Shooting for the stars

Starrybeel is ready to make his Australian debut tomorrow.

Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh may not be competing for the A$5million on offer in the inaugural All Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington tomorrow, but he is hoping stable runner Starrybeel can win a sizeable cheque for his connections on the undercard.

The Go Racing Rock Star Syndicate-owned gelding will compete in the A$150,000 Grand Final Classic (2000m) and Marsh is confident heading into the race despite an unplaced performance last start at Matamata.

“The track was wet and it was a mile. He really does like a good track,” Marsh said.

“He didn’t get all favours, but I wasn’t worried about it. Back on a good track and over ground, he’s ready.

“He has travelled over really well. He travelled over on Wednesday afternoon. He went over a bit later because we weren’t 100 percent sure of whether he was going to get into the race or not.

“We ended up 16th on order of entry out of 16, so we just scraped in.”

Starrybeel has drawn the outside gate in the field and Marsh said his charge will need a bit of luck in the running from that post.

“It’s going to be difficult because we have drawn shocking so it’s not going to be an easy race that’s for sure,” Marsh said.

“But we are confident. It just means we will have to go back from the draw, which we probably would have anyway being his first run over ground this time in.

“We will need a fair bit of luck to go our way, but we can’t fault him. He’s got over there great, he had a long walk on Thursday morning and he seems bright.

“Ethan Brown (jockey) gave him a light canter on Friday morning.”

Go Racing principal Albert Bosma and Marsh campaigned Campari and Mark Two in Sydney last spring because of the lucrative prizemoney on offer and the partnership have chosen to follow a similar formula in Victoria with Starrybeel over autumn.

“Looking at a race like this, it just looked like a lovely race to go for,” Marsh said.

“We plan on giving him a decent campaign there and see where we end up. It’s all about making money.

“We had a really good talk about it (with Albert). We have a lot of good owners that are buying nice horses and to keep them interested and to keep them in the game we have got to (campaign them in Australia).

“Unforuntately in New Zealand we don’t race for good money. It’s terrible, so we have got to give them the chance to make money.

“That is why we are going to do the right thing by everyone, find the right horse and target races and race for proper money.”

Marsh doesn’t have any set plans after tomorrow with Starrybeel, but he is likely to have a few more runs in Victoria.

“We will get this race over and done with and then we will just see what he is eligible for,” he said.

“He’s a four-year-old gelding, so we want to get as much money for the owners as we can.”

— NZ Racing Desk

Classic test for stablemates

Queen Of Diamonds (Matt Cameron) drew level with Imelda Mary in the NZ Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series after her convincing Lowland Stakes win. She gets a chance to secure the title on Saturday.

How the stable’s trio  of talented fillies handle the step up to 2400m on a rain-affected Trentham track is Cambridge trainer Andrew Forsman’s only concern heading into Saturday’s Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

Forsman and training partner Murray Baker will produce Queen Of Diamonds, Clementina and Rubira in the three-year-old fillies feature on a track rated a dead six this morning.

“We’ve got three good fillies that give us a chance,” Forsman said.

“There’s no superstar in the race this year. Queen Of Diamonds looks pretty good, but she’s got to run out 2400m on a potentially rain-affected track. Against ours, Pinmedown and Imelda Mary look very nice fillies and it’s hard to fault what they’ve done.”

China Horse Club-owned Savabeel filly Queen Of Diamonds assumed favouritism for the Oaks after her brilliant win in the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2000m) at Hastings last month under jockey Matthew Cameron, who retains the ride on Saturday.

“She was very good at Hasting,’’ Forsman said. ‘’She was well ridden the way the track was playing. You had to be on the speed that day and she got the right run, but she’s also got the turn of foot to do that.

“Now she’s got to take that ability to the 2400m on an off track. We know she can sprint well, but she’s just got to relax now so she can conserve her energy and produce that when it matters.”

TAB bookmakers installed Queen Of Diamonds as a $4.20 final field market favourite ahead of last-start Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) winner Pinmedown at $4.80, then third favourite Imelda Mary at $6.50. Rubira is at $11 and Clementina at $13 after their runs for eighth and second respectively in the Sunline Vase.

“We probably would have ridden Clementina quieter at Ellerslie, but from that good draw we opted to put her in the race and that negated her turn of foot a little bit,’’ Forsman said. ‘’Ridden more patiently she’ll see the 2400m right out.

“Rubira was getting wound up when the gaps closed and, while she wouldn’t have won, she probably would have finished right up with the placed horses. She’s been crying out for a bit of give in the ground and she gets that this weekend.

“Whether she’s mature and strong enough yet to run out the 2400m on a testing track is a query, but she deserves her chance. All three of ours are performing well and they all look as good as they did starting their preparations.”

With all three holding a nomination for the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on April 13 that gives weight to the possibility of a trip to Sydney should they run well on Saturday.

–NZ Racing Desk

Sydney options for Rondinella

Rondinella is likely to start next at the rich Sydney Carnival.

Cambridge trainer Roger James is pleased with the way Rondinella has come through her last-start placing in the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m).

The four-year-old mare, prepared in partnership with Robert Wellwood, finished third behind Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance on an unsuitable Heavy track at Ellerslie last Saturday.

“There is every chance she is going to run in Australia next start,” James said.

“Quite possibly in Sydney next weekend. She will hold a nomination for the Ranvet (Gr.1, 2000m) and the Epona Stakes (Gr.3, 1900m) on the same day.”
The daughter of Ocean Park is one of the most progressive gallopers in New Zealand and has won four of her 11 career starts with a further four placings.

  • NZ Racing Desk



Group Three target for Ardrossan

Ardrossan is over his setback and on target to trial in Sydney.

The Stephen Marsh-trained Ardrossan will trial before resuming his Australian campaign later this month.

The Redoute’s Choice entire arrived in Sydney last week with a temperature, which resulted in his withdrawal from last Saturday’s Gr.1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick.

Marsh said he has improved considerably since his arrival and will now be set to tackle the Gr.3 Star Kingdom Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill later this month.

“He has improved a lot,” Marsh said. “He will trial on Monday at Rosehill and from there he will head back to Rosehill on the 30th of March and will run in a Group Three 1200m race.”

Ardrossan was in good form in New Zealand earlier this year, winning the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie in January before running third to Melody Belle in the Gr.1 BCD Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa a fortnight later.

  • NZ Racing Desk



Eleanor Rigby in sister’s footsteps

Eleanor Rigby (Opie Bosson) finishing strongly to clear maiden ranks at Matamata today.

Cambridge filly Eleanor Rigby took a step toward successfully following in the footsteps of her sister Coldplay when quitting maiden ranks at Matamata today.

A three-year-old daughter of Savabeel, Eleanor Rigby was having her fifth start when she turned on a winning performance in the Tirau Veterinary Services 1600 in the hands of Opie Bosson.

From the inside barrier, she settled towards the rear and burst between runners late in the home straight to beat Ambitious Showgirl.

“She’s a full sister to Coldplay, but a lot bigger than she was and has a bit more scope,’’ said co-trainer Andrew Forsman. ‘’She has just needed a bit of time. She could make a lovely four-year-old.’’

Coldplay was also part of the Murray Baker-Forsman stable and won six races and almost $270,000 in prizemoney.

Her first stakes win came in the 2015 Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) at Awapuni and she also won the Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie then the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa and in her final campaign she picked up the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie.

Eleanor Rigby had been placed in three of her earlier four starts, finishing strongly on each occasion. She flashed home for second on debut at Ruakaka last October then did likewise when fourth at Te Aroha and again made ground well when third fresh-up at Te Teko in late January.

Her only blemish in her formline was an eighth at Te Aroha last month and even then she ran on late to be under three lengths from the winner.

The Baker- Forsman stable was also to the fore in the second event today when Dam Reliable, a daughter of Reliable Man, prevailed when ridden by Matt Cameron in the Tokoroa Cosmopolitan Club 1400.

She enjoyed a good run in the trail and after being angled out at the 300m she soon took over and went to the line nicely, scoring by three-quarters of a length from the Tony Pike-trained Harbourside.

“She was fresh and had been working well,’’ said Forsman. “Matt rode her well.’’

Dam Reliable had failed to do better than a fifth in three previous starts, but on that occasion she showed some promise when running on well.

Stakes test for Vigor Winner

Vigor Winner will be out to maintain his unbeaten record when he faces his toughest test this weekend.

Cambridge three-year-old Vigor Winner will be out to maintain his unbeaten record when stepping up to stakes company for the first time in his brief career when he contests Saturday’s Gr.2 Norwood Family Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham.

The Lauren Brennan-trained galloper strolled to victory on debut at Hastings in January and followed up with victory in the Platinum Homes Taranaki Summer Challenge (1400m) last month.

“We want to space his races just because he has some fetlock issues so we trialled him at Avondale a couple of weeks ago,” Brennan said. “He ran a nice third and wasn’t placed under any pressure — it was an easy trial.

‘’He benefited from the experience of the trip up there. The ground was pretty hard that day so Troy (Harris, jockey) never let him go and he galloped really well. I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Among the opposition on Saturday will be Gr.1 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (1600m) runner-up Dawn Patrol and last start stakes winners Qiji Express, Weaponry and Emily Margaret.

“I think he will be competitive,” Brennan said. “Obviously it is a lot tougher than what he has met in his first two starts, but I think he is up to it. We have got to give him a chance at stakes level and he has got a nice draw in barrier four.

“Troy Harris knows him well so I will leave tactics up to him, but he generally jumps pretty well from the gates.”

Brennan said she might look to try the son of Declaration Of War over 1600m at Ellerslie towards the end of the month, depending on how he comes through Saturday’s contest.

After failing the vetting process to race in Hong Kong, Vigor Winner is likely to be a long-term member of Brennan’s team, however high-profile stablemate Sword In Stone has been sold and will be doing his future racing in Hong Kong.

Raced by Singapore-based Englishman Paul Hickman, Sword In Stone was placed in all three of his New Zealand starts, including an eye-catching maiden win at Ellerslie and a narrow third placing in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).

The son of Redwood was ultimately left languishing as second emergency for the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) after not amassing enough prizemoney, frustrating both connections and pre-post punters alike.

“You’ve got to expect these things when you’re training in New Zealand,” Brennan said. “The big buyers are overseas and it was an offer that Mr Hickman couldn’t refuse. I hope the horse goes on and does well in Hong Kong.

“I’m still getting over him not making the Derby field. It was frustrating more than anything and I knew we had a horse that was going to be competitive and he had drawn well which made it even worse.

“It is one of those things. He was a late starter who didn’t run as a two-year-old so he couldn’t get that prizemoney.”

Meanwhile, Brennan also has one more target in mind for hardy sprinter Magnum, who finished seventh to star galloper Melody Belle in the Gr.1 Waikato Sprint (1400m) last month.

“He had a week off in the paddock after his last start and we are just freshening him up and

getting him ready for the Flying Handicap (Listed, 1400m) at Palmerston North,” Brennan


“It’s a race he won last year and that will probably be his last start for the season as there is

not much more for 1400m open-class horses. He deserves a break as he has been up a


  • NZ Racing Desk


Heart fibrillation upsets Oaks lead-up

Elate has bounced back from a heart fibrillation and is back on target for the NZ Oaks.

Cambridge filly Elate suffered a heart fibrillation in the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) last start, causing concern for her connections leading into Saturday’s Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained filly was heading into the race off the back of victory in the Listed Oaks Prelude (1800m) at New Plymouth last month and looked a major threat in the running before fading late.

“She had a heart fibrillation,” Wellwood said. “In that regard we have just got to rule a line through that race.

“Troy (Harris, jockey) said she felt super in the running and travelled up very nicely. He was really happy, but unfortunately she did have a heart fibrillation.

“It’s not ideal heading into the New Zealand Oaks having that, but we do know that horses can bounce back extremely well their next run.

“We have got to forget that run and head on with some form of confidence.”

Wellwood said she has recovered well since the Sunline Vase and will continue towards the New Zealand Oaks on Saturday.

“She’s well, she converted back to her normal heart-rate the next morning. She looks in super order,” Wellwood said.

“It does give you a bit of uncertainty doing it the run before, but we are pretty happy where we are at with her.”

Meanwhile, the Cambridge trainers welcomed Group One performer Hypnos back to their barn two weeks ago.

The three-year-old son of Reliable Man won the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day last year before dead-heating for second in the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham in January.

Hypnos subsequently finished unplaced in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) before heading to the spelling paddock.

He is now being set for a tilt at the Gr.3 Inglis Sales Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa next month before potentially targeting some Australian spoils.

“Hypnos has just come back into work. He may have a trial prior to the Cambridge Breeders’ at Te Rapa or he might just head fresh into that,” Wellwood said.

“We will get a line on him when he runs in that and we may look to head to Queensland with him, but we will make that decision after the Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes.”

– NZ Racing Desk

Dawn Patrol in top order

Dawn Patrol impressed in his Rotorua trial to be on target for a return in the Wellington Guineas this weekend.

Cambridge three-year-old Dawn Patrol showed he is ready to return to raceday action after producing a stylish display over 1000m at the Rotorua trials last Tuesday.

The Dawn Approach gelding missed a start in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie in late January due to the effects of a virus, with trainer Frank Ritchie adopting a cautious approach with his stable star.

“He just wasn’t one hundred percent for Ellerslie so we backed off him rather than risk completely flattening him,” Ritchie said.

“His blood just wasn’t right and he has had a few little niggles since so we have just taken him along quietly to this point.

“The trial was really to see where he was at and he certainly impressed plenty of people who were on hand to watch it.”

Allowed to settle back off a hot speed set by Staccato, Dawn Patrol was angled to the outside on the home corner by rider Michael McNab and hit top gear in a couple of strides before cruising to the line under a stranglehold to win by a conservative four lengths.

“We know he has a real turn of foot and it was good to see him show that without any pressure being put on him,” Ritchie said. “I think he has matured during the break and he is very forward to resume.”

Ritchie will throw his charge in the deep end for his raceday return with the Gr.2 Norwood Family Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham this coming weekend his immediate target.

“We think he is far better suited going left-handed so the Wellington Guineas was the obvious target for him,” he said. “If he performs well there then we will look at where he can go next with Australia a definite option.

“I think he would be suited to a roomy track like Randwick or Eagle Farm, but it might be best to look at Melbourne so we can keep him going left-handed.”

Ritchie was also encouraged by the performance of Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner Madison County, who charged home to finish an eye-catching fourth behind star colt The Autumn Sun at Randwick on Saturday.

“It was great to see Madison County go so well on the weekend as we finished second to him in the 2000 Guineas so it provides some sort of measuring stick for our Australian chances,” he said.

“When he beat us in the Guineas, we were still on a steep learning curve so if the improvement Dawn Patrol has shown lately can be translated into performance then I think he can be competitive in Melbourne.”

NZ Racing Desk

Waiting game with Sword In Stone

Sword In Stone missed a start in the Vodafone New Zealand Derby, but could be a player in the Queensland Derby.

Trainer Lauren Brennan is playing the waiting game with promising three-year-old Sword In Stone as she contemplates where to next with the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) placegetter.

The Redwood gelding is currently under offer for a potential sale to overseas interests which means Brennan’s plans are in limbo until that process has been completed.

“He is under offer and we are just waiting to hear back after completing the vetting process,” she said.

“Obviously if the sale goes through then he will be on his way, but if it doesn’t then we are looking at where to go with him next.

“I think the Queensland Winter carnival is the best option so we will work out a plan on what he has to do to get there from where we are now.”

Should the Brisbane plan become a reality, Brennan is mindful that her charge will need to lift his prizemoney earnings to gain a start in the key three-year-old races on offer.

“We would look to run him in the Rough Habit Plate (Gr.3, 2000m) then the Queensland Derby (Gr.1,2400m), but at the moment he wouldn’t have enough money in the bank to qualify,” she said.

“There are two nice races at Ellerslie coming up so they would be our immediate targets. There is a three-year-old mile on March 30 then the Championship Stakes (Gr.2, 2100m) in April so if he could get a win there it would set him up nicely.”

Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, Brennan is still coming to terms with the disappointment of Sword In Stone missing a start in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) despite being stakes-placed in his final lead-up run.

“I was gutted he didn’t get into the race and I’m still feeling it now,” she said.

“He was cherry ripe for the race and had drawn perfectly in barrier one. He would probably have enjoyed a lovely, economical run on the fence and I think he would have proved very competitive.

“To be Group Two placed and still only second on the ballot doesn’t seem right as I definitely think he should have made the field.

“We can’t change it now though, so we have to look forward with him.”

NZ Racing Desk

Pretty to see judgement spot on

Pretty To Sea (Leith Innes) turning her luck around with a strong win in the heavy ground today.

The torrential rain which turned the Ellerslie track to heavy today wasn’t enough to upset Stephen Marsh’s prediction with Pretty To Sea.

While most trainers’ confidence was shattered or dented severely with the downpours, Marsh stuck to his guns and rated Pretty To Sea at the top of his list of runners.

“Out of my three runners the one who should have the least issue with the track is her,’’ the Cambridge trainer said. ‘’She has galloped in the wet at home and liked it.’’

In fact Pretty To Sea’s first start for Marsh since coming from Australia was on a heavy10 track at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and the result was a decisive win over 1200m, the same distance she faced today.

Leith Innes was aboard in that first-up win and was reunited with Pretty To Sea in today’s Laser Te Puke 1200 after being sidelined through suspension when she had two starts between times.

Pretty To Sea, ridden by Shaun McKay, had no luck second-up when eighth after being held up in the Gr.3 Preferment @ Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie then again had trouble finding a clear passage in the home straight when third at Tauranga in the hands of Jason Waddell.

Yet again she got held up today after being midfield, but it was only a shade and 300 metres from the finish. Innes soon pushed her into the clear and had her up to challenge wide out in plenty of time.

Pretty To Sea kicked on strongly to win by three-quarters of a length from Rikki Tikki Tavi to take her record to three wins and five placings from 13 starts.

Raced by Brendan and Jo Lindsay, Pretty To Sea should have no trouble adding to her record in the next few months.