Kiwi Chronicles

A feast, with dessert to follow

A true feast of racing was to be had on Saturday. The six Australian Group 1s just rolled on, one after the other. Those even partly interested in bloodstock breeding were treated to appetisers, mains and dessert.

The stories are set to continue as March winds down with the Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m), the Tancred Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m) and the Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m), all set for next Saturday.

New Zealand star Legarto (Proisir) returns to the scene of her Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) victory 12 months ago and will line up in the Australian Cup. She will appreciate the anti-clockwise track and the long Flemington straight. Yes, the connections are licking their wounds after her last-start Ellerslie second, however, StrathAyr track or not, Ellerslie has historically provided front runners an advantage.

Legarto’s run was top class and only clever judgement from Joe Doyle on El Vencedor (Shocking), to push the button at the perfect time and a neck proved to be the difference. The mare never gave up. She is so determined.

In Sydney this weekend all eyes, especially those on the eastern side of the Tasman, will be on Orchestral (Savabeel) in the Vinery Stud Stakes. The Roger James-Robert Wellwood representative will be hoping to emulate Prowess (Proisir), who made such an impression when winning the race last year in the same race.

What is so great and exciting about racing is the anticipation. In Orchestral’s case, we have seen, first hand, how she has dismantled her age group opponents in New Zealand. Her last three wins, all at Ellerslie, have all been achieved with ridiculous ease.

Nevertheless, the guns will be out in Sydney, Group 1s are not handed out on a platethey must be earned.

Her winning time when bolting away with the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) was 2:26.79, suggesting she was extremely fit. The margin over the second runner home, Antrim Coast (Roc De Cambes) was 3.8 lengths.

Antrim Coast trekked to Moonee Valley for Saturday’s Alister Clark Stakes (Gr 2, 2040m) and in a ding-dong battle with the tough Te Akau filly Quintessa (Shamus Award), got his head down on the line and the win. Is this a form line we can use?

Orchestral has been freshened and the reduction in distance to 2000 metres of the Vinery should not be an issue. The stable knows what is required and she will be cherry ripe for her next challenge.

It’s the challenge after that which is intriguing. Orchestral also holds nominations for the Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m), the Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m).

It’s pretty safe to rule out the Derby. A seven-day back-up would seem unlikely. Where things become interesting is, if she were to land the Vinery in the same manner as her last performances here, will the stable take the easier option of the Oaks, or, perhaps make a huge statement and take on the older horses at weight-for-age in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes?

Both races are scheduled for April 13th. The Oaks is run for $1 million. The Queen Elizabeth is worth $4 million. She wouldn’t have to step up to 2400 metres, even though she has already done that.

Roger Jamestrained three-year-old filly Silent Achiever (O’Reilly) to win the New Zealand Derby then later took her to Australia, landing the Ranvet Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and the BMW Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m).

However, Orchestral is only three and while the age and sex allowances under weight-for age steadily diminished throughout the season, next month, over the 2000 metres, if aimed at the Queen Elizabeth she would be weighted at 52 kilograms and therefore in receipt of 6 kilograms from the older runners. Might that advantage be sufficient temptation?

This coming Saturday is one to savour then in April we have the main course followed by dessert. It’s a mouthwatering line up. Randwick jumps into the limelight on April 6, kicking off The Championships with the Derby, The Doncaster (Gr 1, 1600m), the Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) and the sprint we’ve all been waiting for, the TJ Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m).

Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) and I Wish I Win (Savabeel) will be there – tantalising stuff indeed!

Four more Group 1s are set for April 13, namely the Oaks, the Queen of the Turf Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), the Sydney Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) and the autumn weight-for-age championship, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Are you ready?

Many believe that Australian racing is the best in the world. Certainly, Melbourne in October and November underline that belief and Sydney in the autumn ranks alongside Melbourne. Royal Ascot is marvellous but the Aussies sure know how to put on a carnival.

Low numbers
Of the six Group 1s on Saturday, New Zealand-breds were left out in the cold, although the New Zealand suffix was hardly represented in great numbers. Spread over the six races there were 75 runners and just five were foaled in New Zealand.

One of the more encouraging performances was by Ceolwulf (Tavistock) who gave the favourite, Riff Rocket (American Pharoah), plenty to think about over the concluding stages of the Rosehill Guineas (Gr 1, 2000m).

The Chris Waller-trained Riff Rocket seemed to have Ceolwulf’s measure in the straight but the latter stuck to his guns really well late and was finishing best of the rest. It was the colt’s seventh start. He broke his maiden at Warwick Farm last August at start two and was immediately tested at Group 3 level, splitting Encap (Capitalist) and Tom Kitten (Harry Angel) in the Ming Dynasty Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m). He was doing his best work late, finishing solidly for second then put aside.

In the Randwick Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), his third run this time in, he was a close sixth before Saturday’s Rosehill effort, which had “Derby” written all over it.

Ceolwulf represents the last partial crop (33 foals) of Tavistock (Montjeu) who was tragically lost to the industry in 2019. He was bred by Brendan and Jo Lindsay at Cambridge Stud but not sold a yearling, instead held back for the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Ready to Run Sale.

Sold via Sam Beatson’s Riversley Park for $170,000 to trainer Joe Pride, Ceolwulf is from an international family. His granddam is a half-sister to Cerulean Bay (Darshaan), winner of the Prix Saint-Alary (Gr 1, 2000m) and to Moonstone (Dalakhani), winner of the Irish Oaks (Gr 1, 1m 4f). A further half-sister is Danois (Danehill), granddam of the multiple Group 1 Hong Kong sprinter Wellington (All Too Hard).

Keeping it in the family
The bubble may have burst regarding Storm Boy (Justify), whose third in Saturday’s Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) might be viewed by some as disappointing. Hype has a habit of jumping up and biting yet his third was decent. In the worst of the going down along the inner he led at the 100 metres but the better surface further out favoured the first two home, confirmed by jockey Ryan Moore: “[I] had to switch my run toward the inside which wasn’t ideal.”

Had he prevailed it would have meant a banner day for his family as his close relative, Antrim Coast got the head-bob at Moonee Valley in the Alister Clark Stakes.

Trained by Stephen Marsh and making his debut in Australia, Antrim Coast was coming off a distant second to Orchestral in the New Zealand Derby. He and Quintessa had the finish to themselves and it could have gone either way except that her head was up and his was down, the margin: a nose.

Antrim Coast placed in all four of his starts at two and at three won back-to-back separated by a three month break last spring. Four somewhat ordinary races followed then he surprised with the Derby second.

Storm Boy’s granddam, Seachange (Cape Cross), and Antrim Coast’s granddam, Keepa Cruisin’ (Keeper), are half-sisters. Seachange was absolutely top class. Seven of her 14 wins were at the elite level headed by the New Zealand 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) plus two of the best sprints in New Zealand, the Telegraph Hcp (Gr 1, 1200m) and the Waikato Draft Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m).

Keepa Cruisin’ may not have reached Seachange’s heights yet she was also a Group 1 winner of the Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m). Combining Seachange’s four Group 1s during the 2007-08 season with Keepa Cruisin’s, resulted in their dam, Just Cruising (Broad Reach), being awarded the title of New Zealand Broodmare of the Year.

Antrim Coast was never offered for sale and is the sixth stakes winner by Roc De Cambes (Red Ransom). Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) winner He’s Our Rokki and New Zealand Derby winner Vin De Dance head his best performers to date. Roc De Cambes stood for $3,000 (plus GST) at The Oaks Stud in 2023. Antrim Coast is raced by The Oaks Stud’s owner Dick Karreman.

Favourite family
The writer’s favourite family of all time is that of Eulogy (Cicero), imported to New Zealand in 1914. Sure, as many as 13 generations can be traced to the great mare and some branches have thrived while others have wilted.

One that is not as prolific is the branch descending from Eulogy’s 1918 filly Fulsome (Absurd). The most famous performers to represent this branch include dual Group 1 winner Rant And Rave (Picture Show) plus New Zealand 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winners Phillipa Rush (Prince Echo) and her niece, Emerald (Grosvenor).

More recently, The Doncaster victor Triple Honour (Honours List) and Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Heroic Valour (Fastnet Rock) have chipped in to keep this branch in the news.

The newest stakes winner of the line is Climbing Star (Zoustar). Although conceived in Australia, Climbing Star was foaled in New Zealand and her win in the Matrice Stakes (Listed, 1200m) was her career second. Previously, she had recorded a seconds in the Moonee Valley Fillies Classic (Gr 2, 1600m) and the Moonga Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) so she was due her stakes-winning breakthrough.

Climbing Star is a half-sister to dual Group 3 winner Chatham (Charm Spirit) and they are from Bryony (Fastnet Rock), a sister to Heroic Valour. She has some way to go to balance the books. She fetched $600,000 at the 2021 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and Saturday’s cheque brings her total earnings to $262,725.

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