No Melbourne Cup for Vin De Dance

Vin De Dance is coming home after failing to fire in Melbourne.

Melbourne Cup entrant Vin De Dance will not contest the 3200-metre Flemington feature and will return home to New Zealand after a below-par performance in last Sunday’s Listed Cranbourne Cup.

The Gr. 1 New Zealand Derby winner had an interrupted campaign after suffering back soreness and failed to fire in his two starts, including his 10th placing at Cranbourne.

“He didn’t run up to expectations last week,” co-trainer Murray Baker said. “He’s a good stayer, but there is just something there that we can’t pick up at the moment so we will send him home to New Zealand and give him a spell.”

Meanwhile stablemate Peaceful was found to be heavily in season after she finished unplaced in the Gr. 1 Thousand Guineas last Saturday,.

The daughter of Savabeel will likely contest the Listed Jim Beam Black Stakes at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day.

  • NZ Racing Desk



Cruz stablemates ready for Sweynesse

Packing Eagle (Trudy Thornton) winning the Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes at Rotorua last year and a serious chance again on Saturday.

Cambridge trainer Martin Cruz is taking a cautious approach with his talented sprinters Packing Eagle and Elusive Treasure going into Saturday’s Gr.3 Sweynesse Stakes (1215m) at Rotorua.

Da Cruz is happy with his duo, but isn’t exuding confidence for the weight-for-age sprint, which has attracted Group One performers Close Up, Volpe Veloce and Volks Lightning and emerging stars Julius and Love Affair.

“It looks a great race,” Cruz said.

“We’ve drawn one (Packing Eagle) and 12 (Elusive Treasure) and (favourite) Julius has drawn 14 so hopefully we can get the right runs.”

TAB bookmakers opened Julius a $3.20 favourite ahead of Gr.1 Railway Stakes (1200m) winner Volpe Veloce at $3.60, with Love Affair ($5.50) and Packing Eagle ($7.50) the next most favoured in the market. Elusive Treasure opened at $61.

Packing Eagle won the Sweynesse Stakes last year before he was freshened for a tilt at Ellerslie’s Gr.1 Railway Stakes in which he closed strongly for second, splitting Saturday’s rivals Volpe Veloce and Volks Lightning.

He was then unplaced in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham before a gallant second to Start Wondering in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa, after which he suffered a tendon injury.

“He’s slowly building up from that injury so we’ll just be assessing him race by race,” Cruz said.

“He did it after the Group One at Te Rapa. It was a small hole and he’s strong now. He’s coming up well. This is his first run back so we’ll just see how he goes.”

Cruz trialled Packing Eagle at Cambridge last month and the Pins eight-year-old was not pressured to finish fifth in behind Your Way.

“The trial was fair,” said Cruz. “It was 935 metres so a bit short for him. But the 1200 should be good for him on Saturday.

“His legs will be bandaged, just for safety. He could race without them, but it’s just to make sure he gives a good kick at the end.”

Raced by Cruz’s mother Angel, Packing Eagle won five consecutive races in class three and two company in Hong Kong and was placed in the Gr.1 Champion’s Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin in 2016 before he was sent to New Zealand.

With a rating of 104, Packing Eagle is one of the highest-rated gallopers in New Zealand so Cruz is mindful of setting him for weight-for-age and set weights and penalties races, meaning another crack at the Railway Stakes is the gelding’s likely summer target.

Cruz is happy to take his chance on Saturday with the lower-rated Elusive Treasure, who finished fifth of six runners in rating 82 company at Te Rapa last start in August.

“He should be fitter now,” he said. “He ran on a heavy 11 track last time and he just sunk into the ground and couldn’t kick on at all.”

Elusive Treasure finished fifth behind Packing Eagle in the BCD Sprint last season.

– NZ Racing Desk

Good ride and good fight

Thanks to a cool ride by Jonathan Riddell, Good Fight lived up to his breeding with a top win at Te Aroha yesterday.

The Good Fight lived up to his name at Te Aroha yesterday, but the accolades over the win went to his rider, Jonathan Riddell.

Riddell rode for luck on The Good Fight in the Donaghys Pro-Equine 1400 and was the toast of punters after he got the $4.20 favourite home at the head of the field.

With seconds in his last two starts albeit during the winter, The Good Fight had the form on the board to suggest he would be the one to beat yesterday, but it certainly didn’t look good on the home turn.

On a day when the races were being won by horses in or near the lead, The Good Fight was in the rear and had been shuffled back to last rounding the home turn.

But Riddell took the gamble to stick to the inside and for a time he was held up, but once the gap opened on the fence he pushed The Good Fight through and on to a strong win, scoring by three-quarters of a length from the wayward Mr Universe.

“It was a peach of a ride from Jonathan and it is great when it comes off like that,” said trainer Shaune Ritchie.

“I was a bit worried before the race with the pattern of the day being on the pace. It’s good to see him sprint well fresh.

“We paid a bit of money for him at the yearling sale and finally he’s justifying his price tag.”

The Good Fight is owned by a group which includes Gerard Peterson, a long-time supporter of the Ritchie stable, and was purchased from the 2016 Premier Yearling Sale at Karaka by Ritchie for $300,000.

A son of High Chaparral, he is from the Zabeel mare Pravda, who was a top performer from the Paul O’Sullivan stable but is best remembered by most people for one of her worst showings – getting stage fright and refusing to go down to the start for the 2000 Melbourne Cup and being declared a late scratching.

Pravda did win eight races, including the Gr.2 Taranaki Cup and two Sydney features, the Gr.2 AJC Chairman’s Handicap and the Gr.3 STC Manion Cup, and among her best placings was a second in the Gr.1 NZ Oaks.

A half-sister to Roger James’ Gr.1 Adelaide Cup winner Cronus, Pravda is now proving a successful broodmare with eight of her nine foals to race being winners.

Her first foal, Pravana (by Anabaa) won five races including a Listed event in Sydney and was fourth in the Gr.1 STC Coolmore Classic, while her second foal Prince Of Truth (by Carnegie) won three and was fourth in the Gr.3 BTC Rough Habit Plate.

The Good Fight ran fourth in his first two trials last year then finished second-last in his first two races later in the year. He showed his first public glimpse of ability when second at the Avondale trials last May and followed up with a second over 1600m on debut at New Plymouth and a second over the same trip at Te Aroha a few weeks later.

“He was very weak when he was last in work,” said Ritchie. “I was running him when the tracks were heavy and it was the wrong thing to do.

“He’s screaming out for a bit of ground and he’ll be real good over more ground.”

Wind blows in successfully for Carters

Summer Wind (Lynsey Satherley), with his ears pricked, is about to get the better of the pacemaker Overthemark (inside) in his debut win at Te Aroha yesterday.

Trainers Margaret and Tim Carter got on the winner’s board for the new season with a horse destined to win more.

The Cambridge couple produced the Tavistock five-year-old Summer Wind for a debut win in the Donaghys N-Boost 1400 at yesterday’s Te Aroha meeting in the hands of Lynsey Satherley.

Summer Wind went into the race with three trials under his belt, the first one last March and the other two within the last couple of months.

After a second at the Te Rapa trials last month he won over 1200 metres at the Cambridge trials on October 2, suggesting he was ready to go to the races.

“We had a few issues with him early on and that’s why he’s taken time to get to the races,” said Margaret Carter.

“I was a bit nervous as he had a bit of a melt down before the race, but he won well in the end.”

Satherley bounced Summer Wind out to track the leader Overthemark and though he was lugging out rounding the home turn he moved up to challenge early in the run home and wore down the leader to win by a neck.

“I’ve always liked him, but he’s still got a lot to learn,” said Satherley. “He didn’t want to get past the leader when he got up to him. He had a good look before he got going.”

Summer Wind was purchased as a weanling from Karaka in 2014 for $10,000, the same price his dam, Charlene, fetched when sold in foal at the same mixed sale in foal to Tavistock.

Charlene is an unraced daughter of Zabeel from the family of Maygrove, Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s Gr.2 Wellington Cup winner.

Summer Wind is also closely related to Able Attempt, whose seven wins included the Gr.3 King’s Plate at Ellerslie, the Listed Lightning Handicap at Trentham and the Listed Sha Tin Vase in Hong Kong, and Falsetto, who was third in the 2006 Gr.1 NZ Oaks.

Summer Wind has big shoes to fill to follow on from some of the Carters’ best horses, namely the 2010 GR.1 Telegraph Handicap winner Vonusti, the 2015 Gr.2 Avondale Cup winner Farm Boy and the 2016 Gr.2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile winner Battle Time, but he gives the indication he could work through the grades once he gets more experience.


Excalibur to be ridden cold again

Excalibur , pictured winning the NZ St Leger Trial at Hastings, will take a further step toward Cups when racing this weekend.

Cambridge five-year-old Excalibur heads into Saturday’s Listed Jakkalberry Classic (1950m) at Rotorua in fine fettle with a wide draw determining riding tactics.

Excalibur, the winner of six races, has finished solidly in his two runs this campaign, including a strong second in the Listed Haunui Farm Karaka Classic (1600m) last start, and he will relish the step up in distance.

“In both runs he drew wide and was ridden quietly and the situation will be the same on Saturday unfortunately,” said trainer Shaune Ritchie.

“I’d like to see him draw a marble and just ride him a little bit handier, but we want to get some longevity into the season, so riding him cold is the only way to avoid tough wide runs.

“He’s very much on a Cups campaign with the Counties Cup (Gr.3, 2100m) and Waikato Cup (Gr.3, 2400m) on the programme and it’s a further build up to those races.”

Bridget Grylls will again take the reins this weekend and Ritchie believes the speed of the race will dictate whether his back-marker can win.

“There appears to be a little bit of speed in it so if there is a decent tempo he’ll be attacking the line,” said Ritchie.

“That’s what we want to see him doing with races over further distances deeper into the season that are his key targets. He’s a winning chance if it’s not a sit and sprint.”

Ritchie is keen to work his progressive stayer through the grades and stick to handicap conditions where possible, with his campaign likely to culminate in the Gr.3 NZ Campus for Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) in January.

“We’ll give him a short break after the Wellington Cup and if he’s performed up to high expectations then we’ll look at Sydney in autumn,” he said.

“New Zealanders were so successful in Sydney earlier this year in races like the Chairman’s (Gr.2, 2600m) and the Sydney Cup (Gr.1, 3200m). It’s made it an achievable target and it’s worth a lot of money.”

Ritchie said he hadn’t ruled out Excalibur having another tilt at the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m), in which he finished seventh earlier this year. But the set weights and penalties conditions of the race did not suit the stayer right now given his place in the ratings.

“I suppose it depends on how his form holds up this campaign as to whether those conditions will suit him come March,” he said.

“I’m reluctant to set him for the race. Obviously, like all trainers with a handicapper going through the Cups, we try to race the horse well without trying to attract too much attention from the handicapper.

“We’ll place him accordingly to try and get in these races with winnable weights and if we can nail one or two of them along the way that would be nice.”

– NZ Racing Desk.

Rain to suit top trainers’ hopes

Rubira is nearing the form which saw her become a stakes winner at Pukekohe last April.

Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman are likely to have three runners in Victoria this week and forecast rain tomorrow and Thursday is likely to boost their chances.

Staying three-year-olds Botti and Rubira are due to continue their preparations for the Gr.1 VRC Derby (2500m) and Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2500m) respectively, while Group One winner Jon Snow will contest the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).

Despite holding a nomination for Saturday’s Gr.3 Caulfield Classic (2000m), Baker is leaning towards starting Botti in an A$50,000 BenchMark 70 at Moe over 2050 metres on Thursday.

“We might go to Moe with Botti because he is right down on the minimum prizemoney for the VRC Derby and we’ve just got to get a bit of money in the bank,” said Baker.

“We’re very happy with him. He’s a dead-set staying horse and he will get his chance if he gets into the longer race.

“He is by Jakkalberry, who ran third in the Melbourne Cup and won the American St Leger, and he’s a three-quarter brother to Lion Tamer, who won the VRC Derby, so he should stay like a mother-in-law.

“He’s not as fast as Lion Tamer, but he might be a bit more of a stayer.”

Botti has drawn barrier one for Thursday’s contest and will have the services of Damian Lane, who rode him to victory over 1755 metres at Geelong in his only Australian start.

“He will have to take on the older horses again and I think he is the only three-year-old in the race,” said Baker.

Baker was pleased with the work of Botti and Rubira at Flemington this morning and said the latter continues to make good improvement.

“Her work has indicated that the further she goes, the better she is going to be, and she has certainly kept improving since she has been in Australia,” he said.

Rubira finished 12th over 1400 metres at Caulfield on September 22 and made significant improvement when beaten only four lengths into seventh in the Gr.2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) behind subsequent Group One winner Amphitrite.

“She got out-paced a bit at her first start over here, but we knew that, and she will certainly be better over 2000 metres,” said Baker.

“She did compete at a mile at stakes level as a two-year-old in New Zealand, but she is also a horse that needs a bit of cut out of the track to help her.”

Meanwhile, Baker is hoping to see Jon Snow get conditions to suit in what will be the Iffraaj entire’s second tilt at the Caulfield Cup, having finished ninth last year.

“I thought it was just an average run last start in the Turnbull after a good run in the Makybe Diva, but he probably needs a bit of rain to be at his best,” said Baker.

“He has done well since he has been in Australia. He has only had the two starts, but he is fit and will be suited by the return to handicap racing.

“I think he is around the same mark as last year and he got knocked out of it in the Caulfield Cup last year.

“He worked very well this morning. Damian Lane rode him and he won the Tulloch and ATC Derby on him and Saturday will be the first time he will be back on.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Goindasamy on a roll

Ashvin Goindasamy completing a double for the day at Matamata on Saturday when scoring on the John Bell-trained Athena Baby.

Ashvin Goindasamy has swapped tailor-made miniature jockey’s colours for the real item and he’s now living a childhood dream.

The Cambridge apprentice celebrated his best day in the saddle when from four rides at Matamata on Saturday he kicked home two winners, Direct Capital and Athena Baby, as well as picking up a close second on Cutting Up Rough.

Goindasamy began race-riding at Te Awamutu last May aboard eighth-placed Stand Tall for his employer, Ralph Manning, and after having to settle for a couple of seconds and a third from 14 rides last season he has been making a favourable impression this term.

He recorded his first win aboard Cutting Up Rough at Taupo on August 22 and his double on Saturday took his tally to five.

Along the way he has been attracting the interest of “outside” trainers. Both Direct Capital and Athena Baby were the first time he had ridden for either of the respective trainers, Karen Nicholson and John Bell.

As he does after competing on any raceday, Goindasamy was quickly on his phone to his parents in Mauritius after Saturday’s windfall to tell them of his good fortune.

“I spoke to Dad on Friday and told him I had some good chances and thought I could win with Cutting Up Rough,” Goindasamy said. “I wasn’t expecting two wins and I nearly got three. Cutting Up Rough went a top race.”

Goindasamy’s father was a trackwork rider in Mauritius and he was instrumental in the 20-year-old becoming a jockey, sewing the seed in the early childhood days.

“I was really small and my father said I should be a jockey and from then on that’s all I’ve wanted to be,” Goindasamy said.

“When I was five I had to dress up for a fancy dress at school and my parents got a tailor to make me some jockeys’ colours. I was the only one dressed as a jockey.

“I used to watch horse races on TV every weekend in Mauritius and went to the stable where Dad used to work.”

Eight years ago Goindasamy took a step toward realising his dream when learning to ride on ponies and other horses at the local equestrian centre and that led to an 18-month stint riding trackwork in Malaysia.

“But just as I got my licence there, my visa expired so that’s when I decided to come to New Zealand,” Goindasamy said.

“I knew a bit about New Zealand racing so I looked up the racing website (NZTR) and found Ralph Manning’s name among the trainers and rang him.”

Manning encouraged Goindasamy to take the gamble in New Zealand and it’s a move that has the young rider buzzing.

“He (Manning) has been such a big help and now I’m getting some good rides,” Goindasamy said.

Goindasamy has fashioned a record of nine placings to go with his five wins from 35 rides over the last couple of months and one of those placings stands out for him, riding Big Mike into a close second behind Charles Road on the first day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival.

“It was a big day riding at the premier meeting and so exciting,” Goindasamy said. “I thought I was going to win, but Charles Road got us on the line.”

With his 4kg apprentice claim, Goindasamy is now finding his services in more demand and will be kept busy with rides at each of the three northern meetings this week.

Jon Snow ready for Caulfield Cup

Jon Snow (Damian Lane), pictured racing away with the Australian Derby, is on target for Saturday’s Caulfield Cup.

With less than a week until the gates open for this years A$5m Caulfield Cup (2400m), Kiwi contender Jon Snow is ready to tackle the slew of international raiders set to contest the major event.

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman prepared five-year-old has made steady improvement in his first three runs of this campaign and will strip in peak condition for Saturday’s contest.

A last start seventh behind wonder mare Winx in the Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington was a better run than it appears on paper with Forsman happy to put the performance behind him as the team apply the final touches to their charge.

“I guess we were a little disappointed last time, especially as he had put in such a super run for third over a mile in the start before that,” he said.

“When you analyse it though, it did turn into a bit of a sit and sprint which just isn’t his go at all. He needs the speed on and a true staying contest to show his best.

“His work since then has been very good and he is ready to run a top race, particularly if we can get some give in the ground.”

Forsman has been studying the long-range weather forecasts for Melbourne in recent days as he knows some cut in the ground will be just what the doctor ordered for the Iffraaj gelding.

“I’m pretty sure we pulled the right rein in running him at Flemington as opposed to the Caulfield Stakes yesterday, like we did last year,” he said.

“The track got very firm yesterday which makes it a tough task to back up seven days later on a similar surface.

“There has been some rain forecast later in the week, but you just never know what you will get. He goes best when there is some rain around so it would be nice if the forecasters are right.

“Regardless of what we do strike, he has had a good prep and we have done what we feel is best for him.

“I’d like to think he will be in with a big chance, although it looks like a very good field, especially with the large number of international horses in contention.”

Jon Snow, who currently sits at $51 on the TAB Fixed Odds market, will be ridden by Damian Lane who replaces Stephen Baster.

NZ Racing Desk

Dawn Patrol rises to occasion

Opie Bosson getting a taste of the talent of the unbeaten Cambridge three-year-old Dawn Patrol at Matamata today.

Frank Ritchie has had his share of topliners in his training career and he could have another one in the making.

That horse is Dawn Patrol, who made it two wins from as many starts when beating some very promising three-year-olds in the Fairview Motors Matamata 1400 at Matamata today.

Ritchie, the man who prepared the great Bonecrusher, now has a big decision to make with the unbeaten son of Dawn Approach.

Dawn Approach holds a nomination for next month’s Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), the Riccarton classic in which Bonecrusher finished third behind Random Chance and Field Dancer way back in 1985.

Now 33 years after that Bonecrusher placing Dawn Approach has shown enough to suggest he deserves a crack at the NZ 2000 Guineas, but Ritchie believes it isn’t that straight forward.

“I’m worried about the trip home from Riccarton, coming back by road,” said Ritchie, calling on his vast experience.

“It takes a bit out of your horse and you need a month off.

“He’s nominated for the Karaka Million Three-Year-Old so we’ll have a think about it and work it out.

“He’s still only so-so to go there (Riccarton). He’s still got a lot to learn.”

The Listed Karaka Million Three-year-Old (1600m), held at Ellerslie on January 26, is worth $1million, compared to $500,000 at Riccarton, though obviously the southern feature holds more prestige.

Dawn Patrol had looked smart with two wins and a close second at trials before he scored a decisive debut win over 1200 metres at Matamata a couple of weeks ago.

He stepped up both in class and distance today and the manner in which he handled the 1400 metres suggests he will have no trouble with an extra 200m at either Riccarton or Ellerslie.

Ridden by Opie Bosson, he sat three-wide, though with cover, for much of the journey before ranging up on the home turn and soon taking over.

He kicked clear in good style and had a length and a quarter to spare over the runner-up Rip Em Up, who ran on strongly for Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh.

“I said (to Bosson) that I’d like to see him get a bit of cover because he can be aggressive when he is out in the open,” said Ritchie.

“It was a bit of a worry, but he managed to get him cover and he got the job done.”

Dawn Approach is putting some excitement back into the long-time partnership of Ritchie and owner Rex Jenson, who bought him for $20,000 at the 2017 National Yearling Sale at Karaka.

Stakes double for champion trainers

Nicoletta (Jonathan Riddell) topping some Group One placings with a strong win in today’s Rich Hill Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes at Hawera.

The powerful Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman stable completed a stakes double for the day when Nicoletta took the Gr.3 Rich Hill Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Hawera today.

Just over an hour after stablemate Deals In Heels had scored in the Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m), Nicoletta also put her first victory at stakes level on the board after registering a pair of Group One placings in her previous campaign.

Unsighted since finishing third in the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa in April, the Savabeel mare paraded in a forward condition courtesy of a pair of recent trial runs. A win in an open heat over 1200 metres at Cambridge last month topped her off nicely for today’s contest.

A positive ride from experienced jockey Jonathan Riddell saw the mare dispute the pace before easing clear entering the home straight.

Despite being hotly challenged over the last 200 metres, Nicoletta kicked back bravely to hold out the fast-finishing race favourite, Livin’ On A Prayer with Art Deco also finishing powerfully to snatch third.

“We thought this race was perfect for her as she has been ready to go first up for a while now,” said co-trainer Andrew Forsman, who listened to the race in his car as he made his way home from the Matamata track.

“The only worry was the 1400 metres as she is better suited to the mile or beyond, but being on the fresh side meant she could get away with what sounded like a very brave effort.

“We did think the race set up well as the weight-for-age conditions suited a quality mare like her who could sit handy and kick hard, which is what she did.”

Forsman is convinced his charge is ready for a profitable spring campaign now she has put this win on the board.

“She will only get better as she steps up in distance so there is a lot to look forward to,” he said.

“The obvious plan is to pick up as much black-type as we can so I would expect to see her in some of the better races coming up. I think something like the Zabeel Classic (Gr.1 2000m) at the Ellerslie Christmas carnival is a race she could be very competitive in so we will be working out how best to get her there.”

Nicoletta races in the familiar JML Bloodstock colours of owner Lib Petagna. She was a $90,000 purchase by bloodstock agent Bruce Perry from the Goodwood Stud draft at the 2015 Select Sale at Karaka.

NZ Racing Desk