Kiwi Chronicles

Where to now?

A tenacious Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) victory by Quintessa (Shamus Award) elevated the plucky filly to be counted as one of the best of this season’s crop of three-year-olds.

The question is: How does she measure up to the unbeaten Crocetti (Zacinto), the boom filly Molly Bloom (Ace High) or the talented Lupo Solitario (Satono Aladdin). Then and only then will we know how good she is. The next question is: When?

With four wins in six starts she has pretty much done all that has been asked of her yet, due to the riches that exist within her stable she is unlikely to be at Ellerslie for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m), for which is eligible as a Te Akau purchase for $170,000 from the 2022 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale Wentwood Grange draft.

The stable’s strategy makes sense, however. The prize-money at Ellerslie is very tempting but so is having a Group 1 alongside one’s name. For a filly, especially for one that represents the commercial arm of Te Akau, ultimately she could follow a number of successful sales of retired racemares. That fact became underlined with the sale of Avantage (Fastnet Rock), whose first foal, by Wootton Bassett (Iffraaj), made a huge splash at the Magic Millions yearling sale last week.

But back to the present, and the filly herself knows where the finishing line is. Maestro Opie Bosson gave her plenty of time to settle and didn’t ask her anything until rounding into the straight. She took over before the 200-metre mark then withstood pressure from all around her. Trentham is no place for such potential vulnerability, yet she braved it out, as the good ones are apt to do.

Like the other Group 1 on the day, the Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200), it was crowded finish by the three-year-olds, with Quintessa holding on grimly by a long head from Zabmanzor (Almanzor) with a half-head to Impendabelle (Impending). The time was a respectable 1:35.76.

Zabmazor’s run had Derby written all over it. He took longer to wind up but he descended hard at the line. Expect to see him show up at either the Waikato Guineas (Gr 2, 2000m) or the Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m), but don’t expect to get fat from his odds.

In the event that Quintessa remains in New Zealand (there is talk of a visit to Te Akau’s Cranbrourne Stable) her options will involve races longer than the 1600 metres of Saturday’s win, but she is bred to go longer. Te Rapa’s David & Karyn Ellis Classic (Gr 2, 2000m) set for Herbie Dyke Stakes day, is one possibility with a natural progression through the Lowland Stakes (Gr 2, 2100m) to the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m), back at Trentham, in March.

Although conceived in Australia, Quintessa has a strong New Zealand connection. Her dam, Chaquinta (High Chaparral) was a Cambridge Stud mare who was sold at Karaka in 2013. Chaquinta won five times including three in Sydney and the minimum distance of those was 2000 metres, while the maximum was 2700 metres. That fact suggests that Quintessa should not be bothered by any step up beyond 1600 metres.

Since her purchase, close relation Dionysus (Ocean Park), whose dam is a half-sister to Chaquinta, has scored the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) and the Waikato Cup (Gr 3, 2400m).

Ocean Park and Quintessa’ sire Shamus Award (Snitzel) were both WS Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) winners. Of Shamus Award’s six Group 1 winners, four are Group 1 winners at 2400 metres: namely Tancred Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m and Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Duais; Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Incentivise; Queensland Derby (Gr1 2400m) winner Mr Quickie and Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner El Patroness.

Not a word
Fit from two recent placings including a two lengths third in the Railway Stakes (Gr 1) behind Waitak (Proisir), Mercurial (Burgundy) was overlooked by the public for the Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m).

Apparently, the five-year-old was similarly overlooked by his connections, judging from a comment by The Oaks Stud’s Rick Williams, who travelled down from the Waikato with Mercurial’s trainer, Stephen Marsh. “I had about eight hours in the car with Marshie and he never uttered a single word about Mercurial,” said Williams.

In a stop-go affair, Mercurial was second early, but Samantha Spratt didn’t press hard and allowed the gelding an easy time of things to co-lead before the junction. Soon after straightening Spratt pushed the button to establish a narrow lead near the 200-metre mark, got a neck clear at the 100 metres, then clung on for dear life by a nose at the line.

“He’s so tough. The more they came at him, the more he stuck his head out,” said winning rider Spratt. The time, given that they were not going full tilt until the straight, was a smart 1:08.51.

Mercurial is by the ill-fated Burgundy (Redoute’s Choice), a three-quarter brother to The Oaks Stud’s recently retired Darci Brahma (Danehill). Described by Te Akau boss David Ellis as the fastest horse that Te Akau has ever trained, Burgundy has proven both his worth as a sire, plus as a loss to the industry.

Siring a double on the Trentham card, Burgundy’s stock are quite versatile. He has now sired Group 1 winners across the spectrum, as his Bell En Rouge won the 2022 running of the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m). His Mondorani was a New Zealand Cup (Gr 3, 3200m) winner.

The first three home in the club’s feature sprint were all by New Zealand-bred stallions, which has probably been achieved in the past but is still a comparative oddity when allowing for the stout lines in our New Zealand Stud Book.

Close runnerup, Express Yourself, is by Windsor Park Stud’s Shamexpress (O’Reilly), best known for his win in Flemington’s timehonoured sprint, the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1). Third, a further neck back, was Bonny Lass who is by Super Easy, a son of Darci Brahma (Danehill).

Mercurial, now a six-times winner in 27 starts, is one of two winners from the unraced Tavistock (Montjeu) mare Roxette. She is a half-sister to Tannhauser (Tavistock), a Listed winner in Malaysia. Roxette was sourced from the 2014 NZB Karaka Festival Yearling Sale for $8000.

Mercurial is raced mostly by his breeders and has not been offered at any sale. His granddam was Group 3 placed half-sister to the dual Tasmanian Group 3 Cup winner Zacielo (Zabeel). His fourth dam is a half-sister to four stakes winners including Sovereign Red (Sir Tristram), the multiple Group 1 winner, who was the catalyst for the stud career of Sir Tristram (Sir Ivor).

Passed the audition
As the first stakes winner on Ellerslie’s new racing surface, Renegade Rebel, representing Westbury Stud’s El Roca (Fastnet Rock), claimed individual stakes winner number ten, with a defiant front-running display at Sunday’s first test of the StrathAyr track; the Gingernuts Salver (Listed, 2100m).

Welljudged by Matt Cameron, the three-year-old was allowed to dictate terms in front and once heads were turned for home, he had plenty in reserve. Over the last 100 metres he was in control to add his second win in four starts.

Renegade Rebel is the fourth winner from a winning half-sister to Queenie (Black Minnaloushe), the dam of Brisbane Group 3 winner Trump (Written Tycoon) and granddam of Run Harry Run (Written Tycoon), a recent Melbourne Group 3 winner.

The track itself held up as expected. Winners on the twilight six-race card won from all positions in the running, indicating a fair surface so the gala night in two weeks should provide a venue that will get the New Zealand sales season off to a great start.

East Coast action
From a New Zealand standpoint, the action on the Gold Coast was at the sales ground rather than at the racecourse, when Te Akau’s David Ellis stole the headlines by bidding up large on several lots.

His strong activity is a testament to the new confidence taking place within our ranks plus Te Akau’s bold expansion venture at Cranbourne. The level of investment has more than likely raised a few eyebrows in Australia. It also provides confidence that maybe the local industry is ready to explode.

The New Zealand highlight on the track was that Storm Boy (Justify), dominant winner of the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (Listed, 1200m), is a grandson of Seachange (Cape Cross), successful at Group 1 level seven times. That put the New Zealand mare in rare company indeed.

Storm Boy’s win, his third in his only three starts, was achieved with ease. After sitting outside the leader into the straight he took over soon after. Full of running, he was cruising at the 150 metres and there was no way he would be caught; away by three lengths at the line.

At Rosehill, Chris Waller’s Louisville (Redwood) landed the winner’s share of a $160,000 Benchmark 78 (1400m). At Flemington, New Zealand-bred, Otago (Ocean Park), from Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr’s stable, remained unbeaten in two starts, running a slick 1:22.46. Clearly the son of Ocean Park (Thorn Park), has a bright future.

The stable found Otago via Shaun Clotworthy who purchased the chestnut out of Brighthill Farm’s NZB 2022 Karaka Book 1 draft for $50,000. A bold trial win at Avondale last April was enough to gain the attention of that man, agent Phill Cataldo, and the gelding changed hands with some of the original ownership retaining shares in the horse.

His dam Steel Stilettos (Hussonet) has produced three stakes winners, namely dual Listed winners Boots ‘N’ All (Perfectly Ready) and Air Max (Nadeem) plus Feilding Gold Cup (Listed, 2200m) winner Toms (Towkay).

The other New Zealander to score at Flemington was Bold Soul (Embellish), who is the first metropolitan Australian winner for young Cambridge Stud sire Embellish (Savabeel), winner of a Benchmark 70 (2000m).

Also a three-year-old, Bold Soul has raced four times for two wins and two thirds and was sourced from Book 2 of NZB’s 2022 Karaka Yearling Sale by Hamish Auret for $20,000.

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