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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 “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.

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

Capella to relish conditions and distance in Hastings return
14 Sep 2016

Matamata trainer Danica Guy hopes an extra 200 metres and the prospect of better track conditions will make Capella a force to be reckoned with in Saturday’s Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate at Hastings.

The daughter of Rip Van Winkle, a Group Two winner of the Eight Carat Classic over 1600 metres last season, finished ninth first-up in the Gr. 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes on August 27. Slowly away from the inside gate, she battled down the straight to finish ninth and 3.8 lengths from the winner Kawi.

“She didn’t end up too far away,” Guy told today. “It was a bit short of her trip and the track was a bit dead for her, but we were happy enough with how she went.

“Everything’s been very good with her since then. She’s been working well and we’re very happy with her.”

The Makfi was run on a Slow7 surface, and Guy is encouraged by the Dead5 reading at Hastings this morning and the mostly fine weather outlook.

“A drier track will be a big thing, I think,” she said. “She’s such a long-striding filly, I don’t think she lets down so well in the wetter ground. A track that she can bounce off the top of is much better. We’re looking forward to getting her out to the longer distance of 1600, and hopefully better track conditions, and she’ll come into her own.”

Makfi winner Kawi is the $1.90 favourite to win again in the Windsor Park Plate, with Capella rated an $8 chance of turning the tables. She is the third favourite, with the pair split by $7 chance Rasa Lila.

Notable defections in this morning's nominations include Stolen Dance, who is reportedly being saved for summer features, and Hasselhoof who is nominated for Sunday’s Listed Karaka Classic at Pukekohe.

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

Matamata stablemates add interest to Gold Trail Stakes
13 Sep 2016
Babe will be ridden by Sydney jockey Jason Collett in the Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings on Saturday.
Trish Dunell

Babe will be ridden by Sydney jockey Jason Collett in the Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings on Saturday.

 A Group III test at Hastings on Saturday will define the 3-year-old paths of a trio of Matamata stablemates.

Trainer Graham Richardson will make firm plans for the unbeaten pair of Babe and Volpe Veloce and Tesia after the Gold Trail Stakes.

"I'll decide which direction they take after Saturday," he said.

The Waikato Stud-bred and owned Babe hasn't raced since she made a successful debut at Te Rapa last month.

"I'm very happy with her, she's done really well and the Gold Trail's going to be a very hot field – it will give us a really good guide on her," Richardson said.

"Jason Collett is going to ride Babe and Johnathan Parkes will ride Volpe Veloce and Shaun McKay will be on Tesia."

Like her stablemates, Babe is nominated for the New Zealand 1000 Guineas at Riccarton.

Volpe Veloce was a first-up winner on her home track last season before she closed her first campaign with victory in the Castletown Stakes.

Richardson was more than happy with her recent effort for third at the Te Teko trials, as he was with Tesia who finished fourth in the same heat. She won one of her four juvenile starts last season from Lance Noble's stable.

Meanwhile, the multiple winner Snapshot will also be in the travelling party to Hastings.

"He'll run in the open 1200, he hasn't quite turned in the coat yet but he's going well," Richardson said.

He was also pleased with the first-up placing at Hastings of the stakes winner and multiple Group I placegetter Strada Cavallo.

"It was a very good run and I'm not quite sure yet whether she'll run there again over 1400 metres or if we wait for a mile," Richardson said.

NZ Racing Desk.

Taupo winner O'Naturelle set for Canterbury Belle Stakes
13 Sep 2016
Waikato trainers Jamie Richards, left, and Stephen Autridge are all smiles after their success with Risque in the One ...
Race Images

Waikato trainers Jamie Richards, left, and Stephen Autridge are all smiles after their success with Risque in the One Thousand Guineas at Riccarton.

One of the better fillies in training with Matamata horsemen Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards is lining up in the $50,000 Canterbury Belle Stakes at Riccarton on Saturday.

O'Naturelle, who won her only start impressively at Taupo on August 19, is held in high regard by her trainers.

"She won two trials before winning at Taupo . . . she looks to be quite a talent," Richards said.

O'Naturelle has the bloodlines to make the grade being by O'Reilly from Naturo, who won three of six starts.

Naturo competed in the Group I One Thousand Guineas (fifth), Group I Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (fourth), Group II Matamata Breeders' Stakes (first), Group III Highview Stakes (first) and Listed Sarten Memorial Stakes (second).

Autridge and Richards are also starting Play For Time in the Canterbury Belle. She finished second in a maiden 1200m at Ashburton (August 26) at her only start.

"She's got a lovely pedigree and needs to get black type," Richards said.

He and Autridge saddled Windborne to win the Canterbury Belle 12 months ago. She didn't contest the One Thousand Guineas, which was won by stablemate Risque. 

Imperium and Carmenize are others in the four-horse team Autridge and Richards are taking to the Riccarton meeting. 

A 5-year-old Encosta De Lago gelding, Imperium will launch a new campaign in a rating 75 1400m. He is nominated for the $225,000 NZ Cup on November 12.

His two trials in this preparation have yielded a fourth and a seventh at Te Teko in August.

"We have liked him for a while but he has let us down a couple of times," Richards said.

Imperium (two wins) is out of the 2001 Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal.

Maiden galloper Carmenize returned to racing at Ashburton on August 26. She led until fading to fifth in the last 150m.

Michael McNab will ride O'Naturelle, Imperium and Carmenize on Saturday, while Alysha Collett is engaged for Play For Time.

Autridge and Richards have eight horses based at the Riccarton stables of Shane Kennedy and Anna Furlong.

The Waikato training partnership have nine horses accepted for the Te Rapa meeting on Wednesday.

 Jamie Searle



Trainer Stephen Autridge relieved as Xtravagant gets ready for Flemington
06 Sep 2016
Te Akau Racing colt Xtravagant will get his Australian campaign underway this weekend for trainers Stephen Autridge and ...

Te Akau Racing colt Xtravagant will get his Australian campaign underway this weekend for trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards.

Co-trainer Stephen Autridge has wiped the sweat from his brow and let out a sigh of relief as glamour colt Xtravagant gets back on an even keel.

A temperature spike saw the dual Group I winning 4-year-old scratched from last Saturday's McLeod Stakes at Moonee Valley, but he's recovered well and will resume at Flemington this weekend.

"He'll be in the Bobbie Lewis on Saturday if he works good enough tomorrow," Autridge said from Melbourne on Monday.

A satisfactory easy 1000m workout on Saturday morning with the horse's strapper and regular work rider Kerry Jones in the saddle, convinced Autridge that the campaign was all go.

"He went an easy 1000 on his own but tomorrow he'll do some serious work with a mate and Damien [Oliver] will ride him," Autridge said.

"He's looking the best he's ever looked - he's really matured and he'll enjoy a bit of warm weather this week."

The Pentire colt will run in the A$200,000 Group III Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m) down the Flemington straight with Oliver to ride.

"It's good that Damien can stick with him and looking at the way they were racing at Moonee Valley it wasn't all bad that he wasn't there.

"Unless you were a swooper you were no hope, he should be better suited down the Flemington straight on Saturday."

 The stable gets the Melbourne campaign underway on Wednesday when Savabeel mare Shillelagh runs at Sandown Park.

Oliver will partner the 5-year-old against the Australian sprinters with the top jockey's blessing.

"I thought 1200 against the Aussies might be a bit slick," Autridge said. "But Damian rode her in jump-out and had no worries about her being competitive at the distance.

"We should see a very good run from her. She's been going really good after it took her a wee while to settle in over here."

Owned by Christopher and Susanna Grace and trained by Autridge and partner Jamie Richards, Shillelagh has won four of her six starts, three at 1200m.

She takes on the fillies and mares in a Benchmark 84 and will carry 59kg.

 Tim Ryan


Craig Grylls to continue early season winning roll
02 Sep 2016

Craig Grylls is a man on an early season mission.

The accomplished jockey sits atop the premiership table after a good start to the new term.

"I don't think I've been there before but I'll have to see how long it lasts," Grylls said as he prepared for his weekend rides.

Grylls achieved a career high of 78 winners, including a rare Wellington Cup-Thorndon Mile double, in 2014.

He's made a flying start with seven wins in the first month of this season and heads to Whanganui on Saturday with a promising six-ride book.

He has good mounts in the two Listed features and a strong chance to ride the first juvenile winner of the season.

Graeme and Debbie Rogerson-trained Gift Of Power impressed the experienced rider when he rode the Power filly to win a Te Teko trial in early August.

"She's a lovely filly," Grylls said. "Nice and strong and she won pretty easily at the trials.

"She was through the bridle to the line but it is a 2-year-old race and they've got to do things right."

From barrier two she can launch the Rogerson stable on a run like last season when they racked up winner after winner in juvenile races.

The Brendon Hawtin-trained Beachwood also won at Te Teko. He starts from the ace draw and could be Gift Of Power's biggest threat in the 790m dash.

In the $50,000 Listed O'Leary's Fillies Stakes (1200m), Grylls rides second starter Clairetheway, half-sister to stakes winner Our Rokkii.

Mark Forbes prepared him at Cambridge and also trains Clairetheway.

"I rode Babe to beat her at Te Rapa and it took a bit to get past her," Grylls said.

"I went to Cambridge on Wednesday to gallop her and left happy, she's a speedy athletic filly and a good ride."

Group I filly Luna Rossa from the Baker-Forsman stable will be tough to beat.

Grylls' mount Quantum is the upset hope against favourites Manhattan Street  and Highlad in the $60,000  Listed Wanganui Guineas (1340m).

"He went a good trial for me at Te Teko and Brendon [Hawtin] reports the horse is flying in his work."

Tim Ryan



Hillis gives southerner thumbs-up for Great Northern
30 Aug 2016

Wayne Hillis rode two Great Northern Steeplechase winners during his successful jumps jockey career and now reckons he might just have ridden a third.

These days a trainer based at Matamata, the 54-year-old still keeps his hand in with regular trackwork duties and this morning he partnered Southland-trained Great Northern entry Gargamel in a searching workout ahead of Saturday’s Ellerslie marathon.

The 2014 Grand National Hurdle winner and third placegetter in the Grand National Steeplechase at his last start, Gargamel was sent over two rounds of the course proper at good jumper’s clip. He was timed over his final 1200 metres in 1:31.2 and finished off with 600 metres in 44.7.

Since arriving in the north a week ago, Gargamel has been stabled with the Hillis team in the care of former jumps jockey Jason Spencer, who races him in partnership with the gelding’s Winton-based trainer Leda Beck.

After this morning’s hitout Hillis was able to tell Spencer that Gargamel felt “up to the mark” for the 6400-mertre Great Northern.

“Not bad work for an old jumper,” quipped Hillis. “No, he felt good. He had a bit of a puff when he pulled up, but that was solid work having to carry me.

“Maybe this time next week I’ll be able to say I’ve ridden another Great Northern winner!”

Hillis first tasted success in the iconic steeplechase when combining with Heddawin in 1988 for Te Kauwhata owner-trainer John Bullock. Three years later he was part of the historic dead-heat when riding Kevin O’Connor’s Sir Avion versus the Michelle Hopkins-ridden Smart Hunter for Ken and Ann Browne.

Spencer admits to being happy with Gargamel’s progress since arriving in the north, but concedes the task is a big one, especially against what is shaping as an outstanding field for Saturday’s 2016 edition.

“He’s done everything we could have wished for since the Grand National, but it won’t be easy,” he said. “Trust our luck to strike what’s looking like the biggest field in years!”

While last year’s Great Northern winner Jack Romanov has been sidelined with another tendon issue, all five finishers in the Grand National – Upper Cut, Mr Mor, Gargamel, High Forty and Snodroptwinkletoes – are expected to line up, along with Pakuranga Hunt Cup winner Kick Back and her Kevin Myers-trained stablemate Crash Bandicoot, 2015 Great Northern winner Amanood Lad, and Big Brownie, who confirmed a start in the famous Browne colours after his win at Te Aroha on Sunday.  

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Change of plans pays dividends for McKay
29 Aug 2016

A late change of plans paid dividends for trainer Peter McKay when the classy Amarula won handsomely over 1400 metres at Ruakaka yesterday.

Last season’s Hawke's Bay Guineas winner was coming in fresh off the back of an impressive trial win over 1000 metres at Taupo eight days earlier, although McKay had his doubts about his readiness for a tough 1400 metres first-up.

“Our original plan was to run him at Ruakaka in a fortnight, but he was so full of himself after Taupo I was worried he might injure himself if we left him that long,” he explained.

“When I saw the nominations still open on Tuesday, I thought it might be best to give him a run, although I half expected he would find it a little far over that distance first-up.”

McKay needn’t have worried, as the four-year-old entire made a good beginning from a wide barrier before dictating the speed throughout the contest. Challenged at the 200-metre mark, he found a powerful kick to put a winning break on his rivals. He cruised to the line in a comfortable 1.24.77.

Whilst pleased with the win, McKay was also relieved to see his charge back in winning form after a muddling early winter campaign.

“He probably got a pass mark for the three runs he had at the start of the winter although he never won one,” he said. “Those were his first runs after having the bone chip removed and he needed them to get some of the weight off that he had put on when spelling.

“He came through them well and had a nice few weeks in the paddock before we brought him back for this preparation.”

McKay may again have to change plans for his charge after yesterday’s victory with an early return to Hastings now on the cards.

“Originally the plan was to go to Ruakaka at the start of next month and then on to Hastings for the Group Three sprint on the last day,” he said.

“Now he’s had this run, we might take a look at the Windsor Park Plate on the middle day at Hastings provided he comes through it well.

“It will all depend on his recovery, but it is nice to have a few options with him at this stage.”

The Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate over 1600 metres is the feature event on the second day of the Hawke's Bay spring carnival on 17 September.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant


Southern Icon cleared for Makfi start
24 Aug 2016

Southern Icon got the all-clear for a Makfi Challenge Stakes start after his trainer Alan Tait rode him in his final gallop at Matamata this morning.

With fog across the track no time could be taken, but from his vantage point Tait was satisfied that whatever led to the gelding’s below-par performance in the Foxbridge Plate was in the past.

“He was definitely not himself that day, his heart-rate after the race was 120 and one race later it was down to 80,” Tait told this morning. “I had the vet waiting when we arrived home and he had an elevated temperature, but after three days’ treatment his blood was back to normal.

“I would describe his work this morning as satisfactory, not as good as his final gallop before the Foxbridge, but after what happened there you could hardly take a line through that!

“The main thing is he felt happy this morning and as usual it took me until right to the end of the straight to pull him up. That’s him though, he likes to try and take charge.”

Southern Icon raced twice at Hastings last April and both times he led all the way for easy wins over the same 1400-metre distance as Saturday’s big event.

“A good draw would be ideal but it’s like the weather, what will be will be,” said Tait.

When the TAB’s fixed odds market for the Makfi Challenge Stakes closed last night, Southern Icon was at $18. 

A big push for last year’s winner Kawi had brought him into favouritism at $4.20, displacing Valley Girl at $4.80. Stolen Dance was third favourite at $6, followed by Hasselhoof on $7, No More Tears $9 and Capella $10.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Facebook horse set for Matamata
23 Aug 2016

A horse found on Facebook has been given the thumbs-up for Matamata tomorrow.

Rotorua trainer Tracey Lammas has high hopes for Kamikaze Rebel in the Thirsty Liqour Maiden 1200 after the Alamosa gelding followed a four-length Te Teko trial win with a narrow defeat at the hands of exciting galloper Highlad at Avondale last week.

"He's pleasantly surprised me actually. He far exceeded my expectations when he won that trial and he's trained on well since that race last week," Lammas said.

"He's come through that Avondale run so well that he's convinced me to back him up at Matamata. We'd hoped for an easier option at Matamata, which I think we've got, and if he can run well we'll look at one of those special condition maiden races at the back end of the Hastings carnival. He's showing a fair bit of promise."

Lammas came across Kamikaze Rebel on Facebook, which has led to her racing the five-year-old on lease on a 50-50 racing share with his owner Louise Boyd.

"The ad said something about a lease. I watched his trial and then rang the owner Louise Boyd and now we’re racing him together with half shares," Lammas said, adding that Kamikaze Rebel had injury problems which had stymied him earlier on and led to him only making his debut as a five-year-old.

"He's been great all along for me. He's a super horse and he really wants to be a racehorse. He's got good feet, he's a good eater, he gets on the truck fine - if they were all like that, this game would be easy."

Kamikaze Rebel is set to start a warm favourite at Matamata, with Lammas revealing he has had the experience of a jumpout at the track as well.

"He went really well in that jumpout, though it was on quite a heavy track. I expect to see him hitting the line well. I'd be disappointed if he wasn't in the first three," said Lammas, who has again engaged her husband Cameron to ride.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

McQuades bite the bullet with Underthmoonlight
23 Aug 2016

Karyn and Hamish McQuade, the part-owners of Underthemoonlight, have bitten the bullet and made a late entry for Saturday’s Gr. 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes.

Minutes before today’s noon deadline, the Matamata couple decided to fork out the $1,265 late nomination fee on their 78-rated mare. Now with Underthemoonlight the only horse among the 17 entries not guaranteed   a start in the $200,000 feature, they will have to sit it out in the hope of making the field.

Earlier this morning last year’s Makfi runner-up Ryan Mark was a shock withdrawal due to a diminished appetite, while Awapuni mare North And South was also pulled out, reducing the list to 15, and then last year’s Makfi third placegetter Ginner Hart was supplemented.

“It’s not an easy position to be in, but we’ve decided to give it a shot and see what happens over the next few days,” said Karyn McQuade, who also trains the El Hermano mare. “We’ve also got her in the open mile and she’s safe for a start in that, so we can just prefer her for the weekend and see where we stand on race morning.”

The McQuades have always held the five-year-old, a close relative of their 2004 New Zealand Oaks placegetter Midnight Kiss, in high regard and this isn’t the first time they have set their sights high.

Her first win came in Rating 65 grade and she was still a one-race winner when she finished second and then won in open sprint company during the winter. Underthemoonlight’s last start produced an eye-catching and extremely unlucky fourth in the Gr. 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate, when she was blocked for room in the home straight.

When she finally worked into the clear she flashed home for fourth, less than three lengths from the winner Saracino and only half a length from second.

“That effort told us we weren’t over-rating her,” McQuade added. “With any sort of luck she would have finished second and Cameron (Lammas, jockey) said she could even have tested the winner.

“It’s ironic that if she had just finished third in the Foxbridge Plate we would have made the Makfi field, so at least we have that confidence about her against these higher rated horses.

“The other thing about her is that unlike a lot of Saturday’s field she’s hard fit. I galloped her this morning and she felt as good as ever.”

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Love Racing auction to raise funds for Cancer Society
23 Aug 2016

The New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry is pulling together to support the Cancer Society NZ and the volunteers who work tirelessly to support those suffering from cancer.

The industry has lost some of its best people to cancer, all the motivation that’s needed to get behind the Cancer Society NZ and do our bit to raise funds in their endeavours to combat this illness.

The Daffodil Auction being conducted on the Facebook page of Love Racing NZ will run until August 31, offering racing fans the chance to secure their own unique items. Funds raised in the auction will go towards supporting the great work of the Cancer Society in their battle against cancer. The auction items consist of the following:

Zabeel signed photograph – shot by Spiros Poros

A one of a kind framed and signed photograph of Cambridge Stud’s Sir Patrick Hogan and champion stallion Zabeel. The photo was taken by world renowned photographer Spiros Poros, who has shot for magazines like Vogue, InStyle and Esquire. The auction winner will not only receive this beautiful piece, but also a tour of the iconic Cambridge Stud.)

Pentire photograph – shot by Spiros Poros

An original photograph of renowned horseman and Racing Hall of Fame inductee Brian Anderton and Pentire, the sire of Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance.

Zac Purton signed raceday saddle

A raceday saddle donated by jockey Zac Purton - and yes he has ridden in it! Purton, one of the true rock stars of racing from Australia to Hong Kong; has also signed this unique keepsake. The saddle is fully usable (and if you were to buy one just like this, unsigned, it would cost you at least $1500). Maybe it will bring you the same good luck!

Douglas Whyte Signed raceday whip

Raceday whip signed by superstar jockey, Douglas Whyte. One of the most successful in his field throughout the world; from his Hong Kong base Whyte has won an estimated HK$1.46 billion in stakes - that’s more than NZ$260 million!

Joao Moreira signed raceday silks

Raceday silks signed by the highest ranked jockey in the world, the legendary Joao Moreira. The Brazilian is light years ahead of the game, having won the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership for the last two seasons by huge margins This one-of-a-kind token is not only signed by the racing legend, but he has also penned a message to the lucky auction winner.

The Informant

Irish Heartbeat back on track with New Plymouth win
22 Aug 2016

A bold fresh-up win in the ITM Makita Open at New Plymouth today hinted that Irish Heartbeat might be about to make up for lost time after a string of setbacks.

Trainer Toby Autridge was clearly relieved after the seven-year-old Electronic Zone mare came out on top in the $30,000 open sprint, holding on strongly from the fast-finishing pair of Antonio Lombardo and Gypsy Fair.

“She’s been through a lot,” Autridge said. “She had a larynx infection last year that took months to clear up, and then at the end of her last campaign she had a growth in her wind pipe. The vets didn’t know what it was and didn’t want to operate.

“I just chucked her out for a break, and then when I brought her back there was no sign of it. It’s good to have her right, and hopefully this year we can give her an uninterrupted prep.”

Irish Heartbeat has now had 31 starts for seven wins, 10 placings and just under $120,000 in prize-money. A shot at spring carnival company now beckons.

“We might end up at Hawke’s Bay,” Autridge said. “We could look at one of the nice mile handicaps there – she won’t be having much weight.”

“She’s just a lovely mare. You can ride her anywhere and do what you like with her.”

The now eight-year-old Antonio Lombardo ran a bold race second-up as he builds towards yet another visit to the Hawke’s Bay carnival, while Gypsy Fair produced a strong follow-up to her last-start win in Heavy11 ground at Otaki.

The time for the 1300-metre event was 1:18.37 on a track that winning rider Lisa Allpress said was in good order.

"It's improving," she said. "They're just taking the top off it a little bit, but it's in really good condition."

Richard Edmunds

The Informant

Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards results
22 Aug 2016

2016 Horse of the Year: Mongolian Khan

NZTR Award for Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand racing: Gerald Fell and the late Rex Fell

NZTR Award for Outstanding Global Achievement: Chris Waller

Champion Two-Year-Old: Sacred Elixir

Champion Three-Year-Old: Xtravagant

Champion Sprinter: Turn Me Loose

Champion Middle-Distance Horse: Turn Me Loose

Champion Stayer: Mongolian Khan

Champion Jumper: Jack Romanov & Sea King

Dunstan Trainer of the Year: Stephen Autridge & Jamie Richards

FastTrack Insurance Jockey of the Year: Lisa Allpress

FastTrack Insurance Jumps Jockey of the Year: Shaun Fannin

McBeath Apprentice Jockey of the Year: Shaun McKay

FastTrack Insurance Owner of the Year: JML Bloodstock

Breeder of the Year: Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan

Broodmare of the Year: Bagalollies

Owners’ Premiership: Sir Peter Vela

Media Award: Dennis Ryan

Trainers’ Premiership: Stephen Autridge & Jamie Richards

Jockeys’ Premiership: Lisa Allpress

New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year: Sofia Rosa

Grosvenor Award: Savabeel

Dewar Award: Savabeel

Centaine Award: Savabeel

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