Ritchie edges ahead on bet

A friendly wager between Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie and Rick Williams, general manager of The Oaks Stud, has swung in favour of the former after today’s Te Rapa meeting.

Ritchie prepares Artistic and Zurella for The Oaks Stud and he and Williams have differing opinions over the better three-year-old filly. “Rick has gone for Artistic and I have always said Zurella will be the best filly by the end of the season,” said Ritchie. “We’ve got a bottle of good red wine on it.”

Both stakeswinning fillies contested today’s Group II Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic and victory in the 2000-metre event went to Zurella, ridden by James McDonald, while Artistic fought on strongly for fifth.

Zurella registered her first stakes win when taking the Group III Ezibuy Eulogy Stakes at Awapuni on December 10, but then finished second-last of the six runners in the Group II NZB Royal Stakes at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day. Zurella failed to handle the wet track that day and also ruined her chances when getting worked up beforehand.

With Ritchie trying a few different things, including a quiet trial and an exhibition gallop, Zurella was more relaxed today and she delivered the goods, finishing strongly to defeat the game Capital Diamond with
Quintessential and Planet Rock the next pair.

Zurella holds a nomination for the Group I Telecom NZ Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 3 and final plans will be decided after discussions between Ritchie and Williams.

The Sir Tristram Fillies Classic was a stop-start affair with no pace in the early stages, but Ritchie wasn’t worried. “I wasn’t overly concerned by the lack of pace as she’s got a good turn of foot,” said Ritchie. “She’s a
wonderfully talented filly.”