Madison County too classy again

Madison County (Matt Cameron) stamping himself as the country’s top three-year-old with his second Gr.1 win in today’s Levin Classic at the expense of fellow Cambridge gallopers, the deadheaters Hypnos (outer) and Vernanme.

Smart Cambridge three-year-old Madison County became a dual Group One winner when he overcame some home-straight difficulties to take the Gr.1 Fusion Electrical Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham today.

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Pins gelding had been unsighted on a racetrack since his barn-storming finish to claim the Gr.1 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton back in November.

Carrying the familiar colours of his owner, the China Horse Club, Madison County was sent out a short-odds favourite to claim his second elite-level victory despite his two-month absence from competitive action.

His supporters were on good terms with themselves as rider Matt Cameron settled his charge on the rail in midfield on a good speed set up by stablemate Espresso Martini.

Although saving plenty of ground, that inner position started to become a trap as Madison County found himself behind a wall of horses entering the home straight.

Cameron finally found a clear path at the 250m mark that Madison County took full advantage of and he dove between runners with a powerful sprint to claim the front and victory from fellow Cambridge visitors Hypnos (prepared by Roger James and Robert Wellwood) and Vernanme (trained by Stephen Marsh), who dead-heated for second.

“He’s not very big, but he’s all heart,” Forsman said.

“He was four-back the fence and, in reality, that was always where he was going to be.

“I sort of wanted to walk away halfway through the race as I thought he had too much to do.

“He was a horse who hadn’t raced for awhile and probably just felt the pinch at the end, but he was very brave.”

Forsman indicated Madison County would now be aimed at the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie in a fortnight.

“Provided he comes through this well there is no reason he wouldn’t (go to Ellerslie),” he said.

“He will improve a lot fitness-wise so hopefully he will be competitive there.”

Madison County also holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 2, while he may tackle the older horses under weight-for-age conditions before then in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 9.

Bred by Garry Chittick, Madison County was a $36,000 purchase by Michael Wallace on behalf of the China Horse Club from Waikato Stud’s Select Sale draft at the 2017 National Yearling Sale at Karaka.

He has now won four of his seven starts and over $530,000 in prizemoney.

– NZ Racing Desk

Hasstobegood to get in Karaka Million

Roger James and Robert Wellwood have high hopes for Karaka Million candidate Hasstobegood.

The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Hasstobegood will have to live up to her name in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1200m) at Ellerslie on Sunday in order to make the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) field on the same track later this month.

The Per Incanto filly showed plenty of ability on debut when running third over 1000m at New Plymouth late last month, despite being slow away from the gate and racing greenly down the home straight.

“She had her first start down at Taranaki a couple of weeks back and she was super,” Wellwood said.

“She’s very green, she jumped slowly away and was doing her best work late. I am certainly looking forward to watching her run this weekend.”

Wellwood believes his filly will have to be up to the task on Sunday in order to gain a place in the rich Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 26, but said she has plenty of other options if she was unsuccessful in her bid.

“There are some nice horses in the race. Everyone is trying to get enough money to get into the Karaka Million,” he said.

“It’s just the next progression for our filly. If she were to win maybe she would take a position in the Karaka Million, however, there’s certainly plenty of options around so we’re not too worried.”

Kingsclere Stables will also start St Andre in the Fasttrack $5K 2100 on the Ellerslie card.

The Echoes of Heaven gelding won two starts back over 1600m and his trainers are looking for a repeat performance on Sunday.

“He’s definitely looking out for the step up in trip, which he’ll get there,” Wellwood said. “He’s become a really relaxed horse. He’s a lovely, nice, big horse and I think he’s going to be a nice stayer in the making.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Prosecutor ready for Levin Classic

Crown Prosecutor (Jason Waddell), pictured on his way to winning the Wellington Stakes at Trentham, will be a big chance on the course again tomorrow when he aims at Group One success.

Last-start Group Three winner Crown Prosecutor will head into tomorrow’s Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) in a fresh state, but his trainer Stephen Marsh believes his colt is primed for the Trentham assignment.

The son of Medaglia D’Oro won the Gr.3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) at Otaki in November and Marsh said he has been readied for his latest contest with two recent exhibition gallops.

“We gave him a freshen-up since that race (Wellington Stakes),” he said. “He’s not the biggest, most robust horse. He is quite a clean-winded horse.

“We have certainly done enough with him. I have given him two exhibition gallops and he has galloped up beautifully.

“He’s very well. He’s fit and he’s ready to go a big race.”

Marsh believes Crown Prosecutor, who is proven over the metric mile distance, will relish the big, roomy track at Trentham, although he believes he will be better suited over more distance in time.

“He’s a colt and he knows he is a colt,” he said. ”He can be a bit playful. He’s not the most straightforward horse, but he has won at the mile.

“The mile really suits and I’m really looking forward to getting him to a big track like Wellington.

“He’s going to be better over 2000m-plus, with the Derby in-mind, but I think the mile in his fresh state on a big track, it really does look good for him.”

Crown Prosecutor will be set on a path towards the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) with the Gr2. Avondale Guineas (2100m) a likely lead-in race for the stakes-winner.

“We’ll go to one of the Guineas races, probably the Avondale, but this race was always on the cards,” Marsh said. “It’s a Group One, he’s a well-bred colt, and if he could win it adds to his value.”

Marsh will also start Vernanme in the Levin Classic.

The Kevin Hickman co-bred and owned colt is on a similar path to Crown Prosecutor and Marsh is expecting an improved performance from the son of O’Reilly after his fourth-placing behind race rival Hypnos in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

“I thought it was a really good run (in the Uncle Remus) on a track that didn’t really suit, and we are going to get a really good track on Saturday,” Marsh said.

“I think he’s a pretty high-class colt. He’s obviously only won a maiden, but going into this one I am really happy with him.

“He’s a horse that will like the big track like Wellington and the mile suits. But again, he’s a horse that is suited over more ground. He’s done everything right and is a lovely colt.

“He’s the new kid on the block I guess, taking on the likes of Crown Prosecutor and Madison County and a lot of stakes performed horses, but I think he’s pretty good. He’s a real improving type and I think you will see him run better than what he looks like on paper.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Hypnos ready for Group One crack

Hypnos (Ryan Elliot) downing fellow smart Cambridge three-year-old Dawn Patrol last start in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes at Ellerslie.

Talented Cambridge three-year-old Hypnos is being set for his first tilt at elite level in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday.

Trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood have taken a patient approach with the son of Reliable Man and that move is starting to pay dividends for the Cambridge conditioners.

“He’s been a horse that we have had to make along the process,” Wellwood said.

“He wasn’t a ready-made racehorse, but he is certainly going the right way and we have been very happy with his form of late.”

That good form includes placing in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie last month before returning to the track on Boxing Day to take the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m).

“I thought his run in the Uncle Remus was super,” Wellwood said. “He’s a horse that has been known to over-race a little bit, but he relaxed reasonably nicely.

“He was probably one of the fitter in-form horses and it was a wet track, so it was certainly his day.”

Wellwood has been happy with Hypnos’ progress since that victory and said his only concern heading into the race is drawing barrier nine in the 11-horse field.

“He’s been great since Boxing Day,” he said. “He has actually been handling his preparation well. He eats well and is a real professional athlete and we’re really happy with the way he has progressed on from there.

“The draw is the real niggle. We would have loved an inside draw. We’re not 100 percent sure of how we’re going to ride him yet.

“It’s only a small field so we have just got to hope that he has a bit of luck and gets a bit of an economical run. I am sure he will be there or thereabouts.”

TAB Bookmakers have set Hypnos as a $5.50 second-favourite for the Group One metric mile behind Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner Madison County (barrier one), with Lincoln Falls (10) labelled a $6 chance.

While their sights are firmly set on Trentham on Saturday with Hypnos, Kingsclere Stables are eyeing a possible tilt at the rich Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) later this month with the $50,000 New Zealand Bloodstock yearling sale purchase.

“Depending on how he comes through Wellington, he may look to head to the Karaka Million 3YO Classic,” Wellwood said.

“The million dollar race would likely be his last run this preparation. He’s had a rather big preparation.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Swinging back to top form

The in-foal Swinging Skirts (Lynsey Satherley) returning to top form at Matamata yesterday.

The Margaret Falconer-trained Swinging Skirts caused an upset at Matamata when winning the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1400m) yesterday.

It was the third win for the six-year-old Swiss Ace mare and Falconer believes a step back from weekend company and the addition of blinkers assisted her runner.

“It’s obviously a bit of a drop back from Saturday races with her and Lynsey (Satherley, jockey) put her into the race, so it worked out well,” Falconer said.

“She has got a good 600m sprint when she can get close enough to them and the blinkers probably sharpened her up a bit too.

“Hopefully she can go on with it now, although she is now in foal so she hasn’t got too long now.”

Swinging Skirts tailed the field and was put into the race from the 600m when Satherley improved her three-wide around the field.

Turning for home Swinging Skirts was up challenging the leaders and after leading with 200m to go she kept going strongly to the finish to win by three-quarters of a length from the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Lady Blue.


Two-pronged Classic attack for Baker-Forsman

Madison County and Matt Cameron will attempt to add the Gr.1 Levin Classic to their Gr.1 NZ 2000 Guineas win at Riccarton.

Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman hold a strong hand heading into the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday.

However, they are disappointed they haven’t been able to give last-start Group One winner Madison County a lead-in run ahead of the three-year-old feature.

The Pins gelding hasn’t raced since winning the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November, but his connections remain upbeat about his chances heading into the race.

“He’s had a gallop between races. We’ve got him as fit as we can, but unfortunately there wasn’t a 1400m lead-in race,” Baker said.

“We didn’t want to trial him at Cambridge (today) because it was too close to the race, but we’re happy enough with him.”

Madison County was purchased out of Waikato Stud’s 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale draft by the China Horse Club for $36,000 and is being set for a tilt at the rich Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie later this month.

“His main target for the summer is the million dollar race (Karaka Million),” Baker said.

Baker rates his charge and expects a good showing from him on Saturday.

“He shapes up alright. He doesn’t do a lot on the track so he’s a hard horse to get a line on,” Baker said.

“In the same token, he doesn’t need a lot because he’s not a big heavy horse. He’s lighter framed.

TAB bookmakers have labelled Madison County a $2.20 heavy favourite for the Trentham feature, while Hypnos has been marked a $4.80 chance, and Lincoln Falls and Surely Scared share equal third favouritism at $6.50.

The Baker-Forsman stable will also line-up stakes-winning filly Espresso Martini in the Levin Classic.

The daughter of High Chaparral finished fifth in the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on a heavy10 track at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and Baker believes she will appreciate firmer track conditions at Trentham on Saturday.

“Espresso Martini couldn’t cop that track at Ellerslie, but I’m confident she’ll run a mile,” he said. “A firm track shouldn’t worry either of them.”

In-form hoop Matthew Cameron will retain his mount on Madison County, while $26-shot Espresso Martini will be ridden by Michael Coleman.

– NZ Racing Desk

Not usual getting win

Not Usual June (inner) fighting back best to win at Otaki.

Not Usual June may have started out as a travelling companion for the trip to Otaki today, but the Cambridge filly exceeded expectations.

Having her fourth start, the daughter of Snippetson prevailed in the Gardner Homes (1200m).

“She was more here as a travelling mate for the two-year-old (Rhaegar), to help him out,” said co-trainer Andrew Forsman, who also shares in the ownership of the promising filly.

“We knew she was working up well enough. It was just whether she was race fit was the question mark.”

Rhaegar started a $2.90 favourite in the Kapiti Signs (800m) two-year-old event, but was a well beaten fifth behind the decisive winner Trifolium.

However, there was jubilation in the camp when Not Usual June adding to the winning haul for Forsman and training partner Murray Baker.

Ridden by Robbie Hannam, Not Usual June was soon clear in front, but then joined in the lead approaching the home turn and headed in the straight by Press Release.

Refusing to give in, Not Usual June fought back strongly to get her head in front at the winning post, scoring by a long head from Press Release.

“I thought she’d come to the end of her run 200m out, but things were probably in her favour when the favourite was three-deep without cover and that told the last little bit,” said Forsman.

Not Usual June was having her first start since May last year when third to London Express on a heavy11 track at New Plymouth.

That placing followed a second on a dead5 track at Hastings when chasing home Total Excess.


Cambridge Stud couple continue winning run

Hanger (Leith Innes) showing his class with a fresh-up win at Awapuni yesterday.

Cambridge Stud owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay continued their recent wonderful winning streak when talented galloper Hanger resumed off a long spell with an eye-catching performance at Awapuni yesterday.

Bred by Waikato Stud, which shares in the ownership of the O’Reilly four-year-old with the Lindsays, Hanger was having his first race since finishing runner-up in the Gr.3 Cambridge Breeders Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa back in April.

Sent out as one of the main fancies in yesterday’s rating 82 contest, Hanger didn’t disappoint as he bounced nicely from an inside barrier before settling in the trail for rider Leith Innes.

Innes had a lapful of horse approaching the home turn as he waited for a gap to appear before launching his bid at the 300m mark.

Hanger responded gamely under a hands and heels ride as he eased past pacemaker Blondlign to score comfortably in a smart 1.09.73 for the 1200m.

Co-trainer Robert Wellwood, who prepares the gelding with Roger James, was delighted to see the classy galloper make a winning return to the track.

“It was wonderful to see him come back like that as we have had our frustrations with him,” Wellwood said.

“He had a good long break over the winter and we brought him back for some spring targets, but he has had a few niggles along the way which has held him up from making a return until now.

“We weren’t sure just how well he would go as he didn’t have the benefit of a trial under his belt and the pressure of raceday can find them out.

“Leith was able to give him a fairly easy time of it and he got the job done in fine fashion.”

Wellwood advised the stable would now monitor the horse’s recovery before deciding on the next assignment, although a Group One challenge is an obvious target.

“He holds a nomination for the Telegraph at Trentham so he had to have a run if he is going to take on that challenge,” he said.

“Provided he comes through this run okay then we will make a decision if that is the best option for him.

“With the set weights and penalties criteria of the race he is not well placed compared to some, but it is a Group One and they don’t come around that often.”

The Gr.1 JR and N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) is on January 19 at Trentham.

Awapuni proved a happy hunting ground for the James and Wellwood partnership yesterday as Hanger completed a winning double for the stable after talented, but injury plagued sprinter, Killarney had taken the open 1400m.

NZ Racing Desk


End of line for Maygrove

Maygrove provided his owners with a huge thrill when he coasted home in the 2015 Wellington Cup.

New Zealand racing has lost another quality performer from its staying ranks with the retirement of the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Maygrove following an unplaced run in yesterday’s Listed Gallagher Marton Cup (2200m).

Raced by Lib Petagna and Patrick O’Rourke, Maygrove won nine races in a 55-start career, including the 2015 Gr.2 Wellington Cup (2400m), the 2016 Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) and the 2017 Gr.3 Counties Cup (2100m).

Amongst a host of top performances, it is the Wellington Cup win that stands out most for Petagna’s bloodstock manager, Bruce Perry.

“He has provided us with some wonderful memories, but I would rate his Wellington Cup victory at the top of that pile,” Perry said.

“It is a terrific race to win, but for his co-owner Patrick O’Rourke it was very special as he grew up in Wellington and had attended the meeting over so many years with his family.

“To own the winner of that race made for a very special day.”

While Perry is thankful for what Maygrove has achieved over his career he is disappointed that the retirement has been forced by the current handicapping model operated in New Zealand.

“He is as sound as a bell and I have no doubt he is fully capable of winning more races,” he said.

“It is just a shame that horses like him are being forced out by the handicapping as he has continually had to carry topweight in his races.

“He has been a very good performer, but the system just doesn’t seem to be able to cater for this type of horse as they get older as there is no weight-relief available for them.

“Our staying ranks are thin as it is and seeing these horses being retired is a real shame.”

While Maygrove may be lost to the current racing ranks, he may still have a part to play in the industry in a new role.

“He will probably head to Blandford Lodge now for some time off before we decide what next for him,” Perry said.

“I think he could be well suited as a clerk of the course horse so that is something we can consider, but he will have a wonderful retirement as he has earned it.”

Perry also advised that quality three-year-old filly Peaceful could be headed to Ellerslie for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) on January 26 after pleasing connections despite finishing unplaced at Awapuni yesterday in her first run since an Australian spring campaign.

“The track was quite firm yesterday and the 1200 metres was too short for her,” he said.

“She will take a lot of benefit from the run, so we will now make a decision on where we head next.

“The mile at Ellerslie will suit her so that could be the next target.

“We do have other options, which include the Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham.

“If she does go to the Desert Gold then we would likely continue on to the rest of the Filly of the Year series after that.”

The Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on January 19 is the sixth leg of the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series which is currently lead by Media Sensation after her victory in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

– NZ Racing Desk

Killarney scores overdue win

Killarney (Ryan Elliot) bursting through on the inside to record a well-deserved win at Awapuni today.

Talented Cambridge galloper Killarney made a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure when he claimed the open sprint at Awapuni today.

The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained six-year-old has been plagued by niggling injuries and was posting his first victory since he last saluted the judge back in April 2017.

The strapping son of O’Reilly gave his supporters some anxious moments in the five-horse field as he searched for a run in the home straight, but once rider Ryan Elliot found space he produced a punishing burst to claim victory in a blanket finish with Darscape Princess and Heni.

Wellwood acknowledged the efforts that had gone in to getting Killarney back to the track after his injury woes.

“We’re super happy with that,” Wellwood said.

“The horse has had a lot of soundness issues and everyone has put in a lot of work to get him back so it is super to see him first past the post again.

“We’re going to cross our fingers he comes through this then we can have a bit of fun from there.

“We’ll take it day by day, but we could have a throw at the stumps in a nice race if he comes through this.”

Elliot, who has been on a run of good form that sees him sitting in the top 20 on the National Jockey’s Premiership ladder, was delighted with the win.

“I was hoping to just sit fifth and follow the four in front of me around, but he jumped well today,” he said.

“He boxed himself away on the fence and I didn’t think I would get out, but they rolled out a bit and I got up the fence, although I actually didn’t think I’d got up.

“Once he got that clear air he has hit the line hard and tried 110 percent.”

There was a sensation before the race as the well supported Ugo Foscolo was declared a late scratching after the Cambridge galloper failed to take his place behind the starting gates when refusing to go any further than 100m from the birdcage area.

NZ Racing Desk