Kiwi Chronicles

Harder, fitter, winner

When the Hastings track, due to a sudden downpour, was not able to complete its Wednesday, February 28 card, plans among the staying three-year-old fillies aiming for the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) were thrown askew.

The Lowland Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) is a popular and natural lead up to the classic and it was rescheduled for Friday, March 8, at Taupo, just eight days before the Oaks.

There were comments about the short span of time allowed to prepare but they were somewhat dispelled when the Lowland winner, Pulchritudinous (Wrote) drew away convincingly, her time a more than respectable 2:29.67.

Midfield at the 1200-metre, she wasn’t asked to move until near the 600 metres, found room three out and accelerated to be camped behind the leading group at the top of the straight. She bounded forward from the 350 metres and past the 200 metres had the lead then drew out by 1.75 lengths.

Post race, trainer Chad Ormsby commented: “We thought there might be some concerns around whether we might get there or if it might come up a bit too soon for her, but the ability was always there.”

Pulchritudinous trialled twice at two but was kept until September of her three-year-old career for her first start and broke her maiden at Tauranga over 1400 metres in October. Three starts later she was a close third over 1600 metres at Tauranga which set the platform for her Lowland Stakes win. Appreciating the extra 400 metres at Taupo she was strong to the line. Add another 400 metres on the roomy Trentham track and her staying powers were in greater evidence in Saturday’s Oaks.

As to her immediate future and possible attempt at the Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m), Ormsby added: “I think maybe the paddock might be beckoning but having said that, she hasn’t batted an eyelid with anything that we’ve chucked at her so far, and that’s a great attribute to have.”

With a record of seven starts for three wins she is the third stakes winner for Highview Stud’s Wrote (High Chaparral). All three are females. In Melbourne, Wrote is represented by the good mare Wrote To Arataki, a Group 2 and Group 3 winner. The other is Best Seller, also a Group 3 winner and who ran second in the New Zealand 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

Wrote has two further stakes performers and has sired 80 winners. He has a winners/runners ratio of 53 per cent.

Pulchritudinous is the second winner from the Pentire (Be My Guest) mare Showus. The highly versatile Pentire is also the damsire of last year’s Oaks winner Pennyweka (Satono Aladdin), something breeders might tuck away for future reference.

Ormsby’s filly has made two appearances at Karaka, once as a yearling, from Tony Rider’s Milan Park draft of 2022, then again at the Ready To Run Sale, offered by Riverrock Farm.

Ormsby purchased the yearling filly for $32,500 but she failed to reach her $50,000 reserve in the November sale and was syndicated. The Oaks win has taken her earnings to $389,205 so the syndicate holders will be delighted.

Her granddam Perfect Pair (Redoute’s Choice) had just two foals and ranks as a half-sister to the sharp two-year-old Kenfair (Kenmare). Her third dam Market Fair (Biscay) is a sister to the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner and champion sire, Marscay (Biscay).

It’s not like the old days……
Is it possible that Pulchritudinous’s level of fitness and hardness might have come into play? It sure looks that way. There were few excuses for those behind her. The eight day turnaround was never a factor, at least not in her case.

It might be an old sawhorse but horses of yesteryear were given much tougher campaigns than their modern counterparts. Also, tracks were not watered. Nature was in charge and often, dust would obscure race viewing because in summer the tracks were truly hard and fast.

Although he was an exceptional racehorse, Rising Fast (Alonzo) had the most remarkable and testing October of 1954. The then five-year-old won the Turnbull Stakes on the second, the Caulfield Stakes on the 13th, the Caulfield Cup on the 16th, the WS Cox Plate on the 23rd and the LKS Mackinnon Stakes on the 30th.

As if that weren’t enough, after a break of three days he won the Melbourne Cup the following Tuesday carrying 9st 5lbs. Rising Fast was hard and fit, not to mention exceptionally tough. Can you imagine such a campaign these days?

Okay, so that was 70 years ago but this column recently related the example of March Legend (Idomeneo) who raced in the 1970s and was trained by Bill Sanders.

March Legend at two raced in and won the first race of the season for the juveniles. He never spelled and the following April won the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes.

That was his 18th start for the season and fifth win, yet Sanders headed to Te Aroha, only seven days later, and took on the older horses at weight-for-age and he ran third behind the top mare Battle Eve (Battle-Waggon) in the All-Aged Stakes. March Legend did have a short let up yet was seen out again for win six at Avondale in July, before the season ended. Cotton wool was not an option for March Legend.

Iffraaj still a force
Equally impressive was the Wellington Guineas (Gr 2, 1400m) winner, Grail Seeker (Iffraaj), whose prospects looked bleak entering the home straight.

From second last, the filly produced a superb run despite being hampered when improving at the 350 metres. The narrowest of gaps presented itself then quickly closed yet the filly was undeterred and fought her way through.

Once in the clear she gathered in the leaders and drew away for a comprehensive win, her second in eight starts.

She is the second recent big winner for the Haunui Farm ex-shuttler who only ceased his southern hemisphere duties due to advancing age. Happily, he is very much alive although well into the twilight of his highly respected career. His Jaarffri was successful in the rich Rangitoto Classic (1500m) on Derby day while Grail Seeker represents the stallion’s final New Zealand crop.

Unraced at two, Grail Seeker broke her maiden by 4.5 lengths at start three at Te Rapa in November and since then has been a model of consistency, registering her first black-type in December, second in the Trevor & Corallie Eagle Memorial (Listed, 1500m), at her fourth start.

That was followed by a third to Molly Bloom (Ace High) in the Eight Carat Classic (Gr 2, 1600m) then second in the Desert Gold Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m). Her only blip was a game sixth in the Fillies Classic (Gr 2, 2000m). It says a lot about her versatility to land a stakes win, back from 2000 metres to 1400 metres.

Andrew Scott, who co-trains the filly with Lance O’Sullivan, was pleased with the outcome: “She really deserved a win like this as it would have been a real shame if she had gone to the paddock without a win like that in her three-year-old campaign.”

Grail Seeker is a graduate of the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale. She was sold late on day three, making $130,000.

Her dam, Starwish (Redoute’s Choice), has foaled eight winners and prior to Grail Seeker had also produced the Brisbane Listed winner, Deep Image (Testa Rossa) and being that their granddam is the Group 1 winner, Stella Cadente (Centaine), there exists real residual value.

Stella Cadente and her daughters are responsible for seven stakes winners. Her dam Temple Fire (Bletchingly) is a sister to Kenny’s Best Pal (Bletchingly), winner of the Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

Temple Fire is a half-sister to Bint Marscay (Marscay), winner of the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) as well as Filante (Star Way), a dual elite-level winner of the Yalumba Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and the Epsom Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m). This family has great depth.

Iffraaj and Son

Haunui Farm will, no doubt, be quite pleased to see Ribchester (Iffraaj) sire Group 3 winner Red Card, successful in the Maurice McCarten Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday.

Red Card is from his second Australian crop and she is putting together a healthy record of eight wins in 16 starts. Saturday’s Group 3 was her third stakes win on top of victories in the Denise’s Joy Stakes (Listed, 1100m) and the Queensland Day Stakes (Listed, 1200m). She led all the way and is clearly quite speedy. All but one of her wins have been at 1100 metres or shorter.

A four-time Group 1 miler and £2.7 million (approx. AU$5,235,000) earner, Ribchester stood two seasons at Darley in Australia before taking up duties at Haunui Farm in 2020, replacing his sire, Iffraaj (Zafonic). He is also represented by Maribyrnong Plate (Gr 3, 1000m) winner Krakarib in Australia and in the northern hemisphere by a further seven stakes winners.

How good?
The first on the card at Trentham, a 1200 metres event for the two-year-olds, saw a strange sight, especially given the weight of late money for the inexperienced Sergeant Major (Proisir), having his second start after finishing second on debut, ten days earlier at Otaki.

Slowest away, the gelding was last and wide until the crossing where Sam Weatherly sought better going and took the youngster out into the middle of the track. Out on his own yet racing on one rein, he caught the leaders at the 200 metres then held on in a good effort.

The relatively straight course would not have added too much ground to his journey but being so far away from his opponents he had little in the way of a gauge as to how well he was going.

At the post, however, the margin was 0.75 lengths and the time on the Soft7 track was a fair 1:09.66. The obvious question is: What can he do when he learns to keep straight and be able to eye up his opposition in the run home?

He is son of Proisir (Choisir) and is a brother to dual stakes winner, Soldier Boy (Proisir), winner of the Wanganui Guineas (Listed, 1340m) and the Marton Cup (Listed, 2200m). Two years ago Soldier Boy was fourth in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m). His older sister Vancooga (Proisir) placed second in the 2020 New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

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