Top of the pops

A fifth individual Group 1 winner, courtesy of Prowess (Proisir), in an eventful Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (Gr 1, 2050m), has put Rich Hill Stud’s Proisir (Choisir) into rarified air.

The stud’s fortunes, especially this season, seem endless. Last week’s Kiwi Chronicles detailed this high level of success, not only through Proisir but also Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact), whose Tokyo Tycoon handed the stallion his first Group 1 winner, taking out the Sistema Stakes (1200m) in dominant fashion. This season is surely one for the record books.

However, if the sire rankings were measured like a weekly hit parade, Westbury Stud’s Redwood (High Chaparral) would have been top of the pops for three of the past four weeks.

Certainly, the New Zealand Sire Premiership is done and dusted. Prowess’s $184,000 from Saturday’s victory has merely increased Proisir’s lead over Savabeel (Zabeel). The difference has grown to $1.7 million.

Nevertheless, the rise of Redwood has been spectacular this past four weeks, beginning with Sharp ‘N’ Smart (Redwood) taking on and beating the older horses in the country’s richest weight-for-age race, the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m). The winning stake was $258,750.

The New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m), this year run at Te Rapa, also fell to Sharp ‘N’ Smart. His winning margin wasn’t flattering but he has that treasured will to win, evidenced by his narrow, yet gutsy, wins in Sydney last spring. Add another $575,000 to the coffers.

Enter Platinum Invador, the seven-year-old son of Redwood, who has toiled away for several seasons. In a true stayer’s performance, the Lisa Latta-trained gelding ran down Victorian raider, Kiwi-bred Nerve Not Verve (Shocking) in the Auckland Cup (Gr 2, 3200m), ringing up a further $287,500.

In the space of a month, these three wins account for $1,121,250 of Redwood’s current total of $1,692,560. Without Sharp ‘N’ Smart and Platinum Invador, Redwood would be outside the top 25 in the rankings. Instead, he has leap-frogged all the way to third.

In Australia, Redwood is among the top fifty (48th) but that ranking may well improve dramatically if Sharp ‘N’ Smart is as good as we think he is. An Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) win would propel the stallion into the top 30. Anamoe (Street Boss) would be the giant obstacle should Sharp ‘N’ Smart head to the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) but that scenario is a long way off.

By some coincidence, the February 21 Kiwi Chronicles’ lead subject related to the question of Redwood’s sire High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells) as a potential sire line. Success in the form of So You Think and Dundeel as sires (as well as grandsires) were front and centre of the discussion. Redwood, along with Toronado and Contributer, was given an honourable mention. To Russell Warwick and the staff at Westbury Stud, Redwood deserves an extra-honourable mention. The stallion is getting the job done in style.

Three-year-olds on fire

Matching Sharp ‘N’ Smart is Prowess, both of whom have taken on and defeated the older horses at weight-for-age. These two, plus Legarto (Proisir), have provided us with an unusually good crop of three-year-olds.

While Legarto will not be seen again until next season, plans for Prowess and Sharp ‘N’ Smart are still unfolding, but the riches and honours in Australia are firmly the target.

Although her trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood gave Prowess a brief let-up after her third to Legarto in the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), she has been up since September. Being the patient trainers they are, a hit-and-run Sydney campaign may be restricted to one start, possibly the Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) at Rosehill, less than two weeks away.

The decision to by-pass the New Zealand Derby was, in hind-sight, the best for the filly. A tough and Derby-distance proven Sharp ‘N’ Smart may have undone her. That extra 400 metres can be very telling.

Referencing Prowess’s withdrawal from the Derby, James commented: “We made the decision not to, which was definitely the right thing to do.”

Although a small field of just eight, the Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes attracted Group 1 winner La Crique (Vadamos), as well as Campionessa (Contributer), who gave Sharp ‘N’ Smart plenty to think about late in the running of the Herbie Dyke. Also in the field was the 2022 New Zealand Derby winner Asterix (Tavistock).

Prowess was caught four wide with a lap to run and then went forward to sit second, two out, holding her position past the 1200 metres and on to the bend. Approaching the 600 metres she pressured the leader and formed a line of three at the top of the straight. She led narrowly near the 300 metres, bored out under pressure soon after, and caused a heavy bump (to Defibrillate). Steadied, she was then challenged on her outer. At the 100 metres she lay out, bumped Campionessa momentarily, but kept finding to edge away by a neck at the post.

The stewards decided that her bumping with Campionessa was insufficient to alter the result. The fllly did, however, keep moving to the outer from the 300 metres and Defibrillate (Shocking) was severely hampered.

Co-trainer Wellwood was confident that the brush with Campionessa was not severe enough to deny the filly her Group 1. “You know for a moment there it looked like perhaps we might be going to get beaten, but she was just labouring with nothing in front of her, as when she saw the challengers come up to her she kicked again,” said Wellwood. “It was very impressive and very exciting. I saw the head-on film and I didn’t think we had any concerns from what I saw.”

An Australian Group 1 is the desire of all breeders and Prowess will need to call on all her talent in Sydney. They don’t give Group 1s away willy-nilly but against her own gender and age group there is every reason to believe that she will be more than competitive. The hustle and bustle typical of Sydney racing is always a challenge. However, Legarto’s fabulous win in the Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) is good inspiration.

In eight starts she has accumulated $957,740 from six wins, four of which are black-type  races and two Group placings including a third to Legarto.

As for Proisir, his Levante has made the flight to Sydney seeking more Group 1 honours, however, she will have to get past Anamoe to claim her first in Australia. What about an upset?

Reward for the warrior

The warrior, Platinum Invador (Redwood), was having his 39th start and the Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) for what was just his fifth win, bettering his previous best performance when taking out the City of Auckland Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) at Ellerslie in January, 2020.

He has toiled away since scoring his maiden win at Otaki as a three-year-old, adding two more wins (over 2100 metres) so was given his chance at some of the premier races for his age group. His third in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m), won by Crown Prosecutor (Medaglia D‘Oro), proved to be an unlucky third. Two starts in Sydney, against their best staying three-year-olds produced ordinary efforts.

At four he found form in the December to run third in the Wanganui Cup (Listed, 2040m), then second in the Manawatu Cup (Gr 3, 2200m), before the Group 3 City of Auckland Cup success. A second in the Avondale Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) preceded a solid third in the 2020 Auckland Cup won by Roger That (Shinko King).

Five spring runs in Melbourne at five, presumably to gain entry into the Melbourne Cup, brought one placing, a third in the Herbert Power Stakes (Gr 2, 2400m) at Caulfield. Heading back home for the summer, he managed a second placing in the City of Auckland Cup then fourths in both the Avondale and Auckland Cups.

Two autumn starts in Brisbane resulted in a second and a fourth but he sustained an injury and had to be put aside for a year.

Taking a similar route to his four-year-old season, this season has resulted in fourths in the Wanganui and Manawatu Cups, plus fifths in the Queen Elizabeth Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) and Avondale Cup. He is one tough customer and his win was just reward for the warrior.

From fourthlast with circuit to run, he gained ground down the back straight and kept gaining starting the bend before improving quickly to be midfield, but wide, inside the 600m. Starting the run home in sixth, he balanced, kept improving to be second at the 200 metres but had to catch the leader. He still had plenty to do at the 100 metres but wore the leader down near the post. The win took his earnings beyond $750,000, an excellent return on the $25,000 his trainer Lisa Latta gave for him at the 2017 NZB Karaka Festival Sale.

“This is absolutely fantastic as I’ve tried a few times to win this race and we’ve run a few placings,” Latta said. “It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win and I’m just thrilled for the owners. They have been such loyal supporters of mine.” The trainer was encouraged after a comment from Jonathan Riddell, jumping off after Wednesday’s work: “Finally, you’ve got this horse fit.”

For Riddell, the 55 kilograms was too light so Ryan Elliot phoned for the ride upon seeing the weights. “He jumped away better today and landed in a nice spot and I got the drag up behind Aquacade. When he let down, he just roared home,” said Elliot.

Once the race everyone wanted to win, the Auckland Cup has lost the gloss of its glory days. It is not alone. Here, in New Zealand, the Wellington Cup (Gr 3, 3200m) has suffered the same fate. In Australia, the Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth Cups have all found it difficult to attract big and/or quality fields. The industry has gradually turned its focus to shorter races for the older non-sprinters. It used to be the major question of a horse with any ability: “Can he/she stay?”

Nowadays, the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) the exception, the emphasis is on 1600metre and 2000metre events. While the stakes monies are attractive, from a breeder’s standpoint, the staying type is not desirable in the sales ring and the reason behind that is a lack of patience in getting a return on the outlay for an expensive yearling. The desire for early speed makes breeding stayers that much more problematic, hence the trend of buying them already made from Europe.

It is what it is but the connections of Platinum Invador have the patience of Job and were duly rewarded on Saturday.

He is one of four winners from four to race from his placed dam, Atomic Dancer (Danehill Dancer) while his granddam, Bomba Atomica (Prince Tenderfoot) was a Listed winner and Group 3 placed in Italy.

His family is essentially Italian with his third dam a half-sister to three stakes winners including Barzini (Nebos), a 15-time winner who placed third in the Premio Roma (Gr 1, 2800m).

No Sydney

Five starts, five wins and a cool $832,000 in the bank. Those are the stats for Tokyo Tycoon (Satono Aladdin) who, again, made short work of his maiden Group 1 following a stunning win in the Karaka 2YO Million (LR, 1200m) in January and some winning track-work in the Matamata Slipper (Gr 3, 1200m) last month.

In Saturday’s Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) he was, surprisingly, quickly away then sat just back and outside the lead around the bend and on to the straight. He ranged alongside from the 300 metres but his rider Opie Bosson didn’t ask for anything until the 200 metres, the pacemaker (Ulanova) giving quite a good fight. Once he gained the upper hand he then pulled clear to win quite easily, stringing out the small field of seven.

“I was a bit surprised he jumped and put himself so close today, but he travelled so good and Opie just sat and waited,” said winning trainer Mark Walker. “He loafed a little bit, but he just goes out there and knows what his job is.”

We do not yet know how good this guy is. His ability is enormous and his potential is untapped. Although Saturday’s Sistema Stakes means he is an elite-level winner, the field he beat in the Karaka Million was superior, both in quality and numbers.

In the biggest field assembled for any two-year-old stakes race this season, he had to be very good to extricate himself from what looked to be an impossible position at the 300 metres in the Karaka Million. When pulled out from the fence for clear running, he clearly overpowered his rivals. It was a sensational performance, not dissimilar to that of Legarto (Proisir) in the Australian Guineas a week previously.

Perhaps he scared away the opposition but the Slipper at Matamata and the Sistema at Pukekohe drew disappointing fields. Apart from one or two, Tokyo Tycoon’s competition has been suspect. Then again, you can only beat those who wish to compete.

As of yesterday, we now know that continuing towards the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) is off the program, as is a tilt at the Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) at Randwick during The Championships. The horse comes first and a spell is deserved but the 1400 metres would have been right up his alley.

Tokyo Tycoon is the second winner out of the three-time winning dam, All About The Coin (Starcraft), herself a half-sister to the good sprinter-miler and $970,000 earner Messene (Lonhro), a Group 2 winner in Sydney who also ran second in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) in Perth. His third dam, Mam’selle Giselle (Kenmare) is a sister to Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) victor Baryshnikov (Kenmare) and half-sister to another Australian Guineas winner, champion sire Zabeel (Sir Tristram).

Adding Group 1 wins by their Proisir and Satono Aladdin, it was another stellar day for Rich Hill Stud. They must be pinching themselves.

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