Kiwi Chronicles

Tarzino reprise

A 50 per cent boost to the stake for the Foxbridge Plate (Gr 2, 1200m) on Saturday brought together a fine field and resulted in a most competitive race. The Waikato Racing Club had to be pleased, setting the scene for an interesting spring.

The field was not only a quality one, it was also sizeable, suggesting that when the prizemoney is upped, trainers and owners respond.

As a harbinger, we will likely see a repeat at Hastings for the Tarzino Trophy (Gr 1, 1400m), two weeks on, for which the prizemoney has doubled from the amount offered in 2022. Judging from the runs of the first five or six home in the Foxbridge, the Tarzino should be equally engaging.

With $400,000 on offer, 11 from Saturday’s race are among the early nominations. Added to those are Sharp ‘N’ Smart (Redwood), La Crique (Vadamos), Legarto (Proisir), He’s a Doozy (Zacinto), Dark Destroyer (Proisir), Pennyweka (Satono Aladdin), Lickety Split (Turn Me Loose), Campionessa (Contributer), Aromatic (Sacred Falls), White Noise (El Roca) and Mazzolino (Savabeel).

Nominations are just that, and the final field will obviously fall away, however, the Hastings club can look forward to a bumper event. The first of the triple crown Group 1s is certain to be one of the strongest of the season. One thing that the club will be hoping to avoid is a bad track. There were a number of runners last year who were undone by the track and it affected their season.

At Te Rapa, Dragon Leap (Pierro) was aided by a heady ride from South African import Warren Kennedy. Kennedy is a thinker and his vast experience tells. Our jockey ranks are fortunate to have such a talent and that was on display during Saturday’s feature.

One of the slowest away, Kennedy did not panic, but waited until the first corner to improve his charge to midfield. From the 600-metre mark, he inched closer, then cast wider rounding into the straight, yet was standing up the leader at least six lengths at the top of the straight. Kennedy had the seven-year-old beautifully balanced, charged, and was within three at the 200. Leader, Skew Wiff (Savabeel), looked likely at that point, but the lead shrunk to a length inside the 100 metres.

Skew Wiff rallied, but Dragon Leap got the upper hand over the final 50 metres and the gelding’s sixth career victory and third at Group 2 level was assured.

Kennedy was in South Africa when Dragon Leap won the Auckland Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) in January of 2020, followed by the Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m) a few weeks later, yet believes that the horse is best suited to shorter distances, a belief backed up by trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.

“He did go over ground as a three-year-old, but he really does seem better kept to sprinting,” said O’Sullivan. “If he can go well at Hastings we will probably look to give him a break, as he does well with his races spaced and the Railway and Telegraph are nice options in the summer.”

Dragon Leap will head to Hastings, but Kennedy is slated to ride Aromatic, should the mare accept. If, as expected, Legarto and La Crique both line up, we will have some race on our hands.

Runner up Skew Wiff, having her first start at four, must be close to gaining a winner’s cheque. She looked like the winner after skipping clear from the 300 metres, and to lose by a short neck was a very good effort. Her three-year-old season was rounded out with consecutive Group 1 seconds in the Levin Classic (Gr 1,1600m) and the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1,1600m).

From just behind the leading group, Jodelin Gal (Swiss Ace) finished well for third, but not as strongly as Belclare (Per Incanto) who from third last into the straight put in some big strides out in the centre of the track for a super fourth.

Family fortunes

Lightly-raced (just 20 starts), Dragon Leap was an expensive purchase by Hermitage Thoroughbreds, who outlaid $AU1,050,000 for him at the 2018 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale. Saturday’s cheque took his earnings to a little less than half that.

He is one of 34 stakes winners by Pierro (Lonhro) from a wonderful producer, Group 2 placed Pontiana (Redoute’s Choice). At the time of Dragon Leap’s purchase Pontiana had already foaled millionaire Inference (So You Think), winner of the Randwick Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

Since then, Dragon Leap’s unraced sister Pontero (Pierro) has become the dam of Golden Rose (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Jacquinot (Rubick) and in 2019 Pontiana produced Listed winner Illation (So You Think). Three stakes winners and a Group 1 producer from seven foals is impressive.

Pontiana’s dam, Liberty Rose (Royal Academy) won at Listed level and produced Pontiana’s Perth stakes winning brother, Grand Jardin (Redoute’s Choice). Pontiana’s grandam, Cherry Garden (Sir Tristram) was bred in New Zealand. Her grandam is South Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner, Lady Liberty (Noble Bijou).

The family has its roots at Ra Ora Stud when Woolf Fisher (before he was knighted) imported Cherry Garden’s fifth dam Oleanda (Pink Flower) during the late 1950s. Oleanda raced as Sweet Pea II in England and was wellrelated, ranking as a half-sister to Red Sunset (Solario), the grandam of The Derby (Gr 1, 12f) and 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 8f) champion, Crepello (Donatello II).

Twenty-six stakes winners, including five Group 1 winners, descend directly from Oleanda. They included recently retired speedster Away Game (Snitzel), a multiple Group winner who was second in the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m). She fetched $AU4 million at the 2022 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. Pontiana’s grandam Cherry Garden and Away Game’s grandam, Abbotswood (Sir Tristram), are sisters.

More Kiwi roots

San Domenico Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) winner, Libertad (Russian Revolution), also traces to the New Zealand Stud Book.

He lined up at Rosehill with the best record in the field and despite being shunned by punters, left the course unbeaten in three starts, this latest win achieved stylishly, taking over at the 200 metres and defying his rivals to get past.

Now the pressure goes on which is expected when scoring two Group 3s in your only three starts. Trainer Annabel Neasham expects the colt to improve, commenting that his coat was so woolly, great tufts were coming out while being saddled. Neasham believes that the colt can get over ground and his bloodlines back that up.

Like Dragon Leap, his blood also features Sir Tristram (Sir Ivor). His third dam is the Ellerslie  Auckland Classic (Gr 1, 2000m) winner, Sir Tristram’s offspring Lurestina. The Classic was one her eight wins and at stud she produced Libertad’s grandam, the Listed winner Miss Bussell (Danzero).

Miss Bussell claimed Group 1 thirds in the Queensland Derby (2400m) and the Champagne Stakes (1600m), and her staying ability was passed on to her daughter, Miss Darcey (Hussonet), an Adrian Knox Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) winner who ran third in the 2009 Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) behind Daffodil (No Excuse Needed).

Lurestina’s brother, Stirring (Sir Tristram), won 12 including a Grafton Cup (Listed, 2300m), while her half-brother, Lanolin (Marscay) won the Randwick Summer Cup (Gr 3, 2400m).

The next dam Noelani (Battle-Waggon) landed open handicaps at Avondale and Ellerslie, where she also ran third in the Oliver Nicholson Handicap (Listed, 2400m). Noelani was one of four New Zealand foals of her imported dam Amelia (Wilwyn), who foaled Perth Belgravia Stakes (Listed, 7f) winner Prince Of Babylon (King Of Babylon) while in Australia.

Tavistock’s next SW?

He didn’t have much to spare in Saturday’s Benchmark 78 handicap at Rosehill, but Marquess (Tavistock) looks to have inherited some of his family’s talent, taking his record to four successive wins in his last four starts.

Bred and raced in the Godolphin blue, Marquess took five starts to break his maiden, at Hawkesbury last September and promptly repeated at Newcastle two weeks later. The gelding then had almost a year off.

“We had to give him a little bit of time. There were times where we weren’t that happy with him, but he has got a wonderful pedigree to keep improving and he might be able to get further, ” said trainer James Cummings.

Rider James McDonald added: He is only a big baby, but he has got talent.”

He is also royally bred. His dam, Purple (Commands), was a dual Group 1 winner at three, landing the Storm Queen Stakes (2000m) and the Queensland Oaks (2400m), two of her six wins. Her dam, Lady Viola (Zabeel), won at Randwick, Caulfield and Moonee Valley, but at stud had just two foals, Purple being her only filly.

Lady Viola’s dam, Scarlet Robin (First Consul), is a half-sister to Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) champion Sovereign Red (Sir Tristram) and to Gurner’s Lane (Sir Tristram), winner of the 1982 Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) and Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m).

Vale Zacinto

After a spell of poor health, Inglewood Stud’s Zacinto (Dansili) has been laid to rest.

The stallion has been making some noise too. Ucalledit recently landed back-to-back stakes in Sydney, and just last week his Crocetti scampered away with the Northland Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at Ruakaka by a widening four and a half lengths, ensuring that Zacinto’s name will be around for a little while yet.

Crocetti is Zacinto’s ninth stakes winner and is being set for the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), a race won by Zacinto’s firstcrop stakes winner, Ugo Foscolo in 2016. During the season just ended, He’s A Doozy became his second elite-level winner when taking out the Thorndon Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) in January.

On the racetrack his best season was at three, when bagging the Celebration Mile (Gr 2, 8f) at Goodwood and achieving a healthy Timeform rating of 126 and a 122 WTR, the same year.

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