Good times, good timing

While the industry exhales after yet another fabulous five days of selling on the Gold Coast, a marker was posted at Saturday’s Trentham meeting when Waikato Stud’s Ardrossan (Redoute’s Choice) got his stud career off to an almost perfect start.

Precocious and early maturing two-year-olds are virtually the lifeblood of the Australian breeding industry. Since the Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) was introduced during the 1950s, slowly but surely the emphasis on early speed, and speed in general, altered the way breeders operated. Thank you, Star Kingdom (Stardust), who sired the first five winners of the race, which also became a “stallion maker”.

That emphasis was taken to another level with the introduction of incentive races such as the Magic Millions Classic (RL, 1200m), also for two-year-olds, creating a segment of buyers who buy in multiples to find that one superior two-year-old which might be syndicated for many millions as a stallion prospect, to repeat the pattern.

New Zealand has been similarly affected, without the huge rewards that have become common on the other side of the Tasman.

Saturday’s Wellesley Stakes (Listed, 1100m) was the fifth New Zealand black-type race for the juveniles this season. The four previous races of the current season were the Welcome Stakes (Listed, 1000m), Counties Challenge Stakes (Listed, 1100m), Wakefield Challenge Stakes (Gr 2, 1100m) and the Eclipse Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m). All fell to Australian-breds, namely Sky On Fire (Exceed And Excel), Ethereal Star (Snitzel), Impendabelle (Impending) and Trobriand (Kermadec).

Breaking the Aussie stranglehold, Codigo (Ardrossan) has provided his sire with a perfectly-timed launching pad, siring his first stakes winner, just in time for the NZB Karaka Yearling Sale.

Revisiting Kiwi Chronicles from May 2020, Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick related: “We sent Ardrossan to Australia with very high hopes as he’d shown he was a highquality galloper. He was not himself. Ardrossan came back at four to win the Concorde (at Ellerslie). So, we went back to Sydney, had to scratch due to a wet track then he injured himself”.

One of Ardrossan’s premier performances was finishing a close third to multiple Group 1 winners Melody Belle (Commands) and The Bostonian (Jimmy Choux) in the Waikato Sprint, (Gr.1, 1400m).

“So, there is a genuine reason for not attaining a Group 1, but he had all the right credentials,” continued Chittick. “He fits a similar profile to Centaine who had 34 foals his first year [Ardrossan had 44] and had an amazing first crop of 12 stakes winners. They’re nice foals and if they can run it will be all on. He probably represents the best value of any stallion in the country. He can only go one way and that is upwards,” concluded Chittick.

That one way has certainly started in promising fashion, even with Codigo’s winning debut at Matamata on January 3rd. On that occasion he was tardy from the stalls, but rushed forward to co-lead inside the 800 metres, sharing the lead to the straight entrance. Although headed, he did not yield, fought back when headed and showed good determination to the line in a slick 58.54 seconds.

His Wellesley Stakes victory was achieved in a different manner. He settled third and got a lovely run to the crossing, moved out threewide soon after straightening, then went after the leaders. He took a narrow lead at 200 metres, had a fight on his hands, but kept his head in front to the line in a sharp 1:02.51 for the 1100 metres. So far, he has replicated his sire’s early race record to remain unbeaten in two starts, including the much desired black-type win.

Codigo’s trainer, Stephen Marsh, also trained Ardrossan and postrace was complimentary of the two-year-old’s promise. “It is a bit special for this horse, being by Ardrossan, who we trained”, said Marsh. “He is a lovely horse who was unbeaten at the trials and then won his first start. We probably ran him today a little bit sooner than we would have liked to, but this was a perfect race for him”.

“He has ticked off the black-type win and ultimately we will aim him for the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes”, ended Marsh.

Codigo was bred by Dame Lowell Goddard, who also bred and raced his dam, Sophia Magia (Per Incanto), and his grandam, Heloise (Towkay). Both were winners. Codigo is Sophia Magia’s first foal.

Black type in this family has not been prolific, but it is coincidental in that Heloise’s grandam, Misty Valley (Crown Lease), is a half-sister to Dear Pal (My Pal), winner of the same Wellesley Stakes during the 1964-65 racing season.

Ardrossan will be represented by a total of 19 yearlings, seven in Book 1 and 12 in Book 2, throughout the upcoming sales including a half-brother to the Group 3 sprinter, Pop Star Princess (Makfi) and a colt from a blood sister to New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner, Amarelinha (Savabeel). Codigo’s wins are very timely.

Back on track

Premier sprinting mare Levante (Proisir) had a fight on her hands, yet knuckled down late to prevail in her second Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m). The win was reminiscent of her win 12 months ago when she had to dig deep to hold out Roch ‘N’ Horse (Per Incanto) by a nose, only this time it was Babylon Berlin (All Too Hard) who gave everything only to be edged out by the now triple Group 1 winner, a long neck the margin.

The mare is very determined in a tight finish prompting trainer Ken Kelso to remark: “She never goes a bad race and she sure does make it exciting”, with jockey, Ryan Elliot adding: “I didn’t think I was going to get past the other mare at the 100 metres, but she just has that ability to dig deep and find a way”.

In that twelvemonth period Levante has raced just four times, winning the February 12 Te Rapa feature, the CBD Group Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m), then fourth in the “slow lane” to Roch ‘N’ Horse in Flemington’s Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) a month later.

An eightmonth spell saw her return to Flemington for the Champion Sprint (Gr 1, 1200m) where she again ran fourth, again behind Roch ‘N’ Horse, followed by an eightweek break to run third in the Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m).

Although her winning time was slower this year than in 2022, Levante’s last 600 metres was completed in a slashing 31.57 seconds, so she has clearly not lost any of her zip, topping the milliondollar mark in earnings from 11 wins in 19 starts.

Considering that the Wellington Racing Club increased the stake by $100,000 over last year, the field was not fabulous, except for the first two home, and the margin back to third was telling. The calendar was partly responsible due to the club’s rostering their meetings around Wellington’s Anniversary weekend which falls earlier this year. Some years there is three weeks between the Railway and the Telegraph. This year there was only a 13day difference, the upshot being that Railway winner Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) skipped the race in favour of next month’s CBD Group Sprint.

Levante is six and after she attempts the double-double at Te Rapa it would be great to see her take on the Aussies again. Should she have one more crack. She is going to run into Roch ‘N’ Horse, an interesting clash. Babylon Berlin’s trainer, Ben Foote, might be tempted to venture to Flemington too. With a little more maturity, his charge seems to be managing the 1200 metres now and there would appear to be not much between the three mares.

The winning stake for the Telegraph added distance between Proisir (Choisir) and Savabeel (Zabeel) for the Sire Premiership, and if Legarto (Proisir) lands the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) next week, that might make it very difficult for Savabeel to catch Proisir. The margin just increased to $825,000.

The firmer the better

Another mare to regain winning form is Belle En Rouge (Burgundy), who gave two recent hints that she was ready after being hampered by the wet, spring tracks.

She closed out her three-year-old career with a decisive victory in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400), but the spring rains and five starts on heavy tracks resulted in one fourth placing at Listed level as well as two races in which she finished last. That all changed at Pukekohe on Boxing Day with a solid finish for fourth then an even better second in the Rich Hill Mile (Gr 2, 1600m) on New Year’s Day.

“It’s good to see her back”, said trainer Mark Walker. “It was just all those wet tracks and now she’s back on good ground and showing what she’s made of again. She’s always been a special filly because she was bred [by David and Karyn Ellis] on the farm as well”.

Belle En Rouge was slow away, improved to be back of midfield then drifted to be fifth last (rails) at the 1000 metres and third last inside the 600 metres. Rounding into the straight she had a wall in front of her, moved out at the 300 metres and found a huge gap out in the centre of the track. Accelerating from the 200 metres she gathered in the leaders at the 100-metre mark,  then came away for a good win.

Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis commented: “We won Group One races with both Belle En Rouge and Maven Belle, another homebred filly by Burgundy, last season. Maven Belle had a fetlock injury before winning fresh-up last Sunday at Pukekohe, and it’s great to see this mare back winning another stakes race”.

Like Ardrossan, Burgundy is a son of Redoute’s Choice (Danehill), but was lost to the industry in 2019. Belle En Rouge’s five wins include four at stakes level and her earnings are just shy of half a million. She is a very valuable mare.

Bred to get two miles

Saturday’s Trentham Stakes (Gr 3, 2100m) provided quite a spectacle when tearaway pacemaker Sagunto (O’Reilly) scorched clear by eight lengths leaving the back straight and was still sixclear starting the run home. In a gallant effort, he was not caught until the 50 metres for a good second, when collared by Ladies Man (Zed).

Not to be denied, however, Ladies Man had to be good to bridge what looked like an impossible gap at the top of the straight. From the 600 metres he improved, went wider into the straight but was giving the tearway at least ten lengths at the 400 metres. Fourth at the 300 metres, he charged into second at the 100 metres, then caught the pacemaker late for the win.

It was the first stakes win for the five-year-old son of Zed (Zabeel) and he is currently the favourite for the upcoming Wellington Cup (Gr 3, 3200m).

He has much going for him, being by Zed, whose stock can manage the longer distances well, bolstered by being a half-brother to Ladies First (Dylan Thomas), the 2018 Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner, one of her nine wins.

Their dam, Just Polite (Dehere) was a Group 3 winner in Sydney over 2000 metres and her half-sister, Spiriting (Montjeu) is the dam of Bendigo Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) winner and Adelaide Cup (Gr 2, 3200m) second, Top Of The Range (Savabeel), so, Ladies Man has plenty to recommend him over the 3200 metres.

Almost full Kiwi

Cognito (So You Think) was bred in Australia and purchased by David Ellis, not from the Magic Millions Gold Coast January sale but their mid-year yearling sale, for $165,000.

His win in the Wellington Guineas (Gr 2, 1400m) was impressive, showing a terrific turn of foot when finally seeing daylight. Tardy from the jump, he settled back of midfield, Opie Bosson finding the fence at the 1000 metres. He had four behind him inside the 800 and rounding into the straight was well bottled up. Although gaining, he was still pocketed at the 250 metres, found a narrow gap at 150 metres, shot through quickly into third and his momentum carried him to the line.

This was just his sixth start and he has three wins, has twice placed, including second in the War Decree Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) and ran on quite well for sixth in the NZ 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m). In other words, he is well above average.

He is a son of the Kiwi-bred champion So You Think (High Chaparral). His dam, Lady Primrose (More Than Ready), was bred in Australia, but his grandam, Parramatta Cup (Listed, 2000m) winner Primrose Sands (Zabeel), hails from a well-known New Zealand family.

Primrose Sands is by Zabeel (Sir Tristram) from Kylemore (Prince Echo), a daughter of Group 1 sprinter Valencia (Bismark II), herself a sister to the topclass racehorse and very good sire Vice Regal (Bismark II).

Young and emerging dual Group 1 winning sire, Tarzino (Tavistock) is from Zarzino, also by Zabeel from Kindness (Star Way) whose dam, Vice Reine (Amalgam) is a half-sister to Vice Regal and Valencia.

Lives on

We said farewell to Sir Patrick Hogan last week, and full marks to whoever came up with the idea of one knight’s final salute to another. It was so poignant. Although sad, the final goodbye by the late Sir Patrick to Sir Tristram is a memory that will live on.

Saturday saw a result, the like of which we will continue to see for some time yet, Sir Patrick reminding us of his amazing influence when Flemington’s Standish Handicap (Gr 3, 1200m) winner, Snapper (Power), led all the way for his sixth win since being transferred from Ballymore Matamata Stables and Pam Gerrard’s base to Mike Moroney’s in Melbourne.

Snapper was bred by Sir Patrick and Justine, Lady Hogan and sold through the Cambridge Stud draft of 2019, making $60,000. It was the five-year-old’s maiden stakes success. His dam is a Listedplaced half-sister Group 2 winner Taimana (Woodman) while his grandam is a half-sister to brothers Danewin (Danehill) and Commands (Danehill) and to Chalet Girl (Imposing), the third dam of Verry Elleegant (Zed).

Although not a stakes race, the first at Trentham went to Mercurial, the son of Burgundy (Redoute’s Choice), a stallion Sir Patrick chose to stand at Cambridge Stud. It was win three for Mercurial and he descends directly from Taiona (Sovereign Edition), the mare, who, arguably set both Sir Patrick and Sir Tristram on their fantastic journey, when Sovereign Red won the Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) – Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) double in the spring of 1980.

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