Trip south proves rewarding

The Frank Ritchie-trained Fiscal Fantasy (Leith Innes) scoring a big win in the Manawatu Breeders Stakes today.

Cambridge galloper Fiscal Fantasy had to call on all her reserves to win the Gr.3 Property Brokers Arohanui Hospice Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) at Awapuni today.

The Frank Ritchie-trained mare jumped from barrier 12 and settled towards the rear of the field for jockey Leith Innes.

Innes steered his charge to the extreme outside of the track when turning for home and the daughter of Skilled was able run down her opposition and nab Monrecour on the line to win by a neck.

Ritchie said he headed into the race with reserved expectations given his mare’s wide barrier, but he was delighted to get the result.

“When we got the wide draw I thought ‘not again’, because she has been beaten by wide draws so many times. As the day went on it didn’t look quite so bad,” he said.

“She is a real sweetheart. She has got a heart much bigger than herself because she’s tiny. She never gives it away.”

Ritchie said he was on the cusp of not bringing Fiscal Fantasy south for the race, but he is glad he did and she will now possibly head to the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa later this month.

“To be honest I had some trepidation about coming down for this race because she’s had a hard season,” Ritchie said. “But I gave her a bit of a break and the owners were all keen so it’s more their race than mine.

“She’s had a hard season, but she’s as tough as they come. I guess now, on this, we will have a look at the Travis Stakes. It’s three weeks away. She had to show today that she was up to it (and she was), so we will look at that.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Sydney Cup possible for Rondinella

Rondinella could have a further Australian start in the Sydney Cup.

Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood haven’t completely closed the door on quality mare Rondinella lining up in the Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on Saturday week.

The daughter of Ocean Park finished third last Saturday to Avilius in the Gr.1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) and her connections are assessing her options after that pleasing run.

“It is a consideration at this stage (the Sydney Cup) and we will make a final decision after the weekend,” James said.

“It was the intention that she come straight home, but the owners were keen to leave her there for a week to assess the situation and make a decision.”

Jockey Sam Clipperton had been rapt with the way she travelled in the race and finished it off nicely despite the unfavourable heavy10 track conditions.

“He got off and said we had been robbed by the weather,” James said.

“He said she had travelled beautifully everywhere, but when he went to let her down she wandered in the track and the second horse ran past her very easily and he thought he was going to leave her in his wake.

“Then when he balanced her up she got back at it. I think he had put three-quarters of a length on us and we were only a head behind on the line. He did say she wasn’t happy in the ground, which we knew beforehand she wasn’t at her best in that ground.”

While Rondinella is untested at the extreme distance of the Sydney Cup, James was buoyed by her performance over 2400m in the Tancred.

“Two miles is a specialist race and you don’t know until you try really, but she did answer the question on Saturday that she would get the mile and a half,” he said.

Meanwhile, James is hopeful Concert Hall can break through for her first win at elite level in the Gr.1 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha on Saturday.

The four-year-old daughter of Savabeel recorded her first black-type victory in the Gr.3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) at Trentham last month, her third win in a row.

“It was nice to see her do that, it is a big step up from that to Saturday, but she has pleased me and we are pleased to have her here,” James said.

“You are never confident going in to Group Ones. You are more hopeful than confident. The wide draw is an issue as it is always good to have a good draw no matter the distance. If you have to have a wide run, Te Aroha is quite a forgiving track to have it on.

“I rated her last year, but she was just getting there and it is just maturity that has seen the improvement in her.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Pike’s Sacred promise to Lane

Surely Sacred (nearest camera), pictured winning the Avondale Guineas, will face his second Derby test this weekend.

Tony Pike will be honouring a promise to Gr.1 Golden Slipper-winning jockey Damian Lane at Randwick on Saturday.

Lane added the Gr.1 Golden Slipper to his CV when successful on Kiamichi last month and will be out to win at the top level for Pike when the Cambridge trainer legs him aboard Surely Sacred in the Gr.1 A$2 million Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.

“I owe Damian a Derby ride,’’ Pike said. ‘’He rode Sacred Elixir for me in Melbourne a few years ago and won a couple on him, but he didn’t get to ride him in the Victoria Derby as we had Zac Purton booked for that.

“I told him I’d give him a Derby ride one day and he’ll have his chance on Surely Sacred on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it.’’

Lane rode Sacred Elixir in three starts during the 2016 Spring carnival in Melbourne for a fresh-up win in the Gr.3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) and a win in the Gr.2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m), then Purton was runner-up on him in the Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m).

Pike secured Lane’s services for Surely Sacred (who races in the same Raffles Racing colours as Sacred Elixir) when the Rock ‘N’ Pop three-year-old made his Australian debut in the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill last start.

Surely Sacred drew wide when he finished fourth, five and a half lengths behind the boom three-year-old The Autumn Sun, on a rain-sodden Rosehill track and Pike is hoping for a better draw for the Derby.

“He had to make a long-sustained run and the way the track was playing he almost got there too soon,’’ Pike said. ‘’He was off the bridle the last bit and just ground away.

‘’It’s been the same in his last three runs. He’s had to make long sustained runs. But if he gets a good draw and can race a bit handier, he can be held up for the last crack at them. He sprints very quickly.’’

Surely Sacred showed that sprint when he flashed home from last to win the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie in just his third start before an unlucky fifth in the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

He then took off before the home turn and was in front soon after straightening when winning the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie and had to make a long sustained run from the back when fifth in the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), the Ellerslie performance which secured his trip to Sydney.

Pike is happy with Surely Sacred’s progress since the Rosehill Guineas and is confident he will be right in the firing line over the final stages of Saturday’s Australian Derby.

‘’He had a quiet hit-out on Saturday morning and will gallop on the course proper on Tuesday,’’ Pike said.

‘’Hopefully there’s not too much more rain in Sydney, but Randwick does hold up better than Rosehill and it is the first day of the carnival.”

Lane will be chasing his second Australian Derby win and his first was also on a Cambridge horse. He rode Jon Snow to victory in the feature two years ago for leading trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.

Whatever the outcome on Saturday, Surely Sacred will be heading for the spelling paddock and be prepared for a spring campaign.

‘’He won’t be going on to Queensland for the Derby there,’’ Pike said. ‘’He’ll have run in two Derbys and that’s enough.’’

Pike is currently finalising his team for the Queensland Winter Carnival and it will include Bostonian and Ever Loyal, who are both being aimed at the Gr.1 A$1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 8.

‘I’m just waiting on the final details of the flights over there,’’ Pike said. ‘’They’ll probably kick off a week after arriving. They’ll  have a couple of runs in handicaps, not weight-for-age races, as a lead into the Stradbroke.’’

Bostonian was unbeaten in three Queensland starts last year, culminating in his victory in the Gr.3 Sunshine Coast Guineas (1600m), and his five starts this campaign include a win in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) and a second to Melody Belle in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa before his last-start fifth in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm WFA Group One Classic (1600m) at Otaki.

‘’He’s had a nice break since Otaki and looks good,’’ Pike said.

Ever Loyal has also been freshened since his last run, in the Gr. 3 Liverpool Cup (1300m) at Randwick on March 2.

‘’He had no luck in Sydney,’’ Pike said. ‘’He was caught three-wide and I knew he had no show after 200m.’’

Before his sole Sydney mission, Ever Loyal has been runner-up to Ardrossan in the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) and won over 1200m, both at Ellerslie.

 

 

 

 

 

Cup hopes on line for stablemates

Zacada (nearest camera) going down narrowly to Who Shot Thebarman in last year’s Sydney Cup, needs to shape up on Saturday to have another crack at the 3200m feature.

Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman have two contenders for the Gr.1 Sydney Cup in Zacada and Vin De Dance, but the pair will have to perform this weekend to warrant a start in the 3200m feature.

Both horses were failures when unplaced in the Gr.3 Manion Cup (2400m) on a Heavy8 track at Rosehill last month.

While disappointed in their runs, their trainers are hoping they will redeem themselves in the Gr.2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m) at Randwick on Saturday.

“Vin De Dance got caught three-wide the other day over 2400m,” Baker said. “You just can’t do that in that sort of competition.

“He dropped out and he pulled a bit because he was three-wide in the clear, which is not like him to pull.

“Zacada just never got into it. He couldn’t cop the track, which surprised us a bit because he has shown form on wet loose tracks before, but he has just got to take his chance.

“Both are good as gold after the run and will both run in the Chairman’s.”

Baker said it would be unlikely that his runners would press on to the Sydney Cup if they don’t put in a good showing on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Baker-Forsman will also line-up Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) aspirant Clementina at Randwick on Saturday.

The three-year-old daughter of Savabeel will contest the Gr.3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) as a lead-in run to the Oaks and Baker is confident of a good showing from his filly.

“Clementina was very unlucky in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m),” Baker said. “She went for a run and got balked and couldn’t get a run and Leith Innes had to pull across them. She finished strongly for fourth. I thought it was an outstanding run, she was just unlucky.

“She is going to run in the Adrian Knox this week and Opie Bosson is riding her and we will just go from there.

“She is stakes placed twice in New Zealand. The Adrian Knox does fall away a bit.  The big race was The Vinery last week for the three-year-old fillies, but she’ll have her chance (on Saturday).

Baker and Forsman will also have The Chosen One and Madison County in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.

Last-start Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) winner The Chosen One has drawn barrier 17 in the 18-horse field and will be ridden by Blake Shinn, while dual Group One winner Madison County will jump from barrier 11 under regular Sydney rider Tommy Berry.

Fellow Kiwi contenders Platinum Invador, Arrogant, In A Twinkling and Surely Sacred have drawn 14, 12, 15 and 6 respectively.

– NZ Racing Desk

 

Brisbane plans for Big Mike

Big Mike (Jye McNeil) in full flight after leading throughout in the A$300,000 Pakenham Cup during his Australian campaign last year.

Handy Cambridge stayer Big Mike impressed his trainers ahead of a possible Australian campaign when back in action at the Avondale trials on Tuesday.

Big Mike earned in excess of A$200,000 last preparation when testing the waters  in Australia with a four-start Victorian campaign, which included victory in the Listed Pakenham Cup (2500m).

The six-year-old surprised his trainers when winning his 1200m trial on Tuesday.

“We were very impressed with him,” said Shaun Phelan, who has just joined in his father, Craig, in a training partnership. “We didn’t realise how forward he was as we haven’t done that much galloping with him this time in.”

Phelan said the son of Don Eduardo would likely contest the Gr.2 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) at Ellerslie on April 20 before a trip to Brisbane is considered.

“His rating is quite high now and that is the only open handicap race he can go for and not be carrying top weight,” Phelan said.

“He might go to Queensland for the Brisbane Cup (Gr.2, 2400m), depending on how he comes up.

“We leant a lot from his last campaign in Australia. The Kiwi horses are obviously up to it and he thrived on the trip. We thought we might have a go at Brisbane in the winter.”

Meanwhile, Phelan said he was hopeful that talented three-year-old Notabadidea could join his older stablemate in Queensland this winter.

Notabadidea finished third in the same 1200m heat behind Big Mike and is progressing nicely having not raced since finishing seventh in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) in October.

“He is coming up well,” Phelan said. “He had a long spell after going shinsore early as a three-year-old after the Sarten Memorial.

“He has had two trials now, just to improve his fitness, so we will be looking for a race for him soon.

“We are likely to get him over a bit of ground and it was good to get a line on him today with Opie Bosson on him in his trial.

“If he is good enough, he will go on the trip to Brisbane with Big Mike possibly for the Queensland Derby (Gr.1, 2400m).

“Being by Highly Recommended, they seem to want a bit of sting out of the track, so we dodged the summer racing.”

Despite turning his hand to training, Phelan will still be seen in action over the jumps this season.

“I am going to ride Monarch Chimes in a steeplechase trial at Cranbourne at the end of this week and then he is aiming for Warrnambool, so I will be going to ride him there,’’ he said.

“We will just see what happens with Big Mike and whether we can get him to Brisbane. We will have plenty of horses racing in winter here and we might even look at taking a couple of jumpers to Victoria, so there is plenty happening. But there are enough of us to make a go of it.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Big future tipped for two-year-olds

Aretha again proved up to top company when second in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes last weekend.

Though Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman didn’t win the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni last Saturday, they are excited for the future with talented two-year-olds Aretha and Holy Mongolemperor.

Aretha finished runner-up and Holy Mongolemperor ran home late to finish eighth.

“She’s a good filly, Aretha,” Baker said. “Her four starts have all been in Group races and she has won or been placed in them all.

“Holy Mongolemperor is very green. He lost his way a bit on Saturday unfortunately.

“He stretched out a bit in the last 200m when he got going. He’s just more of a three-year-old, but we had to have a crack.  It was a Group One.

“We know he is a bit rough around the edges, but I am sure next season he will certainly be a horse to follow.”

–NZ Racing Desk

Valuable Gr.1 placing for Bella Mente

Bella Mente again showed the class she displayed in her Matamata win (pictured) when Group One placed yesterday.

It was hard to take the smile off trainer Shaune Ritchie’s face after his gutsy two-year-old filly Bella Mente picked up an invaluable placing at Group One level when finishing third in yesterday’s Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni

The nuggety El Roca filly had entered the race as one of the outside despite a tidy formline that included a last-start fourth placing in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).

Ritchie and Bella Mente’s large group of owners took the option to forego a start in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie in favour of yesterday’s event and that judgment was well and truly vindicated as she fought bravely in the home straight to finish within half-a length of the winner, Yourdeel.

A delighted Ritchie admitted he was starting to get more than a little excited at the 150m when Bella Mente hit the front for a brief moment.

“She looked like the winner momentarily so the excitement levels were right up there,” he said.

“She was really kicking strongly at that point, but I looked across and saw the good horse (Yourdeel) coming and I knew then we were in trouble.

“She didn’t give it away at any stage so to pick up a Group One placing at just her fourth start is fantastic for everyone involved in her.”

Bella Mente started at long-odds for the contest, but Ritchie believed the market price ($37) didn’t reflect the true chances of his charge.

“I think she might have been overlooked by many and we thought she was a much better chance than what the tote was saying,” he said.

“She went a terrific race at Matamata as she was wide most of the way while the first two home got inside runs.

“We missed Ellerslie and the heavy track that day so she was the fresh horse on the scene and we knew she was at her peak for this one.

“She certainly did us proud and I can’t wait to see how good she can be for her three-year-old campaign.

“She will go out for a good spell now and we will bring her back with the intention of getting her to the One Thousand Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton.”

Ritchie was also pleased to see talented stayer Excalibur make a solid return to the track when running on nicely over 1400m at Ellerslie.

“He didn’t really come up as well as we would have liked and wasn’t finishing his races off that well so we tipped him out for a freshen-up,” he said.

“I thought he went quite a cheeky race on Saturday so, if he can make some progress from there, we will have some nice options with him, including some races over in Australia over the next few months.”

NZ Racing Desk

Manning strikes early on card

Korakonui (Johnathan Parkes) cruising past the winning post an emphatic winner at Awapuni yesterday.

It was a short but successful day’s racing for Cambridge trainer Ralph Manning at Awapuni yesterday.

Manning went south with three starters, one in each of the first three races, and had to be pleased with the efforts of each one, particularly first-race winner Korakonui.

Korakonui picked up her fifth win from 30 starts and extended her unbeaten record on the Awapuni track to three when proving far too good for her rivals in the Landmark Homes Premier 2200m.

Ridden by Johnathan Parkes, she tracked the leader in the five-horse field and when she put the pressure on nearing the home turn  it was evident she was the one to beat. She took over on the home turn and after being three lengths clear with 200m to run she won by three and three-quarter lengths from the favourite Hoist.

Each of her Awapuni wins have been recorded this season, the first last November when taking a Rating 65 2100m and the next, four starts later in a rating 72 2100m early last month.

A trek to Wairoa resulted in a fourth in the Wairoa Cup (2100m) and she went into yesterday’s race with a last-start fourth behind Sampson in the Listed NZ St Leger (2600m) at Trentham.

Korakonui’s connections are keen to have the All American mare at Riccarton in November for a crack at the Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m), the feature won by a former stablemate Pump Up The Volume three years ago. And judging by the authority she showed in yesterday’s win she could be a realistic hope in the Riccarton event.

“The further she goes the better she’ll be,’’ was Parkes’ comment after the race. ‘’She outstayed them.’’

Lala Land (Chris Johnson) completing a double for Ralph Manning at Awapuni yesterday..

Korakonui did appreciate the drop in company from her St Leger outing and Manning will now consider the next step for the five-year-old.

Cutting Up Rough was the second of Manning’s runners yesterday and, though he didn’t win, he produced a top effort when flashing home late for third behind the highly rated Rock On Wood in the Ricoh Premier 1600m.

A winner of seven races, he is raced by Manning and his partner, Sarah Harris, who share in the ownership of the Per Incanto six-year-old with Manning’s parents, Bob and Kathleen.

The same group didn’t have long to wait for a win with stablemate Lala Land to the fore in the very next race, thanks to a superb ride from Chris Johnson.

Johnson had Lala Land midfield on the inner and when held up a few times from the 600m he didn’t panic and waited for a gap. The opening was presented one-off the fence with 200m to run and Johnson quickly took it, pushing Lala Land through and on to a three-quarter-length win in the Resonant Premier 1600m.

It was Lala Land’s second win from a dozen starts and it came just over a year after his maiden win over 1400m at Hawera. Between times the son of Darci Brahma had to settle for three placings in seven starts and had been unlucky when fourth at Gisborne last month.

Stable quinella in Manawatu Classic

The Chosen One (Troy Harris) coming with a well-timed run to beat stablemate Spring Delight in today’s Gr.3 Manawatu Classic.

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman stable’s four-pronged attack on Saturday’s Gr.3 Higgins Concrete Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni paid a handsome dividend when they emerged with the quinella.

Punters believed the Cambridge operation would provide the winner as they installed royally-bred Tavistock filly Spring Delight as favourite ahead of her stablemate, The Chosen One.

As it panned out that judgement almost proved spot on with Spring Delight hitting the front halfway down the Awapuni straight before succumbing to the powerful late burst of The Chosen One, who finished strongly from a midfield position in the hands of rider Troy Harris.

The Chosen One was having his first start since copping a battering during the running of the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), with the performance giving his connections food for thought about a lightning raid across the Tasman to contest next weekend’s Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick.

“We will have to have a think about that (contesting the Australian Derby),” Murray Baker said.

“If he was to go to Randwick, he would have to fly him over on Tuesday.

“I was confident of a big run today (though).  I thought they all had a show as they were fit horses and had run well with their previous form.’’

Baker was also delighted with the performance of Spring Delight who was backing up from an impressive victory against the older horses over 2100m at Tauranga last weekend.

“She (Spring Delight) had won well at her last start,” he said.  “She had a good draw and got a nice run.  It was a good effort, especially for a filly.

“We’ll have to have a think about where we go next with her.”

Owned by a large group that includes his breeders, Joe, Martin, Ray and Tony Dennis, The Chosen One is by Savabeel and is the first foal of outstanding South Island racemare, The Glitzy One, who won eight races and was stakes placed on multiple occasions.

NZ Racing Desk

Rondinella at peak for Tancred

Rondinella is spot on for her biggest test in tomorrow’s Gr.1 Tancred Stakes in Sydney.

Smart Cambridge mare Rondinella is in “faultless condition” ahead of tomorrow’s Gr.1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill.

 That’s the opinion of co-trainer Roger James, who has accompanied Rondinella to Sydney and is rapt with the way she has travelled to Australia and settled in at her Randwick stabling.

A last-start third placegetter in the Gr.1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie behind Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance, Rondinella gained a start in the Tancred Stakes from the ballot after Auvray was withdrawn on Wednesday.

James had accepted with the Ocean Park four-year-old for the Gr.3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m), but it was always his intention to tackle the Group One feature if she made the field.

“I’m comfortable she’ll get the mile and a half (2400m),’’ James said. ‘’It’s a big step up, but I’ve always held her in high regard and she’s had a lovely preparation. She’s in faultless condition.”

TAB bookmakers have Rondinella as a $14 fourth favourite behind last Saturday’s Gr.1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) winner Avilius at $1.60.

In the Ranvet, Avilius beat home third-placed Danzdanzdance, who finished second ahead of Rondinella in the New Zealand Stakes after the James and Robert Wellwood-trained mare lost crucial ground in a home-turn skirmish.

“It’s fair to say we didn’t get the rub of the green last start,’’ James said. ‘’She featured twice in the stipes report and by the time she got clear in the straight the other two were already off and gone. But to her credit, she’s stuck to her task well and ran the quickest last 200m of the race.”

James said rider Sam Clipperton will likely tuck back from barrier 10 in the Tancred Stakes and he regards the track conditions as the biggest obstacle for Rondinella.

“If there was one thing I could change, it would be the weather,” James said.

– NZ Racing Desk