed he has another string to his bow,” Scott said. “They left the gate open for him to lead, and Gryllsy (Craig Grylls, jockey) did a great job to get him through along the inside and give him a soft lead.

“He’s a colt who’s starting to do things a bit more professionally and he’s coming along, although he still did a few things wrong in the straight today. He’s run home in a quick last 600, and he was the last horse to pull up. That’s good to see and gives us confidence stepping up over a longer distance.

“He beat a lot of older horses who know their way around. It shows that he’s a horse with a fair bit of ability.”

Today’s win saw Sweet Leader move in from $10 to $8 in the TAB’s fixed-odds market for the New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton on November 5. He is the third favourite behind last Saturday’s Northland Breeders’ Stakes winner Heroic Valour ($5) and recent Hawke’s Bay winner Ugo Foscolo ($6). Cha Siu Bao is also prominent in the Guineas market at $26.

“We’ll sit down with Lance and work out a plan,” Scott said. “Hopefully we can get them to Christchurch.”

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

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