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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

Matamata Racing Club Award Winners
22 Aug 2016
Autridge and Richards lay claim to trainers' premiership
29 Jul 2016

With just two days of the 2015-16 racing season remaining, Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards are able to lay claim to the trainers’ premiership.

In their first full season training together, the Te Akau Racing duo have prepared 104 winners for stakes of $2,156,100 and a strike-rate of 5.32. Ten of the Matamata-based stable’s winners were in black-type races and four of them – Xtravagant (2), Risque and Heroic Valour – were at Group One.

Cambridge partners Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, who took the 2014-15 premiership with a record 114 wins, are five wins adrift of Autridge and Richards, who have no further starters this season. With only three runners listed for the final two racedays of the season, Baker and Forsman will be unable to overhaul the table toppers.

“We’ve been doing the sums for a while now and we worked it out earlier in the week that we had the premiership sewn up,” Autridge told this morning. “It’s been a year of highlights, but if I was to single out the very best of them out, they would have to be during Cup week in Christchurch when we won both Guineas races with Xtravagant and Risque, then when Xtravagant overcame all the uncertainty and won the NRM Sprint at Te Rapa, and Heroic Valour’s gutsy win in the Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie.

“Group Ones are never easy, so to get four of them, top the century in overall wins and now be able to claim the premiership - it could hardly be more satisfying than that.”

Training premierships are not fresh territory for Autridge, who claimed three when training in partnership with Graeme Rogerson, but for Jamie Richards it is a whole new experience.

Along with Autridge he was appointed only 15 months ago by Te Akau principal David Ellis to take the helm of the New Zealand operation and now to find himself a premiership winner is the stuff of dreams.

“When I joined Te Akau three years ago I had no idea where it would take me,” admitted Richards, who at age 26 is New Zealand’s youngest premiership-winning trainer. He took that mantle from predecessor Mark Walker, who was 31 when he claimed his first of five New Zealand titles in 2003-04.

“But thanks to everyone in the organisation and all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, here we are, somewhere that I never thought possible in such a short space of time.

“I couldn’t have achieved any of it without David and his decision along with Mark to put their faith in me. We have lovely horses that they’ve bought and syndicated to work with and it’s very satisfying to get these results.”

This latest title takes to six the number of trainers’ premierships won by Te Akau New Zealand, to which Walker has added the 2015 Singapore trainers’ title.

“It’s a phenomenal achievement and I believe the first time it has ever been done, for the same operation to win premierships in two counties in the same year,” commented David Ellis.

“These sorts of results only come about through massive commitment and incredible hard work and dedication. I must be the proudest guy in the world today.”

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Perfect Start makes timely return to form
27 Jul 2016

The clock is ticking on stakes winner Perfect Start, who will have another opportunity to add to her black-type record this weekend.

The rising seven-year-old, who will go to stud in the spring, will back up in Saturday’s Listed Woods Contracting Taumarunui Gold Cup at Arawa Park after a much-improved performance at her last start.

Perfect Start’s connections were beginning to wonder if they would have to make an earlier than intended retirement call before she finished runner-up at New Plymouth.

“It was 50-50 how much longer she went on until then,” said Wayne Hillis, who trains the daughter of Perfectly Ready with Shaun Kessner.

“She’s taken a while to come up this time and put in a few not so good runs and we didn’t know whether her heart was still in it, but she tried really hard last time and she’s come through the race well.

“She will be getting in foal this year and we’ll probably race her through to January depending on her form.” 

Perfect Start is out of Artemesia, who is also the dam of the Hillis-trained Gr. 3 Winter Cup winner Art Beat, the multiple stakes placegetter Smartly and handy gallopers Darting and Martini Lass.

“She’s been a very good mare to us, as has the whole family,” Hillis said.

Perfect Start is the dual Group Three winner of the Manawatu Cup and the Trentham Stakes and she has also placed in the Gr. 2 Wellington Cup, the Listed Soliloquy Stakes and the Listed Anzac Handicap.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

McDonald the headline act on Goodwood opening day
27 Jul 2016

James McDonald has made a perfect start to his first Goodwood festival by winning the feature race on the opening day, the Gr. 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes for his retainers Godolphin.

McDonald has been in sensational form since hitting his straps on his third mid-year sojourn to the United Kingdom. His overnight win on the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection took his tally to 17 wins from 77 race rides. Earlier major wins include the Gr. 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket on Big Orange, while he has failed to ride a winner on only one of the past 10 racedays he has competed.

Dutch Connection was one of six rides on the first day of Glorious Goodwood and as well as the win McDonald also rode three second placegetters.

“He’s an awesome horse, I can’t believe I’ve won a big race for Charlie Hills,” McDonald told the Racing Post after Dutch Connection had beaten fellow Godolphin runner Home Of The Brave. “He brought me over three years ago and had so much faith in me, I can’t thank him enough.”

Lambourn-based Hills was equally effusive about the 24-year-old Kiwi. “He’s a world-class jockey. We’re going to see a lot of him,” Hills said. “He’s very laid-back, has a good relationship with horses and is very positive.”

McDonald is booked for five rides on Goodwood’s second day, headed by Toormore, a 25-to-one prospect for the Gr. 1 Sussex Stakes, and Nayyar, who is listed at 8-1 for the Gr. 3 Molecomb Stakes.

The recent one-month suspension handed to Godolphin jockey William Buick meant an extension of McDonald’s northern stint. When speaking recently with he said that he planned to pack his bags for Australia in the first week of August and hopefully take time for a beach holiday in the south of France before linking up again with Godolphin’s Sydney trainer John O’Shea.

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

Early departure to Australia for Xtravagant
25 Jul 2016

Cox Plate contender Xtravagant is booked on a flight to Melbourne on Wednesday week.

“He’ll be staying at Flemington and he will be trial at Caulfield on August 9 and after that we will decide where he will kick off,” said Stephen Autridge, who trains the rising four-year-old with Jamie Richards.

A return to Caulfield on August 27 for the Gr. 3 Heath Stakes over 1100 metres, a race won last year by the former New Zealand-trained mare Bounding, is one option to start Xtravagant’s spring preparation.

“He’s come back really well after a break and all our riders who have been on him are saying he’s much stronger now,” Autridge said.

“The main objectives after a run or two will be the Group Ones at the carnival and a crack at the Cox Plate.”

Xtravagant has enjoyed a memorable season highlighted by his runaway victory in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas and his eight-length drubbing of his older rivals in the Gr. 1 NRM Sprint.

The son of Pentire, who also won the Gr. 3 Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes, features strongly in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards as a finalist in the champion three-year-old and champion sprint divisions.

Xtravagant’s stablemate Shillelagh has also been pencilled in for a Melbourne campaign.

“We’re going to send her over a week later to give the colt time to settle in before she turns up,” Autridge said.

Shillelagh has won four of her six starts for prominent Hunterville breeder-owners Christopher and Susanna Grace, the last of them at Ruakaka last month.

“She’ll have a couple of Saturday races to start with and hopefully she will be going well enough come carnival time for the fillies and mares’ races,” Autridge said.

The Savabeel four-year-old’s family is well known in Australia as she is a sister to the Gr. 2 Brisbane Cup winner and the Gr. 1 Caulfield Cup placegetter Tullamore.

NZ Racing Desk

The Informant

Refreshed Grylls keen for action
20 Jul 2016

Craig Grylls has returned from the longest holiday of his decade-long career refreshed and keen to resume race riding at New Plymouth on Saturday.

Grylls and his Swedish-born wife Milou, who he married in February, spent five weeks abroad, with most of that time in Sweden as well as a week in Ireland.

“It was a good chance to meet members of Milou’s family who couldn’t make it out for the wedding,” Grylls told between trackwork riding duties at Matamata this morning. “Most of Milou’s family live in the Stockholm area but her grandmother lives up in the north of the country, so it was good to travel up there and meet her.

“I didn’t see the northern lights but I did get to see the midnight sun. It was quite amazing with 24-hour daylight way up north there.”

Grylls has ridden 57 winners in the season to date, not a match for his best tally of 78 in 2012-13 but still pleasing and the sixth time his mounts’ stake-earnings have topped $1 million.

“Things went a bit quiet just after Christmas for a while but I got going again,” the 26-year-old said. “It was good to win the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes on Gold Rush on my home track.

“That was a Group Two, my best win for the season, and I’m hoping to get back on her for the good fillies’ races in the spring.”

For the meantime, Grylls will return to raceday action at New Plymouth on Saturday, with Opunake Cup candidate Kindaleica amongst engagements already confirmed.

“I’m fresh and keen to get back into it,” added Grylls, who manages his own bookings. “Kindaleica should be a good ride. I won on him at New Plymouth earlier in his career and he felt good when I galloped him this morning.”

Dennis Ryan

The Informant

McQuade optimistic with double Opunake Cup hand
19 Jul 2016

Karyn McQuade will saddle a double hand for Saturday’s Listed Powerworx Opunake Cup feeling optimistic on all counts.

The Matamata trainer has the two best horses in her small team, Kindaleica and Underthemoonlight, entered for the $65,000 feature safe in the knowledge of their proven records on the New Plymouth track and confident they will be at concert pitch for their weekend assignments.

McQuade signed off on the pair’s fitness after they had galloped stylishly this morning. With their respective raceday jockeys Craig Grylls and Cameron Lammas on board, Kindaleica and Underthemoonlight cut out 1200 metres in a slick 1:15.8 and broke 36 seconds for their final 600 metres.

“That was lovely work, just right for where they’re both at,” she said. “Underthemoonlight is thriving and the freshen-up we gave Kindaleica has done him the world of good.”

Lightly raced Underthemoonlight has been in sparkling form this campaign, with a narrow second placing in an open sprint at Ellerslie followed by a win over 1400 metres at Te Rapa and a last-start fourth in the Listed Tauranga Classic.

Kindaleica hasn’t been to the races for two months but has proven class as the winner of the Listed Karaka Classic at Avondale in September.

What the stablemates have in common with special significance for Saturday’s big race is proven form at New Plymouth. Kindaleica won a special conditions 1400-metre race there in August 2014 and finished second in the ITM New Plymouth Interprovincial last September.

Underthemoonlight’s two starts on the track are a near replication of her stablemate’s record, having finished second in a special conditions race there last August and winning a Rating 65 1400 metres on Interprovincial day in September.

The one difference is that the pair’s regular rider, Anna Jones, will be on neither this weekend due to being absent on holiday in England. That leaves the way open for Craig Grylls, Kindaleica’s jockey in his career-first New Plymouth win, to resume duties, while Cameron Lammas will become just the second jockey to ride Underthemoonlight on raceday, Jones having handled her in all nine of her starts.

“We’ve always known Anna was going to be away but it’s worked out well to get Cameron and Craig for Saturday,” McQuade said. “I promised Cameron a long time ago that if ever Anna was unable to ride Underthemoonlight he would have the mount.

“He was the regular jockey of this mare’s close relation Midnight Kiss and has always ridden well for us.”

Midnight Kiss had a brief career with McQuade, winning two of her four starts and finishing third in the last of them, the 2014 New Zealand Oaks, after which she was sold to the United States.

Dennis Ryan 

The Informant

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