Worth the wait
A seven–day delay was worth the wait after an emphatic return to the winner’s circle from Legarto (Proisir) in the Matamata Cup (Listed, 1600m). The mare was pulled from the Arrowfield Stud Plate (Gr 1, 1600m) the previous week due to the deteriorating Hastings track, as was Saturday’s fellow competitor La Crique (Vadamos).
Legarto’s slashing third to open her four-year-old career in the Tarzino Trophy (Gr 1, 1400m) on September 9 indicated that she was ready to pick up where she left off last season with the winning margin at Matamata flattering her opponents.
Ryan Elliot positioned her three wide and back early but improved to midfield leaving the back straight. Elliot pushed his mount forward at the 600 metres and from the 400 metres she gained quickly. From the top of the straight she drove on to share the lead inside the 200 metres then took over with a length to spare at the 100 metres. Aquacade (Dundeel) tried to make it interesting late in the piece but Elliot only had to give Legarto a shake and she came away under a hold. She never reached top gear.
“I just told Ryan to ride her like the best horse in the race – give her clear air and she’ll do the rest,” said co-trainer Ken Kelso, “and he did. He gave her plenty of room. She probably should be unbeaten. But that’s racing. They don’t race in lanes.”
Elliot backed up those comments. “She got a nice drag into the race today and has done it easily enough,” he said. “She’s had a really good blow, so this should clean her up nicely. I’ve never ridden another horse like her, and I think she’s a lot stronger now than she was as a three-year-old. Just wait until she hits a good track. Watch out, Aussie.”
Next stop is Sydney and the rich Golden Eagle (1500m) on November 4. An exhibition gallop and maybe a trial, and according to her jockey, she is the one to beat. She proved her worth against her own age group when scoring the Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) last March and will still be racing against her own age group in Sydney. There is a lot to like about her chances even though a similarly talented Amelia’s Jewel (Siyouni) is also likely to be there. It will be a classic showdown.
Twenty minutes earlier at Hawera, another star Proisir (Choisir) four-year-old, Prowess, lined up in the Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m). Prowess was playing catchup this preparation after a couple of minor issues yet was expected to dominate. However, she ran into a very fit former Listed winner Town Cryer (Tavistock) who led throughout. Town Cryer fought off serious challenges early in the run home then waited for Prowess’s challenge to materialise.
Instead, Prowess peaked the last 100 metres but will benefit enormously from the run, just as Legarto did. As the tracks firm, expect Prowess to improve sharply. Saturday was a tune-up. At 2000 metres she is particularly effective.
Co-trainer Roger James confirmed Prowess’s likely improvement, both in fitness and future track conditions. “She dipped quite badly in the ground and Michael [McNab] said he had to pick her up and get her travelling again,” James explained. “She has got such a big action, so it just wasn’t ideal for her. It’s six months since she had a run and two and a half months since she had a trial.”
As representatives of our breeding industry, we couldn’t ask for anything more than these two outstanding mares. Their Australian campaigns are about to begin while this coming Saturday, the New Zealand industry’s eyes will be on I Wish I Win (Savabeel) in the $20 million Everest (1200m).
Ups and downs
While Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick will be in high anticipation regarding the chances of his I Wish I Win in Saturday’s Everest, he would have been disappointed with the behaviour of Skew Wiff (Savabeel) prior to the start of the Rose Of Kingston Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) at Flemington. Skew Wiff does, unfortunately, have a reputation for being a bit fizzy but regular rider, Opie Bosson, seems to have her measure – although not this time. The mare allowed things to get on top of her causing Bosson to jump away from the stalls. She had to be withdrawn and is headed for some education.
Such are the ups and downs of racing. Skew Wiff will no doubt have to pass a test in order to race again. Let’s hope the Bosson magic will see her back competing again soon. Her goal was the Golden Eagle, Chittick trying for back-to-back wins in the rich feature, but she will need another run in the meantime.
There was some consolation for the stud earlier in the day when their Super Seth (Dundeel) got his stud career off to a flying start with his first winner, two-year-old Poetic Champion, who toyed with his rivals, clearing out by six lengths in an impressive display.
“He’s a real little beauty. He knows what he’s here for and he’s been a dude from day one,” said Mark Hills, stable representative for winning trainer Tony Pike. Jockey Craig Grylls added: “Once I straightened him up and gave him a squeeze he absolutely took off.”
For Chittick, the win is hopefully the start of a great career for the young sire. Super Seth nabbed Alligator Blood (All Too Hard) in the last stride when winning the 2019 Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), a week shy of four years ago after which Waikato Stud invested heavily in the son of Dundeel (High Chaparral).
“The deal involved a hell of a lot of money but we’ve always had the utmost belief in him because he’s the sort of horse that makes a great stallion and that was the ultimate start,” said Chittick.
Poetic Champion was offered by Haunui Farm at the 2023 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale (Book 1) but did not reach his reserve and races in the ownership of his breeder, GSA Bloodstock. A mid-November foal, he is the third winner from Regally Blonde, a Royal Academy (Nijinsky) half-sister to the brilliant Starspangledbanner (Choisir) as well as to Golden Chant, the dam of MRC Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Amicus (Fastnet Rock).
The late Tavistock (Montjeu) enjoyed another great day on Saturday, securing a stakes double on both sides of the pond and very nearly made it a rich treble when Cotehele just failed by a nose in the $1.5 million Alan Brown Stakes at Rosehill.
Here in New Zealand, Town Cryer led all the way in the Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes to snare her second stakes win, having taken out the Anzac Mile (Listed, 1550m) at Awapuni in April. She was very strong once turned for home, fighting off two good challenges, and had enough in reserve to hold out the favourite, Prowess.
“She pinned her ears back and fought hard,” said winning rider Johnathan Parkes. “Prowess is a superstar but I was on the better horse on the day and that is a nice win to get.” The mare’s trainer, Roydon Bergerson added: “I didn’t think we would be racing against Prowess and beat her, maybe the track tripped her up, but you take the wins where you can and I’m proud of her.”
Saturday’s Hawera feature was the sixth career win for the six-year-old whose dam, The Speaker (Volksraad), is a stakes-placed three-quarter blood sister to Wellington Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner, Willy Smith (Volksraad).
At Flemington, Life Lessons went one better than her recent second to champion Amelia’s Jewel, landing the Rose Of Kingston Stakes. The lightly raced five-year-old has now won four of her 11 starts. Once in form she maintains it, evidenced by her three wins in succession late last year which included two at Sandown.
Life Lessons became the 46th individual stakes winner to represent Tavistock and she has an ambitious program ahead with a start in the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), the ultimate goal.
As a Flemington Group 2 winner she is already a valuable mare and has the added attraction of being a daughter of Brockman’s Lass (Encosta De Lago), herself a seven-time winner including four stakes races. Brockman’s Lass is from a half-sister to Epsom Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Regal Native (Yallah Native).
At Rosehill, Cotehele added a sizable $285,000 to his bank account when running second in a rousing finish which had him in front a stride past the post. He was well bottled up near the 200 metres and had to squeeze between runners soon after before flying at the line. With a Randwick win at three and two Rosehill successes last season at four, Cotehele has more than repaid his purchase price of $100,000 at the 2020 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale (Book 1), his career earnings now standing at $681,930.
The half-brother to New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) Ugo Foscolo (Zacinto) has yet to gain black type but in this form may well become Tavistock’s 47th individual stakes winner.