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



Two-pronged Group One attack

Aretha appreciated the footing when winning the Gr.2 J. Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes and rates a big chance at Awapuni tomorrow.

Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman will have a two-pronged attack in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni tomorrow.

 The pair will line up talented colt Holy Mongolemperor and Group Two-winning filly Aretha in the juvenile feature and they are excited about both of their runners chances.

“Aretha and Holy Mongolemperor are two really good chances,” Forsman said.

“I am quite looking forward to seeing how Holy Mongolemperor steps up to the 1400m. It was a really good effort at Trentham (when runner-up to Equinox over 1200m). He’s a colt with a lot of ability that seems to be improving all the time.”

Forsman said he was pleased with both runners heading into the race and finds it hard to split the pair with Holy Mongolemperor drawing eight and Aretha nine.

“On a fast track it’s hard to know,” Forsman said. “Aretha has been very good on rain-affected ground. They have both drawn awkwardly.

“She’s got tactical speed so she can jump and put herself on the pace, whereas he will get back.  But I think if he gets a clear run he could come with a big finish. I am pretty happy with where he is at going into it.”

The Baker-Forsman barn will also line up Group One winner Saint Emilion in the Gr.2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m).

Forsman said Saint Emilion had been pleasing but luckless in his last few starts and is hoping the wet weather forecast for Palmerston North will stay away.

“He’s really well,” Forsman said. ‘’He has been going well for a while now. He just hasn’t had things to suit on race day unfortunately.

“If the weather holds, he will get things to suit. Hopefully he can jump, roll along and try and get back in the winner’s circle.”

Meanwhile, impressive last start winner Spring Delight looms as the stable’s leading chance in the Gr.3 Higgins Concrete Manawatu Classic (2000m).

She will compete alongside in-form stablemates The Chosen One, Nordic and Lord Arthur.

“The filly Spring Delight was pretty impressive last week (at Tauranga),” Forsman said.

“I think the key is that she has drawn barrier two, whereas all of the boys, while they are all going well, have drawn awkward barriers. The 2000m start is a big run to sort yourself out before that first bend, so they are going to need a bit of luck.

“She seems to have bounced through her impressive win in good order so I guess on the strength of a good barrier draw and knowing that she will get a good run, she is probably the benchmark of the four.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Classic test for Marsh stablemates

Deels Done, a maiden graduate at Pukekohe last month, will be on trial for Australia when racing at Awapuni tomorrow.

A pair of talented three-year-olds in Stephen Marsh’s stable will test the waters in the Gr.3 Higgins Concrete Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni tomorrow.

Deels Done and Decadence are on an upward trajectory as lightly raced maiden winners.

“Given the timing of their campaigns, the Manawatu Classic fits in perfectly and will give us a good indication of where they are at,” Marsh said.

“If they can compete at this level over ground it opens up options in Australia for them. It is a good test at this early stage of their career.”

The duo are both raced by Go Racing syndicates and have been earmarked as classic types.

A gelding by Dundeel, Deels Done will be considered for a Derby campaign in Queensland or South Australia, while Decadence, a filly by Sweet Orange, will look at the Oaks in both aforementioned States.

  • NZ Racing Desk

Oliveira’s advice key to success

Alex Oliveira will be keeping close tabs on Deerfield, who will be out to complete a hat trick of wins at Awapuni tomorrow.

Cambridge trainer Alex Oliveira can take some of the credit for the emergence of talented Foxton-trained Deerfield.

Deerfield will be chasing a hat trick of wins when he contests the L.J. Hooker Premier, a rating 72 1400m at Awapuni tomorrow, having followed up a debut second at Wanganui last month with wins at Awapuni and Trentham over 1200m and 1400m respectively.

Deerfield, a son of Falkirk bred by the Dennis brothers of Southland, began his career at Cambridge with Oliveira, who produced him for two educational trials in May 2017 before back problems delayed his raceday debut.

“His owner lives in Hong Kong and he (Deerfield) had been up at Alex Oliveira’s in Cambridge and he had him since he was a yearling,’’ said trainer Chris Bambry,

‘’He had a few back issues, but they always thought he could gallop.

“He kept going sore on them so Alex actually recommended he come down here because we have the water treadmill.

“He was fit when he came down and we gave him a trial and a jumpout before his race and he won them both. I had him probably eight weeks before his first start for us. He hasn’t really looked back since.”

If ever there was an ambassador for the benefits of the Bambry family’s water treadmill Deerfield is certainly it.

Bambry said the post-race routine is fairly straight-forward and Deerfield has continued to flourish since his last-start win at Trentham.

“He does the majority of his work on the water treadmill and he has only been ridden twice since his last win,” she said.

“That seems to be working for him and keeping the weight off his back seems to be the key to it.”

Bambry has elected to keep Deerfield stepping through the grades and opted for the Rating 72 event over a Listed race on the same program, believing the chestnut still has plenty of room for improvement.

“His coat probably isn’t quite there yet and he is still very green and he doesn’t know a lot,” she said. “He is basically like a three-year-old running in a five-year-old body. There is plenty of room for improvement in him and I think he will probably get up to a mile.

“We will just take each race as it comes and hopefully he can get through the grades.

“He is a great advertisement for the water treadmill. We pre-train a few and do a lot of rehab work, but it shows that once they are fit it can really keep them at that peak fitness level.”

Bambry will also have an eye on the fortunes of a recent water treadmill beneficiary, Platinum Invador, who contests the Gr.2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) in Sydney tomorrow.

“We have some really good clients that continue to use it,” Bambry said.

“Lisa Latta, Lincoln Farm and Neville McAllister are good supporters and it is great that Lisa entrusted us with the likes of Platinum Invador and (NZ Oaks winner) Sentimental Miss, who just went back to the stable this morning.’’


Checkers another Morton triumph for trainers

Craig Grylls guiding Checkers to a strong win at Matamata last Wednesday.

Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman know how to win good races for Queensland’s Morton family.

Baker prepared Prized Gem for Mrs Billie Morton to win nine races and over $1 million with the highlights being a couple of Group Ones, the  Brisbane Cup and the Kelt Capital Stakes (both in 2002).

He then produced Prized Gem’s son, Nom du Jeu, to win the Gr.1 Australian Derby and be runner-up in the 2008 Gr.1 Caulfield Cup after finishing second to Princess Coup in the Gr.1 Stoney Bridge Stakes (1600m) and third to Princess Coup and Red Ruler in the Gr.1 Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m).

Baker and Forsman were then to the fore with Neo (by One Cool Cat) winning the 2012 Gr.2 Wellington Guineas and recording several black-type placings for Morton’s son, Glenn, and his wife, Lisa.

And at Matamata last Wednesday the Baker-Forsman stable continued the link when training Checkers, a son of Nom du Jeu owned by Glenn and Lisa Morton, to register his first win in the Pearson Engineering 1200.

Checkers had been placed in his other two starts, finishing second on debut to In Fashion at Wanganui last month then third to First Rock at Matamata a fortnight ago, and he did well to score this week after being trapped wide throughout.

‘’He was three and four-wide the whole way so it was a big effort,’’ said Forsman after the race. ‘’He’d just been a bit weak, but he wasn’t weak today. He could develop into a nice three-year-old.’’

Glenn and Lisa Morton have already celebrated international major race success as breeders with Neo’s half-brother Ping Hai Star (by Nom du Jeu), who won two of his Australian starts known as Ted and later won the 2018 Hong Kong Derby after being sold to clients of John Size’s stable.

Now another of their Nom du Jeu progeny could join the black type winners list with Checkers being a likely candidate for feature races this year.

“We’ve pegged him as a Guineas horse for next season but meantime he could be a chance in a race like the Champagne Stakes over 1600m,’’ said Forsman. “He’s improving and could race on a bit more this campaign.’’

The Listed $50,000 Buffalo & Co Champagne Stakes (1600m) is at Ellerslie on April 20 and last year Baker and Forsman provided the quinella in the event which was switched to Pukekohe with Rubira beating Ole Ole.


Mansour showing his talent

Donavan Mansour timing his run nicely to win on The Faith at Matamata yesterday.

South African jockey Donavan Mansour’s career in New Zealand is on an upward spiral, as he showed again at Matamata yesterday.

Donavan had a full book of rides on the day and he was seen at his best winning on the Tony Pike stablemates The Faith and Five Stars and he also picked up seconds on Enrichment and Helena Baby, a third on Dam Reliable and a fourth on Ima Dandy Dude on the eight-race programme.

Mansour’s hard work since arriving to ride for Graeme Rogerson last year has helped get him noticed in New Zealand, but it is his shift to regularly ride work at Cambridge that has been the major boost to his profile.

‘’I was happy at Rogey’s and he gave me opportunities,’’ said Mansour. ‘’I’ll always be grateful to him, but I felt to get more opportunities I had to branch out a bit more so I’ve been riding work at Cambridge for three months and that’s really helped.

‘I ride a couple in work each morning for Murray Baker (and Andrew Forsman) then do six for Tony Pike. I’ve been getting more rides and getting on some nice horses.”

The Brendan Hawtin-trained It’s Doable was Mansour’s first win since riding work at the Cambridge centre when scoring at Rotorua on January 16 and the 34-year-old’s winning tally now stands at 11 for the season.

Five Stars (Donavan Mansour) unleashing a winning run at Matamata yesterday,

The talent which has seen him win over 400 races and be champion jockey during a three-year stint in Mauritius was evident yesterday with his patient rides on the Tony Pike-trained stablemates The Faith and Five Stars.

He got The Faith home by a length in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series 1400 and guided Five Stars to a half-length win in the following event, the AA Auto Services Matamata 1400, to give Pike the first two of three wins on the card. Pike also won the last race with Harbourside, ridden by Troy Harris.

The Faith, a black filly by Denman, was having her fifth start and had suggested a win was close when a solid-finishing fifth behind Choctoc at Matamata a fortnight earlier.

“She’s still growing and getting stronger,’’ said Mansour. “She won well and she’ll improve.’’

Five Stars,  a three-year-old gelding by Highly Recommended, is also lightly tried and an improver. He was having his fourth start and had been unlucky with Mansour in the saddle when fourth to Dam Reliable at the earlier Matamata meeting.

Mansour also has a strong book of seven rides at Ellerslie on Saturday, including Wild Like, Walkin’ By, Sacred Delight and Stella Noire for Pike. He is also on the talented Yearn for Matamata trainer Karen Fursdon in the open sprint, the Peter and Dawn Williams-trained Destination and Evana Rahma for Shaune Ritchie.

Exciting new sire to Cambridge area

Staphanos, the replacement sire for the ill-fated Jakkalkberry at Novara Park.

Group One performer Staphanos will join the stallion ranks of Novara Park Stud, just outside of Cambridge, in the new season.

A winner as a juvenile, the son of Deep Impact went on to record a trio of victories as a three-year old, defeating subsequent Japanese Horse of the Year and stallion Maurice at Kyoto before rounding off his campaign with victory in the Gr.3 Tokyo Fuji Stakes (1600m).

As a four-year-old he was runner-up in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin before returning to Japan to finish runner-up in the Gr.1 Tenno Sho (2000m) at Tokyo.

His five- and six-year-old seasons yielded a further three placings at Group One level, including the Gr.1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

The acquisition of Staphanos follows on from the loss of promising young sire Jakkalberry, who was the foundation stallion for Luigi Muollo’s Novara Park Stud.

“We were on the lookout for a highly-ranked Group One racehorse to replace Jakkalberry, who died last year,” Novara park manager Ray Knight said.

“We looked at a large number of stallion prospects for 2018, but none ticked all the boxes, so we decided to wait for the right one.

“Staphanos fits all the criteria we set when selecting a stallion – performance, pedigree, physique and commercial appeal.

“His ranking in Japan as one of the best three, four, five and six-year-olds is unmatched. He was a multiple Group One performer in Japan and represented his country as a multiple Group One performer in Hong Kong.

“Staphanos is an outstanding and correct physical type and full of quality.”

Staphanos is a son of Deep Impact, one of the world’s great stallions, having sired 39 individual Group One winners and 10.4 percent stakes winners to runners.

Staphanos’ three-time winning dam, Kokoshnik, is by successful Japanese stallion Kurofune, who hails from the immediate family of New Zealand-raced mare and Gr.1 Great Northern Oaks (2400m) winner Catania.

Staphanos is a sibling to four winners, including the stakes-placed Finift, while his multiple Listed-winning granddam Gold Tiara is a half-sister to the late Darley shuttle stallion Poet’s Voice, whose progeny include Gr.1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) hero Trap For Fools.

“He is by the world’s hottest sire Deep impact who has an advertised service fee of NZ$540,000 and is greatly sought after by all our main international markets,” Knight said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for the New Zealand breeding industry to access a top-class racehorse with a globally pedigree.”

Staphanos will stand for a service fee of NZ$7000 plusGST and joins the roster of the emerging breeding operation which also stands young Lonhro sire Sweynesse.

– NZ Racing Desk