Kiwi Chronicles

Spring in the air, and in our step

Out of the gloom of winter, Hastings’ Daffodil day on Saturday provided a preview of the potential for the new season. It was a breath of fresh spring air.

The same applied to the Foxbridge Plate (Gr 2, 1200m), run two weeks ago, the three stakes races drew quality as well as interesting fields. Race fans were presented with many of last season’s stars proving, again, that when stakes monies are upped, owners and trainers are ready to join in. It felt like a corner had been turned, so bring on the rest of the season.

The track co-operated also. Last year, the day was marred by a bog surface which ruined several campaigns. That track never recovered and the middle day of the carnival had to be transferred to Matamata. Thankfully, Saturday’s surface was a Soft 5, thus providing a respite from recent heavy tracks.

Prior to Daffodil Day, Auckland Thoroughbred Racing announced new levels of stakes plus boosts to the top level including an additional $500,000 to the Karaka 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m) which, last year, gave us the best field of the year.

ATR’s Paul Wilcox also updated the industry on Ellerslie’s new StrathAyr track, predicting that it will be ready for the showcase Karaka Millions meeting immediately prior to the NZB Karaka Yearling Sale. The track will likely get its initial trial in midJanuary to test the track itself and iron out any gremlins.

It has been a long time coming, but there is an air of hope and confidence that has been so needed to uplift our local racing scene. If the effect is to grow fields and to keep some of our better horses here for a little longer, then the Auckland-Counties merger combined with the Entain/TAB deal will have been worthwhile.

Tangerine and blue banner day

Te Akau Racing’s tangerine and blue had yet another banner day. David and Karyn Ellis plus the team have enjoyed many highlights throughout the years. Their dominance of New Zealand racing has been significant, yet Saturday would have to rank alongside any previous highlights.

The stable bagged all three stakes on the Hastings card and two of their syndicates, associated with Tokyo Tycoon (Satono Aladdin) and Quintessa (Shamus Award), provided the perfect advertisement.

A quality field was assembled for the first Group 1 of the season, the Tarzino Trophy (Gr 1, 1400m), and it went to Te Akau-trained Skew Wiff (Savabeel), owned by the country’s leading stud, Waikato Stud. Hindsight being 20/20, the fact that Opie Bosson chose to ride Skew Wiff in the Foxbridge Plate then stick with her for the Tarzino, spoke volumes.

The four-year-old becomes the 32nd Group 1 winner for champion sire Savabeel (Zabeel) and also his 135th individual stakes winner. Towards the end of last season Kiwi Chronicles predicted that Savabeel’s reign, including eight successive NZ Sire Premierships, is far from over. Skew Wiff has ensured a solid kick off for premiership number nine. He is a marvel.

Te Akau’s new venture at Cranbourne got away to a fairytale beginning when Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) pummelled a small but select field in the McEwen Stakes (Gr 2, 1000m). Many Australian commentators were speechless after the mare left the brilliant Giga Kick (Scissor Kick) in the dust.

The 1000 metres was expected to be a smidge sharp for Imperatriz. Giga Kick had the drop on her down the side, but when he zipped around her, Michael Dee aboard Imperatriz latched on to his back. In the straight, she blew past and The Everest (1200m) favourite Giga Kick was made to look a tad ordinary, which he isn’t. It’s just that Imperatriz is super competitive and right at her peak.

In 20 starts she has racked up 14 wins including five at the elite level. Although she has two 1600 metre Group 1s to her name, she is clearly very speedy. On that basis, a slot in The Everest would normally be a foregone conclusion, but the stable will stick to their original plan and the mare will be kept to Melbourne.

Since Jamie Richards departure to Hong Kong, the stable has not missed a beat. Mark Walker picked up the baton and ran hard. He has since taken on Sam Bergerson as co-trainer for this new season and sent a signal across the Tasman that, with New Zealand conquered, look out Australia.


A little under the radar, Saturday’s Tarzino Stakes winner, Skew Wiff, completed her three-year-old career with successive Group 1 seconds. In Trentham’s Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) she surged into the lead inside the 200m and only a massive fight back from Romancing The Moon (El Roca) denied her.

At Pukekohe, for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), she ran into Belclare (Per Incanto), a five-year-old versus her being just three. She tried hard all the way to the line and had some handy sorts in her rearview mirror.

Fresh up at Te Rapa for the Foxbridge Plate, Skew Wiff kicked away at the 300 metres and looked a huge chance. Only a dogged Dragon Leap (Pierro) got past, but she never gave in.

She was due, and in Saturday’s feature Opie Bosson had her beautifully positioned early to settle one-out-and-one-back at the 1200 metres. A handy fifth approaching the 600, they went three wide and into fourth at the top of the straight. Bosson held her up, drove forward into second at the 200 metres, then took over by a length at the 100. To the line she was attacked, but gamely held on by a long neck.

Skew Wiff’s previous win was a Benchmark 65 race at Matamata last February. Bosson was aboard that day too. She has handled the jump in class very well and the Tarzino was a hot field. Based on that, we can expect her record to grow.

She is the first foal and so far only foal to race from Starvoia (Starcraft), a Listed winner at Wingatui. Skew Wiff was entered for, but withdrawn from, the 2021 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale. Similarly, Starvoia was withdrawn from the 2015 Karaka Sale. She is a granddaughter of Dowry (Bahhare), winner of the South Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m).

Dowry is one of three stakes winners from Meant For Me (Noble Bijou), a full sister to Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Our Sophia.

Money spinner

Tokyo Tycoon is a star and it is going to take something special to knock him off his pedestal. Through no fault of his own, Tokyo Tycoon should be unbeaten. Ask him and he would tell you he is.

First past the post in all six of his starts, the three-year-old is hugely exciting. Only a stable mix up cost him the Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m). Rules are rules and mean a blot on his record, but his raw talent is evident and was on display in Saturday’s El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (Listed, 1200m).

From the outside (barrier 10) he settled third last (two out) and held there to the 600 metres. Opie Bosson then sent him first three wide then four wide but they were travelling well into the straight. From the 300, he gained to be only a length off the lead. Inside the 200 metres, he pounced to the front and to the line had his rivals well under control.

We saw his explosiveness last season. He settles, waits then blows past. He really hasn’t been tested yet which is very exciting for the New Zealand scene. Needless to say, we know where he is headed. Did someone say Cranbourne?

Like Skew Wiff, Tokyo Tycoon is out of a Starcraft (Soviet Star) mare. Starcraft was bred by Waikato Stud’s Garry Chittick and after winning the Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) the entire went on a northern hemisphere jaunt, adding Group 1 victories at Longchamp, setting the track record in the Prix du Moulin (1600m) and at Newmarket in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (8f).

Given his race career, he might have been a shade disappointing as a sire, accumulating 20 stakes winners. Perhaps his daughters will make up for that.

Tokyo Tycoon’s winning dam is a half-sister to Ajax Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m) winner Messene (Lonhro), while his third dam is a half-sister to the great Zabeel (Sir Tristram).

David Ellis found him at the March 2022 NZB Karaka Yearling sale for $125,000. That price is looking like a pittance now as further riches are almost certain.

And another…

Also unbeaten is Te Akau Racing’s Quintessa. Arriving at Hasting with two wins in as many starts, Quintessa didn’t have much to spare in her Pukekohe maiden win or her 3YO Fillies Set Weights win at Taupo last month. That field was considerably better than average and provided Oneira (Contributer) and Tulsi (The Autumn Sun), respectively third and fourth in Saturday’s Gold Trail Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m).

Opie Bosson was again the deciding factor in Quintessa’s win at Hastings, improving her from the 800-metre mark, before rounding into the straight four deep to be sixth at the top of the straight. Bosson waited until the 200 metres, popped the question and she bounded to the lead inside the 100 metres, from where she held off all challenges.

Co-trainer, Mark Walker, is slightly bemused with her sprint form as her dam, Chaquinta is by High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells). The shortest of Chaquinta’s five wins was at 2000 metres, while the longest was at 2700 metres. Three of those wins were in Sydney. From that, it is not difficult to imagine that Quintessa’s long-range goal might be an Oaks.

Chaquinta’s dam is a half-sister La Quinta (Tavistock), dam of last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) winner, Dionysus (Ocean Park).

Quintessa was sourced at the 2022 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale for $170,000. She knows where the line is and will recoup that and more.

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