No Luck at Christchurch

Last Saturday at Riccarton proved a frustrating one for Cambridge horses.
The final day of the NZ Cup Week carnival had been eagerly anticipated by Cambridge connections.
The two feature races, the Group One NZB 1000 Guineas and the NZ Cup looked likely to feature some powerful Cambridge representation.
Spearheading the local charge in the 1000 Guineas was brilliant filly Anabandana.
Last season’s champion 2 year old, was confidently tipped to win the fillies classic, with Artistic, Holy Moly and Full of Spirit giving Cambridge a strong hand in the race.
Last year’s NZ Cup winner Showcause, was back to defend his title after a recent Melbourne campaign.
Unfortunately, the weather gods conspired against the Cambridge visitors.
A bleak overcast day, coupled with heavy overnight rain, resulted in the track downgraded from a dead 6 to a heavy 10.
The hopes of a local victory in either of the two feature races quickly evaporated.
The conditions were such , connections of Anabandana decided not to start in the Group One race.
“After speaking to her owner Chris Grace, we decided she is too valuable to line up on a track like this” said trainer Don Sellwood.
Anadandana would have started the favourite in the race, but Sellwood was adamant the right decision had been made.
“We basically couldn’t take the risk of starting her…….we’ll live to fight another day” said Sellwood.
The heavy track conditions also counted against the other local fillies with Artistic, who finished 4th, the best of them.
In the end it was a Christchurch filly, Planet Rock who prevailed in a driving finish over outsider Abeautifulred, and Capital Diamond.
Planet Rock gave trainers Peter and Dawn Williams the prefect farewell present.
After nearly 30 years based at Riccarton, the husband and wife team are relocating north this month.
Amazingly it was the highly successful trainer’s first Group One win on the track.
“We’ve had some wonderful successes on this track, but that is our first Group One here, and she is our last horse we’ll saddle up from our Riccarton stable” said Peter Williams.
I interviewed Williams for Radio Trackside shortly after the horses had crosssed the finish line.
Having known the affable trainer for many years, it was clearly evident how much the victory meant to him.
It was an emotional moment for the man known to all as “Jelly”.
“We are sad to be leaving Christchurch, but we just got sick and tired of all the travelling we have to do down here” said Williams.
He was quick to point out he is looking forward to the challenges of the shift.
“Dawn and I are fully aware it is going to be difficult but we will give it our best shot” said Williams.
 
The connections of Showcause were lamenting the track conditions too after the NZ Cup.
Last year’s winner eventually finished 6th, nearly 12 lengths from winner Blood Brother, ridden by James McDonald.
“He wasn’t really comfortable on the track” said rider Darryl Bradley.
For McDonald, the win was his first in the 3200m test.
“I told my manager Garry Cossey I’d like to win this race because of it’s history and also because I’d finished second in it a couple of years ago” said McDonald later.
Cossey provided the “quinella” with another of his charges Jason Collett, finishing second on The Jungle Boy.  
Blood Brother is trained by Raymond Connors , who prepared three time Great Northern Steeplechase winner, Hypnotize.
“This horse will eventually head to a career over fences too, but he’s got a long way to go to match Hypnotize” he said.
 
Congratulations to connections of Lady Chaparral, who caused an upset at Tauranga on Saturday.
The Chris Wood trained mare downed hot pot Mufhasa in the Group Three Tauranga Stakes.
“I thought she’d go a good honest race, she always does, but I never expected her to beat Mufhasa” said Wood.
Mufhasa was coming off a Group One win in Australia, in the Toorak Handicap.
“He over raced and probably blew out a bit too ” said trainer Stephen McKee.
 
Finally…….Don’t forget the Cambridge Jockey Club’s race meeting at Te Rapa this Sunday.
 
I’ll see you there!
 
Cheers
 
 
George