Derby winner for Christmas gift

What about being given a half-share in a Derby winner as a Christmas present?

No, not a potential Derby winner, but a horse who has already become a Derby hero.

That has happened to Alison Ritchie, wife of Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie. But there is a catch.

The horse is Military Move, who won the 2010 Telecom NZ Derby at Ellerslie from the Ritchie stable before heading to Hong Kong, the homeland of his owner, Stephen Lo.

The catch is that despite Military Move being a Group One winner, he has to turn his disappointing recent form around from Hong Kong.

“There has been a long list of horses who have come back from Hong Kong and have not been able to recapture their best form so it’s a gamble,” said Ritchie. “It’s either going to be the best Christmas present ever or the worst.”

Military Move left New Zealand with a record of eight starts for two wins and four placings, including a game second to Katie Lee in the Group I NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton. He was never further back than fifth.

When transferred to the Hong Kong stable of John Moore, Military Move showed some immediate ability with a couple of placings, but it wasn’t until his 10th start at Sha Tin that he broke through for his first win for Moore, scoring over 1650 metres in October last year.

He won again three starts later over the same trip, then his form deteriorated. His closest placing in his last six Hong Kong starts was a sixth.

Lo decided to send Military Move back to Ritchie and concentrate of his other horses. “He gifted the horse to me and Paul Bellingham, who manages his horses over here,” said Ritchie. “Paul has given his half-share to his wife, Belinda, and I have given my share to my wife.”

Military Move returned to New Zealand a couple of months ago and returned to the Ritchie stable last Friday.

“If he returns to his best I can see him being very competitive in races from 1600 to a mile and a quarter (2000m),” said Ritchie. “He should be ready to run around the Auckland Cup Carnival in March.”

Artistic and Zurella, the stable’s quinella in last season’s Gr.1 NZ Oaks, are both in work.

“Artistic will have a lightish summer, about three or four runs, and we’ll look to head to Brisbane for a race like the Brisbane Cup with her,” said Ritchie. “As for Zurella, she’s a triple Group Two winner so her goal is to win a Group One. She’ll got to Te Rapa for the Waikato Draught Sprint then onto to the Group One at Otaki and possibly the Group One Breeders at Te Aroha.”