Kiwi Chronicles

Fillies dominate

From Awapuni to Randwick and on to Ascot, Saturday saw three outstanding two-year-old fillies, Maven Belle (Burgundy), Fireburn (Rebel Dane) and Amelia’s Jewel (Siyouni), make championship statements.

All three were dominant. Maven Belle almost certainly wrapped up the title of Champion New Zealand Two-Year-old with a clear victory in what turned out to be New Zealand’s own two-year-old championship, the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m).

Slipping clear at the 300 metres, Maven Belle had the race under control but moved out a lane late in proceedings, slightly impeding the runner up, Wolverine (Tivaci). The stewards got this one right in that the check was minor and occurred too close to the winning post to warrant altering the result.

Wolverine’s effort is to be commended however. Her determination, after giving the winner a big start from the top of the straight, is to be admired. They were in a race of their own the last 100 metres and well clear of the rest.

There should be no asterisk attached to the result and Maven Belle’s excellent record of five starts, a Group 1 (against the best assembled), a Group 2, a Group 3 and a Group 1 third is surely enough for her to be crowned Champion New Zealand Two-Year-old.

Maven Belle is perhaps unlucky not to be undefeated. She was denied a run when a gap closed short of the 200 metres in the Sistema and had to be checked, then go around runners, recovering to finish a close third. She was finishing better than the first two, Lickety Split (Turn Me Loose) and Dynastic (Almanzor), both of whom did not feature in the finish at Awapuni.

At Randwick, Fireburn toyed with her opponents in their Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m). At her previous start, a brilliant performance in the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), the filly was ridden for luck when carted back through the field at the 600 metres. Her run along the fence from the 200 metres had to be seen to be believed.

This time, Brenton Avdulla purposely kept her next to the fence midfield then waited for the field to fan from the 400 metres. In the worst of the going down on the inner she again sprouted wings from the 200 metres and put them away with ease.

The only question mark surrounding Fireburn is whether she would be as effective on top of the ground although her streak of five five wins began with two city wins on a Good 4 surface.

Like Maven Belle, she has likely wrapped up Champion Two-Year-Old honours with the strong prospect of bagging a rare Triple Crown in the Champagne Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) in a couple of weeks.

At Ascot, Amelia’s Jewel electrified the crowd with her scintillating finish in the Karrakatta Plate, which serves as Western Australia’s Two-Year-Old Championship.

From a wide draw Pat Carbery had few options but to drop her back early and she settled third last, three out, and was still wide with three behind her at the 600 metres. Rounding into the straight she went widest and stood up the leaders six lengths at the top of the straight but didn’t begin her wind up until short of the 200 metres. Her acceleration from that point was stunning, descending upon the leaders to be level at the 100m where she burst clear for a brilliant and hugely impressive win.

Too often, top two-year-olds find the transition to dominate at three a bridge too far. Their competition catches up in strength and maturity.

Nevertheless, the anticipation for next season from these three champion fillies is really something to look forward to.

Welcome back

For Mark Walker, who took over the Te Akau reins from Jamie Richards from April 1, Maven Belle’s win was a surreal ‘welcome back’ to New Zealand after a successful stint in Singapore.

Not only did Walker train the winner, he is also listed as co-breeder. Te Akau’s David Ellis and wife Karyn along with Walker’s wife, owned Maven Belle’s dam, Doyenne (Kilimanjaro). Sadly, the mare is no longer with us.

Kiwi Chronicles spoke with David Ellis about Te Akau’s ‘breeding arm’, which is enjoying a banner year, having produced two Group 1 fillies, Belle En Rouge and Maven Belle, both by Burgundy (Redoute’s Choice).

“We are very proud to have bred both Maven Belle and Belle En Rouge. Karyn and I, plus some partners, breed about ten foals each year. We support the stallions we have raced and send mares to Darci Brahma and Embellish here in New Zealand and also to Heroic Valour, Xtravagant and Cool Aza Beel in Australia. Burgundy is proving to be a great loss. Belle En Rouge is his second NZ Filly of the Year, the first being Dijon Bleu.

“We will support Noverre and also Sword Of State when he retires to Cambridge Stud,” continued Ellis.

“This year, we had more interested people than the number of horses purchased so I selected a yearling and a weanling from our farm and Karyn syndicated them,” said Ellis.

Prepping for the interview, the writer watched a video put together especially about Darci Brahma (Danehill). Ellis recalled the champion’s first race day, which coincided with a Karaka sale day. “There were more people watching his race than there were in the sale ring. But prior to the race Graeme Rogerson called to say that he had a filly that was the best he had in 20 years and to start Darci Brahma might not be wise. Well, Darci won by two lengths, the start of a wonderful race career. Rogerson’s filly was Vegas Showgirl, the dam of Winx.”

When asked about the immediate future of Maven Belle and Belle En Rouge, Ellis reported that both fillies are out for a spell. “Maven Belle is being set for the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas and Belle En Rouge will have her first start as a four-year-old in the Foxbridge Plate and then set for the Hawke’s Bay triple crown races. Long term, we’d like to take her to Melbourne for the Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington during the Cup carnival.”

Maven Belle is the result of Doyenne’s only mating with the late Burgundy. A true home-bred, her sire was a Te Akau purchase for $1.3 million.

Doyenne was purchased as a weanling from Westbury Stud in 2005 and was also trained by Walker prior to his ten years in Singapore. She landed six wins including at Te Rapa and Riccarton where she recorded a Listed second, beaten a head in the Spring Classic (2000m).

At the time of her purchase, her dam was a winning half-sister to Brisbane Group 3 winner Cryptavia (Gold Brose). The sires along her female line read like a Who’s Who of great northern hemishere sires: Doyoun (Mill Reef), Nureyev (Northern Dancer) and Sir Gaylord (Turn-To), the sire of her third dam Bahariva, a half-sister to the dam of successful sire and Prix du Jockey Club (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Bering (Arctic Tern).

Her family might be the hottest in the New Zealand stud book as Doyenne’s half-sister is the country’s premier sprinter, dual Group 1 winner Levante (Proisir). The latter is slated to run in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) after a hit-and-run visit and strong fourth in the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) at Flemington last month.

Walker echoed Ellis’s remarks. “She (Maven Belle) is a homebred off the farm and it is a real shame for Burgundy who is not with us anymore as he has had such a good season,” he said.

David Ellis added: “It is very emotional to be standing next to my mate, Mark Walker, in the birdcage at Awapuni after winning another Sires’. Mark came to work for me after leaving school and for him to win a Group 1 on his first day back training for Te Akau after ten years in Singapore is just unbelievable. It’s great to have him back. He is a fantastic trainer and we came down today to support Mark and support the club and to go home with a Group 1 and a Group 3 win is remarkable. Having Mark’s son Zavier here with us made the day even more special.”

Star jewel

The race record of Amelia’s Jewel could hardly be any better. She won at Listed level on debut in the Supremacy Stakes (1000m) then showed her devastating turn of foot in the Gimcrack Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at her second start.

Her win on Saturday, to make it three starts for three stakes, was one for the ages. Her trainer Simon Miller, who describes the filly as a freak, said to jockey Pat Carbery,pre-race: “She’s a Ferrari mate, don’t worry about the (15) barrier.”

The way she accelerated from the 200 metres then burst clear was a sight to see. If she comes back in the spring and continues in similar fashion, the racing public will be hoping that her connections give some thought to a trip east to take on Australia’s best.

Her dam, Bumbasina (Canford Cliffs) was purchased at the 2018 Tattersall’s July sale for 75,000 guineas as a mare in training.

Twice a winner as well as twice listed placed in Ireland, she is a half-sister to two Group winners and her 2020 foal, a colt by Merchant Navy (Fastnet Rock) realised $160,000 at the Magic Millions Perth Yearling sale in February, before Amelia’s Jewel stormed onto the Perth racing scene.

Her grandam, Sagamartha (Rainbow Quest), is a half-sister to the Champion Two-Year-old Filly in Great Britain Flashy Wings (Zafonic), a dual Group 2 winner at two and three times Group 1 placed.

She traces to a half-sister to Dignitas (Round Table) who was imported to Australia in the 1970s, siring 13 stakes winners. His son Haulpak was even more successful and became one of Western Australia’s best sires with 33 stakes winners.

Amelia’s Jewel’s sire, Siyouni (Pivotal) has two French Champion Sire titles to his name and made the headlines in 2020 with his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) champion Sottsass.

More recently another of his sons, St Mark’s Basilica, scored five successive Group 1s, ending his two-year-old career with a victory in the Dewhurst Stakes (7f) then going undefeated in four starts at three: the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m), the Prix du Jockey Club (2100m), the Eclipse Stakes (1m 2f) and the Irish Champion Stakes (1m 2f). St Mark’s Basilica will shuttle to Coolmore Australia later this year.

A Group 1 winner at two, Siyouni has sired 57 stakes winners including six at Group 1 level.

AllStar form

The super win by Zaaki (Leroidesanimaux) in the AllStar Mile (1600m) cemented his place as one of Australia’s premier horses in training. The form in that race held up well for Saturday’s Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m).

A very good second to Zaaki was talented miler I’m Thunderstruck (Shocking), who also finished second in Saturday’s Doncaster. Not far away in the $5 million Flemington feature was Mr Brightside who weaved in and out over the last 200 metres for a very good and perhaps unlucky fourth.

With a healthy weight advantage, Mr Brightside got clear running this time although he was pushed wide rounding into the straight by I’m Thunderstruck. 

He hit a flat spot near the 200m but lifted strongly from the 100 metres and was very game to the line for his seventh win in a career of 13 starts.

Third, and recording yet another high value placing, was Icebath (Sacred Falls), forming a Kiwi-bred trifecta. She was not far away, the wet track playing right into her favour.

Clear running was a major issue for Mr Brightside when he made his raceday debut at Matamata in February of last year. He was denied a run the length of the straight that day to finish a luckless fifth after which he was partially sold to Australia.

The gelding has quite a sales history and had some “issues” according to his trainer Ralph Manning. Agent Phill Cataldo purchased him for Laurie Laxon from Phoenix Park as a yearling out of the Karaka May Mixed sale with a view to pinhook him. A few months later he was passed in at the Karaka 2019 Ready to Run Sale before being sold for $7,750 back to his original owner, via Gavelhouse the following August, but kept with Manning.

In Australia, under the care of the Hayes Brothers, Mr Brightside has thrived and at one stage racked up six straight wins beginning with his maiden win at Geelong at the end of last season.

Partnered by Craig Williams in all his Australian races, he proceeded to land wins at Sandown (twice), Moonee Valley and Flemington, then scored the Listed Seymour Cup (1600m) run at Ballarat.

Back at Flemington on Derby Day, connections took a throw at the stumps in the Cantala Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and he finished a strong fourth behind Superstorm (Sebring) before being spelled until February.

His three runs prior to the Doncaster saw him finish an unlucky third in the Listed Elms Handicap (1400), fourth behind Inspirational Girl (Reliable Man) in the Blamey Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m) followed by the strong effort in the AllStar Mile, all at headquarters, Flemington.

Mr Brightside’s dam, Lilahjay (Tavistock) never raced. Her grandam, Keepable (Keeper) was unplaced however the family is one that Cambridge Stud engendered.

Keepable is a half-sister to two stakes winners including Foxwood (Centaine), the New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner against the boys when beating another very good filly, Tycoon Lil (Last Tycoon).

Keepable’s dam is Delia’s Choice, a winning sister to four stakes winners including Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) and Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Sovereign Red (Sir Tristram) as well as Gurner’s Lane (Sir Tristram), hero in the 1982 Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) and the 1982 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m).

Their dam, Taiona (Sovereign Edition) was twice New Zealand Broodmare of the Year, sharing the title with The Pixie (Mellay) in 1981 then taking the title outright two years later due to the outstanding year enjoyed by Gurner’s Lane.

Mr Brightside’s sire, Bullbars (Elusive Quality), stood for several seasons at Highview but lost favour with breeders. His first five seasons he averaged 52 mares. The last three, he covered just 42 mares in total. He is now resident at Orange Court, Pages Flat in South Australia.