Grand Soleil in fight for southern title

Sam Wynne, who will again be aboard Grand Soleil at Riccarton tomorrow.

Sam Wynne, who will again be aboard Grand Soleil at Riccarton tomorrow.

Grand Soleil will be chasing an outright win for Cambridge in the NZ Bloodstock Southern Filly Of The Year contest when she attempts to turn the tables on southern filly Showemup at Riccarton tomorrow.

The Tony Pike-trained three-year-old made her first South Island appearance in the Listed NZ Bloodstock Airfreight Stakes (1600m) at Riccarton a fortnight ago and caught the eye when flashing home for second behind Showemup.

That event was the third leg in the four-race NZ Bloodstock Southern Filly Of The Year series and Grand Soleil earned four points for her effort, placing her fifth equal on the ladder, which is headed by Starvoia (eight points), a runner-up in the first two legs.

The series will be completed with the running of tomorrow’s Listed $50,000 NZ Bloodstock Warstep Stakes over 2000 metres, a distance over which the daughter of the champion sire Savabeel has performed well.

“She has taken improvement from the run and should be even stronger at 2000 metres,” said Pike. “She finished it off very strongly. It was a really good run for her first in five weeks.”

Grand Soleil and Showemup are the only points-holders in the series competing tomorrow and a win by the Cambridge filly would land her success in the contest.

As with each of the races in the South Island series, the points are seven for first, four for second and two for third and, even if Showemup does finish second to Grand Soleil and also finishes on 11 points, a change in the rules for the contest will come into place.

The points’ structure has been adjusted this season and the final leg of the series, the NZB Warstep Stakes, will act as a ‘decider’. In the event of two fillies having equal points following the running of the final leg, the filly with the best finishing position in the NZB Warstep Stakes will be determined the winner of the Series.

Another Cambridge filly, Nikita, has an outside chance of landing the series if successful, provided Showemup doesn’t finish in the first three placings and Grand Soleil does no better than third.

Nikita, from Shaune Ritchie’s stable, just failed to gather some series’ points when fourth behind Showemup and Grand Soleil in the NZB Airfreight Stakes. Two starts earlier she cleared maiden ranks over 1400 metres at Avondale and tomorrow will be her first test beyond 1600.

Ritchie prepared No Pushover, who won one of the series’ legs last year, the NZ Bloodstock Insurance Stakes, and shared the title with the other three leg winners, a result which prompted the introduction of the “decider” ruling this term. No Pushover ran sixth in the Warstep, her other South Island start.

Victory tomorrow would give Grand Soleil her first win in eight starts, though she has already twice earned black-type. She finished third behind She Brings Joy in the Gr.2 Stella Artois Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day four starts before her Riccarton second.

That Ellerslie stakes placing followed a couple of placings in maiden races and was her first start at 2000. She was then reverted to 1600 in her next start and finished second at Avondale before finishing fifth to subsequent dual Oaks winner Bonneval when stepped back up to 2000 in the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic.

Before heading to Riccarton, Grand Soleil contested the Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes at Hastings and finished on late for seventh in the 2100-metre feature.