New Zealand news briefs

Media Sensation dominates on-speed in Group Two feature

Talented mare Media Sensation backed up an eye-catching performance at the Ellerslie trials earlier this month with a comprehensive front-running effort to take out the feature event for the fillies and mares at Pukekohe on Saturday, the Gr.2 Dunstan Feeds Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m).

Successful at the elite level as a three-year-old when winning the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), the now five-year-old I Am Invincible mare hadn’t been seen at the racetrack since finishing second at Ellerslie back in early March.

Trainers Peter and Dawn Williams gave her plenty of time off after that run before bringing her back for her first trial in mid-October. Two more trial runs preceded Saturday’s raceday reappearance where she paraded in fine fettle for rider Opie Bosson.

Bosson bounced his charge away from a middle barrier to take up the running before setting a muddling pace throughout. Media Sensation gave a good kick in the run home as she held out Showoroses and Supreme Heights in a driving finish to record her seventh victory and go one better in the event, having finished runner-up to race rival Yearn in the 2019 edition of the contest.

Dawn Williams was thrilled with the performance and believes a stint of beach-work had made a major difference to her charge.

“We have been quite happy with her and had done a good bit of work with her on the beach,” she said.

“She had a really good break over the winter and we didn’t rush her back.

“The time she spent at the beach has really brought her on and she did look good heading to the start today.

“We are mindful of her feet though, as she can get a bit clunky running on the really hard tracks. 

“The track today suited her and it was a lovely ride by Opie.

“We targeted this race first up and now she has that under her belt we will have a look towards what is next for her.”

One of the missions that the Williams’ have in mind for their charge is the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

“I think she is best at around 1200m-1400m so we have her nominated for the Railway at Auckland,” Williams said.

“Even though she got the mile when she won her Group One, she is better over the sprint distances.

“She just needs to get into a good rhythm, like she did today and she can be a hard horse to get past.

“She goes well fresh so I’m not sure whether we would have another run before Ellerslie but we will just see how she comes through this one.”

Raced by Barneswood Farm’s Sarah Green and Ger Beemsterboer, Media Sensation has now won seven times from 17 starts, with four at stakes level and has amassed over $385,000 in prizemoney. 

Media Sensation, picture Trish Dunell

Brix provides Harvey with first stakes winner

Trainer Glen Harvey capped a week he will never forget when two-year-old filly Brix upset predictions by taking out the Listed Fasttrack Insurance 2YO Stakes (1100m) at Pukekohe on Saturday.

Harvey produced one of the feelgood success stories out of the annual NZB Ready To Run Sale on Wednesday when he turned a $5,100 outlay into $230,000 through the sale of his Reliable Man colt, that he purchased as a weanling off New Zealand Bloodstock’s online sales platform, to Hong Kong trainer Francis Lui.

In his first full season of training in New Zealand following a four-year stint as an assistant trainer in Singapore, Harvey lined up two runners in Saturday’s juvenile feature with last start winner Miss Ipenema expected to more prominent than her stablemate Brix.

Obviously, no-one told the Sweynesse filly who was sporting blinkers for the first time after three previous runs had seen her finish fourth twice as well as losing her rider shortly after jumping away at her second start.

There was no such drama this time as rider Sam Collett had her travelling sweetly in the trail throughout before angling four wide in the home straight to issue her challenge. Just as second favourite Quattro Quinta looked like he would stride to victory, Brix swooped with a sharp finishing burst that carried her to a short neck victory with local runner Cool Change charging home along the rail to snatch third from the heavily backed first starter Beldarra.

Collett, who is celebrating her 31st birthday, was taken with the performance. 

“Glen is doing a great job with these young horses at an early stage in his training career,” Collett said.

“She was very brave today. She hopped a wee bit awkward but managed to recover from that good gate (2). 

“I was searching for a run a little while out and I thought she was going to be unlucky. When she did get out, she really stuck her head out and had a will to win.”

Harvey was feeling confident leading into the race after the filly came up with her inside barrier draw. 

I was confident she was one hundred percent ready to go,” he said.

“It is the first time she had drawn a proper gate and then Sam gave her a beautiful ride. 

“Funnily enough Sam is one of my oldest friends, but this is only the second horse she has ridden for me, so that was fantastic we could combine for my first stakes win.

“I’m also thrilled for her owners including Mr Caro who is on course today. He is ninety-one and finds it hard to go to race meetings but he’s here today and he’s now had his first winner.

“He’s got the trophy and it’s an awesome feeling to be able to do that for him.”

Harvey will now send both of his runners for a short break before turning his sights towards the $1m Karaka Million 2YO Classic (1200m) at Ellerslie in January.

“Both my horses have a freshen up now as they have had a big prep so far,” he said.

“The wide barrier really cost Miss Ipenema, who was on a hiding to nothing with a lot of speed inside her.

“They will both target the Karaka Million so we will tip them out and then bring them back for one run before we tackle that one.” 

Harvey outlaid $45,000 to purchase Brix out of the Kilgravin Lodge draft during the Book 2 sale at Karaka earlier this year. She is out of the Group Three placed mare Somethymesoon, a sister of dual stakes winner Post Thyme.

Her $27,000 winner’s cheque lifts her into third place on the order of entry for the Karaka Million just ahead of Miss Ipenema with both fillies certain to qualify for the race.

Brix also provided Novara Park Stud-based stallion Sweynesse with his third individual stakes winner alongside Bonita Aurelia (Gr.3 Taranaki 2YO Classic (1200m)) and Only Words (Listed Wanganui Guineas (1200m)). 

In A Twinkling wins second Counties Cup

Enigmatic stayer In A Twinkling was on his best behaviour as he secured his second Gr.3 Franklin Auctions Counties Cup (2100m) with a gritty effort on Saturday.

The Jamie Richards-trained five-year-old can be a headstrong character at times and has tested Richard’s patience on numerous occasions. 

However, when his mind is on the job, he is a highly talented galloper as evidenced by his runner-up performance in the 2019 Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) along with a stirring front-running effort to win his first Counties Cup last season.

Sent for a lengthy summer spell after finishing last in the 2019 Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) in December, Richards gave the Fastnet Rock gelding a slow build-up before he made his raceday return in September.

Having the fourth run of the campaign, In A Twinkling was handy throughout for rider Opie Bosson as he tracked pacemaker Justamaiz for the majority of the contest.

Justamaiz stole a march on his rivals turning for home but Bosson had In A Twinkling winding up nicely and he took control of the race with 200m to run before holding out the late charge of stablemate Savy Yong Blonk to secure the victory.

Some impressive trackwork during the week had Richards hopeful of a good showing although he was mindful of his charge having a few tricks up his sleeve after he finished last at his most recent run.

“We had been expecting him to run well and turn his form around as his work this week had been very good,” Richards said.

“He is a bit of a hard horse to get a line on as you have to take him on trust a little bit.

“On top of the ground and up in trip this time, he was very good.

“We gave him a good break as he had had a big season as a three-year-old and I think that has paid off and justified the owners’ patience with him.”

In A Twinkling holds a nomination for both the Gr.3 SKYCITY City Of Auckland Cup (2400m) and Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) with Richards believing he is best suited on right-handed tracks like Pukekohe and Ellerslie.

“I think the main thing is that he likes it up here and maybe we might need to just keep him going right-handed in the future,” he said.

“He didn’t go at all well in the Waikato Cup last year so we might give that a miss and concentrate on Ellerslie instead.

“Savy Yong Blonk went a super race today and she is more likely to go to the Waikato Cup next.

“She was just the victim of a bad barrier and got held up entering the straight, so she will take a good bit of benefit out of the run.”

Raced by the Te Akau Fastnet Moment Syndicate, In A Twinkling was purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $250,000 out of the Curraghmore draft during the Premier sale at Karaka in 2017. He has now won four races and over $440,000 in prizemoney.
In A Twinkling wins second Counties Cup
Levante stamps her class in Counties Bowl

Exciting four-year-old Levante made a stunning return to the racetrack as she produced her trademark whirlwind finish to take out the Listed Haunui Farm Counites Bowl (1100m) at Pukekohe.

Up against a red-hot field of top-class sprinters, the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained mare was having her first start since finishing a luckless second to Gold Bracelet in the Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) back in March.

A sparkling trial victory at Taupo over 850m had the daughter of Proisir primed for her return with punters installing her as the $3.80 Fixed Odds favourite ahead of the unbeaten Only In Jakarta and the Frank Ritchie-trained Dawn Patrol, who was bidding for his third win in succession.

After a lengthy delay at the start due to several fractious runners, Levante was clearly the last horse out of the barrier and settled a conservative twelve lengths from the leaders in the early rush for positions.

Rider Sam Collett didn’t panic as she bided her time at the rear on the breakneck speed before taking Levante to the extreme outside in the straight to make her run.

Levante hit top gear at the 200m as she swept past her rivals to win going away by a length and a half from fellow backmarker Summer Passage with last year’s winner Destinys Child shading Julius for third.

Ken Kelso had been confident of a good showing but as the day wore on and races were dominated by horses running on or near the pace, his confidence began to waver.

“Deep down I was hoping for a performance like that but you just never know when they are coming back off such a long break,” he said.

“Early on nothing was making ground from the back so I started to get a little worried that she might just have too big a task in front of her.

“We had told Sam that she wasn’t to give her a gut-buster, just let her find her feet and have one run at them in the straight.

“It was a Group One quality field, the best she had ever faced so I kept telling myself don’t be too silly with your expectations.

“In the end she has done the job very very well and has had the audacity to prick her ears at the finish.”

Kelso will now take some time to let the dust settle but believes his charge has the ability to step up to Group One level.

“She is a much stronger mare now but we will still be spacing her races,” he said.

“Missing the Hawkes Bay races in the spring was probably a blessing as it is hard for those three-year-olds to step out against the older horses as an early four-year-old.

“We will let her get over this one but the natural target is the Railway (Gr.1, 1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

“We would probably go straight there as she was qualified before today, which is a relief, as we didn’t want to have to run her again in a fortnight to try and make the field.

“We can take her home and just potter around and get her ready for that day.”

Kelso isn’t keen to get ahead of himself but admits he does harbour some thoughts towards an autumn campaign in Australia but no decisions on that would be made until after her run in the Railway 

Despite the high of the victory, Kelso admitted the team had a mixed day and was disappointed with class mare Supera who finished midfield in the Gr.2 Dunstan Feeds Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) after getting well back in a slowly run race.

“We were disappointed with the run despite the fact they pretty much walked their way around,” he said.

“We might have to regroup with her as she is in foal and we were going to go to Te Rapa before tackling the Zabeel Classic (Gr.1, 2000m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.

“We may have to rethink that as she would have to improve on what we saw today.”

Levante’s victory also brought up a winning treble for Collett who had earlier won on Brix in the Listed Fasttrack Insurance 2YO stakes (1100m) and then on Our Alley Cat one race later.

Raced by a syndicate that includes Ancroft Stud’s Phillip Brown and his wife Catherine, who also share in the ownership of Brix, along with former Waikato Racing Club Chief Executive Tony Enting and his wife Mary, Levante is out of Doyoun mare Island Doy.

She is the younger half-sister to well performed racemares Doyenne and Miss Isle who were both placed at stakes level.