New Zealand news briefs

Marsh continues hot-streak in Otaki feature

Stephen Marsh looks to have a vice-like grip on the Gr.3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1600m) after winning the three-year-old feature for the third consecutive year at Otaki on Thursday.

Subsequent Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Crown Prosecutor won the 2018 edition before Derby placegetter Scorpz made it back-to-back wins for Marsh last year, and now Zee Falls has added her name to the winning trophy.

Marsh was pleased to continue his strong association with the race, which is sponsored by stable client Lib Petagna and named after the horse the Cambridge horseman trained to win the Levin feature in 2013 for the prominent owner, before going on to win three Group One races across the Tasman in the care of Newcastle trainer Kris Lees. 

“It is lovely to come down and win this race,” Marsh said. “It is a race I have always targeted and it was lovely to win it again, and with a maiden galloper.

“Lib sponsors the race and it is named after Lucia Valentina, it means a lot and it fits nicely with our programmes.”

It was Zee Falls’ fourth raceday start and Marsh said the filly still has a lot to learn.

“We wanted to go forward and get into a spot,” Marsh said. “She doesn’t have a racing pattern as yet but She rolled forward to sit outside the leader and had to do a fair bit of work.

“Lisa (Allpress, jockey) just wanted to get out where she thought was the better part of the track. 

“It looked like she was going to get beaten by the favourite (Key), but she toughed it out and won pretty comfortably in the end.

“She still doesn’t know what it is all about and she had her ears pricked and was really green to the line once she got to the front.

“She is only going to keep on improving, that’s for sure.”

Marsh said she now has plenty of residual value as a broodmare, which they will try and improve at Trentham next year when she targets the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

“She didn’t win a maiden, but she has now won a stakes race,” he quipped.

“She is by Sacred Falls, out of a Zabeel mare, she is beautifully bred and is a Group Three winner now.

“This filly will have a break now and will be solely set for the Oaks. She has got her black-type now. 

“A filly like her, once she gets up over 2000m-plus is when you are going to see a better horse again.

“I am thrilled to have her winning and it is good to have her going out on that sort of note.”

Zee Falls continues a purple patch for ill-fated sire Sacred Falls, who is the sire of Group One winner Aegon, Group Three winner All Saints’ Eve, and stakes performers Icebath, Tommy Gold, and Salto Angel.

“He (Sacred Falls) was struggling for a fair while,” Marsh said. “They are not making them anymore but you wish they were because they are absolutely flying.

“He’s a loss to the industry, that’s for sure.”

Zee Falls was purchased by Marsh out of Waikato Stud’s 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft for $130,000.

Earlier on the card Marsh was delighted to see Group One performer Vernanme return to his winning ways in the Devan Plastics (1600m), in what was a confidence boosting win for the gelded son of O’Reilly, who has been out of the winner’s circle since September last year. 

Zee Falls, picture Race Images

Tavi Mac continues to impress

He may be small, but he is mighty. 

That’s trainer Allan Sharrock’s summation of consistent galloper Tavi Mac after his Listed Courtesy Ford Levin Stakes (1200m) victory at Otaki on Thursday.

The diminutive gelding only had five rivals in the race as a result of the heavy track conditions, but that didn’t concern Sharrock.

“He has had three goes on wet tracks, two on Slow and one on the Heavy, and he has won them all. It doesn’t really worry him,” Sharrock said.

“You just go to the races with him because he is a genuine racehorse.”

Under a patient ride by jockey Troy Harris the pair bided their time off the pace and upon entering the straight Harris navigated his charge to the inside of leader Deerfield to take control of the race.

They were able to hold out the late challenge of Burgundy Belle to win comfortably by 1-1/4 lengths, with a further 3-1/2 lengths back to Deerfield in third.

Tavi Mac hadn’t raced since winning the Listed Matamata Cup (1400m) last month, and Sharrock was particularly impressed with Thursday’s performance given Tavi Mac’s 60kg impost, seven more than runner-up Burgundy Belle.

“He had a blow, he hadn’t raced in some time,” Sharrock said. “He’s a nuggety wee fella. 60 kilos is quite an impost for a horse who is only 14.3 hands.”

It was Tavi Mac’s eighth victory from just 13 starts and Sharrock continues to be impressed by the gelding he co-bred.

“He just keeps lifting the bar and he did it quite comfortably in the end. We are proud of him,” he said.

“He has won probably 80 percent of his races and the ones he has lost he could have won too. 

“He is a long way from being a champion, but he is a freakish little horse - with his structure, his size, and what he does. He is a special horse.

“If you would have copped eyes on him you wouldn’t have had him.

“Nobody would have bought him and nobody would have brought him out of his box. It just goes to show you have got to try them all.”

Tavi Mac will now try and make it a hat-trick of stakes wins at Awapuni next month when he contests the Gr.2 Kevin Pratt Memorial Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m).

“He will go to the weight-for-age at Awapuni on the 19th of December,” Sharrock said. “I have thrown in a nomination for the Thordon (Gr.1, 1600m) and the Telegraph (Gr.1, 1200m), whether we continue there or back-off after Palmy I haven’t really decided. He has done a good job and he will tell me.”

Earlier in the day stablemate Waisake won the Levin TAB & Sports Bar (2100m) and is likely to target the Gr.3 Bramco Granite And Marble Manawatu Cup (2300m) at Awapuni on December 19.

“I think he will be a light weight chance in the Manawatu Cup,” Sharrock said. 

“His main aim is the Wellington Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) and he is on target. He is going well.” 

Quality book lures Satherley south

Waikato jockey Lynsey Satherley is making a rare trip to Wanganui this weekend, lured south by a strong book of rides right up to stakes level – and the prospect of further black-type opportunities to follow.

In a career spanning more than two decades, Satherley has had a total of only 21 rides at Wanganui, with a placing her best result.

“I don’t really travel a lot, and I’d say I’ve probably only made four or five trips down there in my whole riding career,” she said.

“It’s not something I would normally do, but Murray (Baker) and Andrew (Forsman) told me I could ride Vee Cece in the Wanganui Cup (Listed, 2040m), and potentially stay with her for the Waikato Cup (Gr.3, 2400m), so that’s made it well worthwhile for me to make the trip on Saturday.

“I’ve also got the opportunity to ride a couple of good chances for Debbie Sweeney, so it’s worked out really well.”

Vee Cece is rated a $13 chance in Saturday’s Listed Steelform Roofing Group Wanganui Cup.

The capable daughter of Canford Cliffs has won three times in her 16-start career and placed at Listed level, but has also been unplaced eight times.

She hung badly at Pukekohe two starts back and was beaten by 20 lengths, but Satherley was aboard in a much-improved performance last start at Te Rapa. Vee Cece produced a strong late run to get within a head of Super Hoof, with the rest of the field finishing more than four lengths adrift.

“She can be a bit of a difficult mare, both on raceday and at home,” Satherley said. “I think Phill Cataldo (bloodstock agent, on behalf of owners OTI Racing) might have said something to try to get me the ride last start. I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity, and she ran a great race and just went down by a lip.

“She does a few things wrong and can be a bit of a handful, but she’s got a lot of ability on her day, when she’s on song. I galloped her this morning and thought she felt bright and well.”

Satherley is also looking forward to continuing her association with the Sweeney-trained Angaria and First Rock, both of whom performed well for her in their most recent appearances.

Angaria scored a dominant front-running victory at Te Rapa, improving his promising career record to three wins from seven starts. The four-year-old son of Niagara is the $4.20 favourite for Saturday’s Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Qualifier (1600m).

“It was a big performance last time, and I think he’s a horse who can go right through the grades,” Satherley said. “I expect him to get up over a bit of ground later on.

“He’s got good early speed and has drawn one this weekend, but I’m just a bit worried about the Slow7 track down there. I don’t think he’ll enjoy that sort of ground, so I’m hoping it might come back a peg or two to around a Dead5.”

First Rock, who placed at Wanganui as a two-year-old in 2018, has shown good signs this spring after a fruitless three-year-old season. 

Satherley rode the daughter of El Roca into a close second at Rotorua last start.

“She’s another one who ran a good race last time, and when I went over to ride her this week I couldn’t fault her at all,” Satherley said. “She seems to be going really well.”

Satherley’s other rides are Ama La Vita in the Dave Hoskin Carriers Maiden (1200m), Lady Lira in the A+ Plumbing (1340m), and Fagiolo Majico in the Loaders Wanganui (2040m). 

Cromwell bringing summer vibes for Harris

Summer racing is upon us and Paul Harris couldn’t be more excited.

The Rangiora trainer will take a strong team south to Cromwell’s two-day meeting this weekend and he said he is excited to experience the Central Otago township for the first time.

“It’s always a good time of year where most of the bigger trainers, like ourselves, set our horses for Christmas and this is the start of it,” he said.

“I am really excited, it’s the first time I will be down there. It is all a bit new and I am looking forward to getting down there and having a look around.”

Harris is taking a handy team south and he is particularly excited about the prospects of Riverfalls, the four-year-old full-sister to undefeated Group One winner Aegon.

She has a lot of residual value as a broodmare and Harris said her connections have been knocking back offers for the daughter of Sacred Falls.

“We have got her on lease,” he said. “We have been receiving a lot of phone calls to buy her, but the guys want to keep her for themselves. The more Aegon does the more valuable she becomes.

“She has never looked so good and her work has been great. I am really quite confident with her. I think she will go a really nice race on Friday but I think she will be very hard to beat on Sunday.”

While Harris is hoping she can add a second win to her tally this weekend, her ultimate goal is to gain black-type when she contests the Listed Hazlett Stakes Open (1200m) at Wingatui on Boxing Day.

“Her main aim over Christmas is the 1200m stakes race at Otago,” he said. “If she can run in the first three in that her value just skyrockets.”

Stablemate Wannabe ‘N’ Paris has placed in two of her three starts and a trip north to Trentham is in the offing if she performs well this weekend.

“She is a lovely mare,” Harris said. “I am pretty confident of a very forward showing from her on Friday. If she wins she will probably come home because I have earmarked some races for her in summer. I am quite keen to take her to Wellington.”

Cromwell contenders McGowan and Whero are also earmarked to join Wannabe ‘N’ Paris on the float trip north.

“McGowan won second-up for us,” Harris said. “She and Whero should be really competitive over the weekend. I have earmarked them for the Summer Cup at Trentham. The next couple of months will be exciting.”

Harris is also looking forward to lining up well-travelled nine-year-old Green Dispatch over the weekend.

“I think Green Dispatch has turned the corner,” Harris said. “He has won over a million (in prizemoney), was placed in the French Derby, and was placed in a Group One in Hong Kong. 

“I have been battling with him a wee bit, with him coping with the seasons. He has got himself out of kilter and he is only dropping his winter coat now.

“I think he is as good as we can get him. He showed a lot of tenacity and guts at Riccarton to run third last start.

“He is another one I am looking forward to targeting some of the summer cups, specifically on the west coast, with races like the Kumara Gold Nuggets and the Greymouth Cup.

“His main aim for this campaign will be the Dunedin Gold Cup in February, that will be his grand final.”

Harris is pleased with his entire team heading south and he believes the stable is in for a good weekend.

“There’s probably not a horse that I am taking away that I don’t think can’t run in the top four. Even horses who have been out of form,” he said.

While Harris has experienced a quieter time over the last decade, he is enjoying operating out of his new Rangiora property where he is happily working a smaller team than his herculean days in the 2000’s.

“I have got 23 in work at the moment and we have just broken-in 10 two-year-olds,” he said.

“Now that I have got an A (trainer’s) license I will look to rebuild again. I just want the racing team to remain around that 25 mark.

“It is a nice and manageable number. It doesn’t become a production line then and I like to think that we look after them as individuals. To me that is important.”

Harris has been at his new property for three months and he said the facilities available to him are first-class.

“I have got a brand new property with our own track,” he said. “I have got a 4000m straight gallop that I can use, I am 15 minutes away from the Rangiora track, and 20 minutes from Woodend Beach, I am pretty lucky.”