Kiwi Chronicles

Bred to go the distance

Although punters were caught unawares, students of bloodlines may have predicted the upset result in Saturday’s Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m).

Naturally, hindsight is twenty-twenty not to mention that hot favourite Legarto (Proisir) came into the race in stunning form. Her win in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) last month was achieved with seemingly plenty in reserve. However, the winner, El Vencedor (Shocking) did not deserve to start at 20 to 1 odds either. His form was much better than that.

Out once at two for a placing, El Vencedor won second up at three at Taupo and the following autumn won back-to-back at Awapuni and Pukekohe. He was clearly too good in both those wins but his Pukekohe performance was noteworthy as he ran the 1400m in 1:22.54, the last 600m in 33.70. When challenged he lifted and looked as if he did not wish to be headed.

Kept in training he was sent to Brisbane where in four starts he recorded a second and a season-ending win at Doomben over 1200m in another good time, 1:10.23 then back home for a short spell.

Now in open class, the four-year-old had a series of placings in the spring, ran a decent fourth in the Newmarket Handicap (Listed, 1200m) on Boxing Day and four weeks later an even better second in the Concorde Handicap (Gr 3, 1200m) in which he got further back than usual and finished strongly, his last 600m in 33.01.

Still at Pukekohe and still at 1200m he again finished a length and a quarter second, only this time he completed his last 600m in 32.61, the winner running 1:08.78. Two starts later he stepped up to 1400m in Awapuni’s Flying Handicap (Listed, 1400m) for yet another second. His time was 1:22.91.

Now overdue, he got a deserved win at Hastings to wrap up the season with the solitary win and six placings in nine starts.

This season at five he has been so honest despite a poor run in the Foxbridge Plate (Gr 2, 1200m) fresh up. In nine starts since then he has never finished further back than fourth. A neck second in the Fulton Family Stakes (Listed, 1500m) on Melbourne Cup day preceded a first rate Group 3 win at Te Rapa in the Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m).

Significantly, this was his first attempt at 1600m and he simply bolted by four and a half lengths. Once he reached the 200m he cleared out to win impressively.

New Year’s Day saw him run a close and fighting third in the Rich Hill Mile (Gr 2, 1600m) and at Trentham, in the Thorndon Mile (Gr 1, 1600m), he led them into the straight with Joe Doyle hunting for better ground out wider at which point Puntura (Vespa) got past but El Vencedor never gave up trying. His second was full of merit.

At Otaki, for the Otaki-Maori WFA Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) he was pushed widest at the top of the straight while La Crique (Vadamos) shot clear but he made good ground late for fourth.

And so to Saturday’s Group 1 feature and his first go at 2000m and this is where students of bloodlines might have had an edge because the extra distance looked right up El Vencedor’s alley.

Cleverly, Joe Doyle pushed him out to a three length lead soon after reaching the back straight then eased at the 800m but rounding into the home straight slipped away again to be three clear on straightening. This was the winning of the race as Legarto chased yet the lead was a length and a half at the 200m and still a length at the 100m.

The tactics won and El Vencedor had a half length cushion at the line, summed up by trainer Stephen Marsh: “Coming into the straight I saw Legarto come off the bridle just as we were starting to climb into it. I thought geez we could be a chance here and he kicked well.”

The fact that El Vencedor had winning form over 1200m and 1400m and his usual style is to either lead or be very handy in most of his races, may have given the connections a false impression? His speed may have precluded the stable from attempting 1600m until relatively deep into his career. The 1600m ended up being a breeze for him.

Blood tells

El Vencedor’s sire, Shocking (Street Cry), will mostly be remembered for his win in the 2009 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) but to categorize the stallion as solely a source of stout blood is perhaps misleading because ten months after that he landed the Makybe Diva Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m), beating Heart Of Dreams (Show A Heart). Later that season, the last start of his career, he scored in the Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) defeating future Stradbroke Handicap (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Linton (Galileo).

In the meantime, another sprinter-miler, I’m Thunderstruck (Shocking) created a cult following with outstanding mile victories in the Maybe Diva Stakes (promoted to Group 1 status since Shocking’s win) and the Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) plus his big win in the rich Golden Eagle (1500m). It was a tragedy when the industry lost I’m Thunderstruck around this time last year. His heart was as big as a lion’s.

The folks at Rich Hill Stud might have had a problem deciding which runner on which to focus. In the end, the stud’s sires provided the quinella and their season continues at a great rate.

When we look at El Vencedor’s siblings we find more evidence that the step up to 2000m could have been taken on with some confidence, starting with his full brother Chocante (Shocking). Chocante’s five wins included the Brisbane Cup (Gr 2, 2200m) and the Counties Cup (Gr 3, 2100m). He also ran third in Randwick’s Metropolitan Handicap (Gr 1, 2400m).

Their dam, Strictly Maternal (O’Reilly) has also foaled Sky Darci (Darci Brahma), the 2021 Hong Kong Derby (Listed, 2000m) winner. Sky Darci was crowned Champion four-year-old in Hong Kong.

Strictly Maternal’s grandam is Red Chiffon (Sovereign Red). She was a top performer, winning 11 times including the Canterbury Gold Cup (Gr 3, 2000m) plus Listed wins at Ellerslie, Rosehill and Doomben as well as a third in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

El Vencedor is the second Group 1 winner to represent this family since 2000. Premier sprinter Regimental Gal (General Nediym), a dual Group 1 winner, is a great granddaughter of Miss Alaska (Biscay) whose half sister, Lady Hialeah (Tanzor), is Red Chiffon’s dam.

Can we have a rematch?

The Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) result may have been decisive in favour of Velocious (Written Tycoon) and her win in the Karaka Millions 2YO (LR, 1200m) was similarly so. However, the run from Captured By Love, also by Written Tycoon (Iglesia), who was meeting Velocious for the first time, was actually pretty decent, even though third, just a head-bob from second.

Both fillies have won four of their five starts with both of their defeats resulting in thirds. Velocious can probably claim top honours with a Group 1 and a rich Listed win while Captured By Love can claim two Group 2s and a Group 3 plus this Group 1 placing but there is not much between them.

A possible key to Captured By Love’s first defeat took place soon after the start when she was shuffled back to near last and wide although she did recover to sit two lanes off the fence and about four lengths from Velocious at the 600m. In the meantime the pace had eased allowing Velocious, sitting just outside the lead, a breather.

Rounding into the straight, Velocious accelerated at exactly the right time and stole a good lead near the 200m. That left Captured By Love far too much to do yet she closed the gap very well but came up three-quarters of a length short.

Whether either camp now heads for the April 6th Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) has not been publicized but a rematch would decide the season, once and for all.

NZ breds in Australia

Locally, the three stakes races at Ellerslie were split between home, Australia and USA but in Australia Waikato Stud and Westbury Stud enjoyed success.

The great Savabeel (Zabeel) rolls on relentlessly with individual stakes winner number 142 when his Von Hauke saluted in the Shaftsbury Avenue Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) and for good measure, his Savannah Cloud ran third.

Only six runners lined up for the Group 3 and the favourite, Amenable (Lonhro) looked the winner when he kicked near the 200m but Von Hauke kept chasing, was within a neck at the 100m, levelled up before the 50m and edged into the lead short of the line.

The four-year-old was a Mornington winner at three last June and this season captured a 1300m handicap at Sandown in September. He also placed second at Flemington on Champion’s day. Saturday’s win was second up after a short break.

From 11 starts he has now won three with earnings in excess of $268,000 and holds a nomination for the Doncaster Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m). Yes, he was bred by Waikato Stud but was sold at the 2021 Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale, fetching $190,000, purchased by trainer Cliff Brown.

Von Hauke is the third winner and first stakes winner from Tiara (O’Reilly) who is one of two foals from five-times winner Royal Lady (Stravinsky), herself a daughter of Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Royal Tiara (Blanco). Interestingly, Royal Tiara’s half brother, Elbio (Precocious) was a brilliant sprinter who twice won the King’s Stand Stakes (Gr 1, 5f) at Royal Ascot.

The late Sacred Falls (O’Reilly) sired his ninth individual stakes winner when Eternal Flame took out the last on Flemington’s Saturday card, the Matron Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m).

A $260,000 Phill Cataldo purchase from the 2021 NZB Ready To Run Sale, Eternal Flame was third at the 300m, accelerated quickly from the 200m and overhauled the leader inside the 100m for her fourth win in 11 starts. She broke her maiden 13 months ago at Pakenham and has since won at Sandown and Caulfield this season.

She is one of five winners from Suriyan (Savabeel), a three-quarter sister to 2021 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Noverre (Savabeel).

Reliable Man (Dalakhani) also got into the act with his Lekvarte who took her earnings beyond $750,000 after scoring Randwick’s Aspiration Handicap (Gr 3, 1600m).

She is in great form having won four of her last five starts. Two starts back she won the Belle of the Turf Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at Gosford and now has eight wins.

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