More Group One glory for Cambridge

Diademe (Jonathan Riddell) racing away with today's Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha. (Photo: Trish Dunell).

Diademe (Jonathan Riddell) racing away with today’s Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha. (Photo: Trish Dunell).


Murray Baker’s attention focused solely on Te Aroha today after the postponement of the Randwick meeting and there was plenty of cause for celebration.

Baker is in Sydney with Mongolian Khan, who was set to attempt to complete the Gr. 1 Derby double of the NZ feature at Ellerslie and the Australian Derby. But with the meeting postponed until Monday because of wet weather, the stable attention was centred on today’s Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes with two prospects – Diademe and Sports Illustrated.

Despite facing some strong opposition, the race came down to a war of the stablemates with Diademe proving the tougher over the final stages to score by a neck.

It was a thoroughly deserved Group One victory for Diademe, who had finished third in the same race two years ago. And for Cambridge, the win marked the eighth at Group One level this season.

Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman have been responsible for five of Cambridge’s Group One moments this term with Turn Me Loose starting the ball rolling when taking last November’s Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.

Mongolian Khan chimed in with his Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby win last month and stablemates Dal Cielo and Sakhee’s Soldier prevailed at the top level on the last day of the Auckland Cup meeting with success in the Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes and Ronald McDonald House Charities NZ Stakes respectively.

And now to come up with a Group One quinella is yet another feature in the Baker – Forsman cap.

Diademe was not only a decisive winner of the Breeders Stakes, she broke the track record in taking the feature. Waikiki had set the record of 1:33.70 when winning the first of her two Breeders Stakes in 1990 and no horse could better it until Diademe came along today.

Forsman admitted he was a bit worried going into the race with the track described as a Good3.

“I was a bit worried that the track would be a bit hard for her with the way her legs are,” said Forsman. “It was such an amazing effort. To win the race like that and break the track record, for a horse who’s always feeling her joints, it speaks volumes for the type of horse she is.”

Diademe was ridden for the first time by Jonathan Riddell, who went forward on the Savabeel mare, joining Moozoon and Arrow In The Sand on the pace. Early in the run home Riddell planted the accelerator and Diademe opened a break, which she held on to strongly over the concluding stages.

Diademe was bred by Gary Chittick and is owned by Scott Richardson, who was ecstatic over the win. “I’m immensely proud of her,” said Richardson. “A Group One win is what we were waiting for and she’s done it.”

Sports Illustrated, owned and bred by Chittick, did well to finish second, with a length and a half to third-placed Abidewithme, who finished well. Atacama was a strong-finishing fourth while Pondarosa Miss wound up a creditable fifth.

Pondarosa Miss was the last ride for the legendary hoop Noel Harris and she was always going to be the sentimental favourite. In fact such was the support she wound up the public elect.

After settling back, she was still well off the pace on straightening for the run home and when Harris angled her out and into the clear she ran on well. But it was too late to give Harris a winning farewell.