New Zealand news briefs

Emotional win for Corbett

It’s been a tough month for trainer Peter Corbett, but some light was put back into his life on Saturday when his pride and joy Dee And Gee recaptured form when storming home late to win the Waikouaiti Cup (2200m) at Wingatui.

The former Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) winner had been out of form for some time, and the mare, who is raced by Corbett and the Estate of his late partner Terrill Charles, was on the cusp of being retired.

However, she made a fitting return to the winner’s circle just a matter of days after Charles’ remembrance service at Riccarton.

“I galloped her on the Wednesday at Riccarton after the service,” Corbett said.

“That was a two-pronged thing. I needed to get a gallop into them and I couldn’t do it with the service going, so I rang Tim Mills and galloped them after the service.

“That was quite fitting, everyone seemed to enjoy it.”

Charles passed away last month after a near six year battle with brain cancer, and Corbett identified Dee And Gee as a major factor in extending his partner’s life past her initial four month prognosis.

“It was quite emotional. It is still fairly raw,” Corbett said. “It has been pretty rough the last five or six months. 

“She (Charles) got two months less than six years. They only gave her four months (to live) to start with, so she didn’t go bad.

“I always promised her we would win a New Zealand Cup, and that probably kept her going. I didn’t think we ever would (win it), but I used it as a motivation for her to keep going. When we got it that was unreal.

“That’s one thing I can honestly say was the highlight of the struggle all the way through.”

Dee And Gee was facing a new career in the broodmare paddock had she not performed well on Saturday, but Corbett was confident of a bold showing despite a disappointing spring campaign.

“If she hadn’t gone a decent race on Saturday I was retiring her,” he said. “I had made that decision. I didn’t expect her to win, but I expected a bold showing. 

“She had been working the house down and it was nice to see her hit form again.”

Dee And Gee hadn’t raced since her 11th placing in the New Zealand Cup, but Corbett said she has still had plenty of work, with a tilt at the Gr.3 NZ Campus OF Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) on Saturday-week in-mind.

It is a race Corbett feels his charge has some unfinished business in after her runner-up effort two years ago, and a nightmare run last year.

“She got buggered up in the Wellington Cup when she got galloped on, it took her confidence right out of her, but she seems to have that fighting spirit back in her now,” he said. 

“The Wellington Cup second was huge. We have got a bit of unfinished business up there, but it looks like I have got a horse to go up there with now.”

Corbett also took plenty of confidence out of Dee And Gee’s winning time on Saturday.

“She ran a bit of time down there on Saturday, which I didn’t realise,” he said. “She went 2:13.25 for the 2200m, so they were flying. They broke the track record which is pretty remarkable for her.

“We are hoping to go into the Wellington Cup firing on all cylinders.”

The win on Saturday will also make Corbett’s life a little easier next week.

“From that win the other day I have got a return trip with Majestic (Transport) for Dee And Gee to the Wellington Cup, so I might just take it easy this year and put her on the transporter and just fly up,” he said.

If she performs well on Saturday-week, Corbett is contemplating putting in a late nomination for another race he feels his charge has some unfinished business in.

“If she happened to run in the first three in the Wellington Cup, I would probably look at throwing in a late nomination for the Auckland Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) with her,” he said.

“She ran fourth in the Auckland Cup on a rain-affected track, which isn’t her go. She needs a firm track.”

After a trying couple of months, Corbett said Dee And Gee’s victory over the weekend has helped lift his spirits.

“It is just amazing how things change around,” he said. “I was thinking we were going nowhere before Saturday, but it has given me a spring in my step now.”

Karaka Million dream turning to reality

Ruakaka trainer Kenny Rae is like a kid before Christmas as he counts down to Saturday’s $1m Doubletree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie.

The knock-about horseman, who trains in partnership with daughter Krystal Williams-Tuhoro, will saddle exciting youngster Follow Your Dreams, a $7 third favourite in the million-dollar feature.

Rae took the laid-back colt to the South Island for his first three starts, where after winning his first two races at Riccarton, he finished runner-up to Avonallo, whom he meets again on Saturday, in the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m).

He then returned north and finished an eye-catching fifth on Boxing Day at Ellerslie when racing without luck. 

“That was the run of his life. It was better than his two wins and a second to me. He ran the fastest last four sectionals of the race,” Rae said. 

“He has done a lot of quiet work on the beach trying to keep him a wee bit fresh. It’s a different way of training normal two-year-olds, but he is not a normal two-year-old. He is like a five-year-old gelding.”

Bred by Valachi Downs principal Kevin Hickman, Follow Your Dreams, a son of emerging sire Contributer, is the first foal of O’Reilly mare Dare To Dream and was purchased by Rae for $24,000 at the Book 2 Yearling Sale at Karaka 12 months ago. 

“I had two out of his family and one went to Hong Kong and one went to Singapore. That’s what made me look at buying him,” Rae said. 

“When I looked at him, I had a horse called Upsala for Lars Pearson a few years back, and he was a lovely two-year-old and this fella was a clone physically.

“I have paid up for the Karaka Million on the odd occasion before and the horses have never made it there. 

“I wasn’t initially going to pay up with this bloke, but they give you 30 days after the sales to enter and I started breaking him in.

“I said to Shona and Alex Rumble who bought him with me that the horse was six months physically and mentally ahead of his time and that if he could run he had a hope. 

“Hence we paid up on the last day before the cut-off and he can definitely run.”

The colt’s good temperament has enabled him to keep his manhood and Rae said he was versatile enough to be ridden forward or back. 

“I’ll leave that up to Craig Grylls,” Rae said.

“He doesn’t run on adrenaline like a lot of two-year-olds. There is no excitement in him.

“He is a gem of a horse to have at home and I normally geld all the colts because we haven’t really got the facilities for them. But he has been at home and stands in his box and watches other horses on the walker and he never gets excited. He is the perfect racehorse.”

Rae revealed veteran galloper Kaharau had come out of semi-retirement to play the role of lead pony for Follow Your Dreams as the youngster adapted to beach training. 

The well-travelled trainer said he has been overwhelmed by the well-wishes from the length and breadth of the country, including his many friends in the South Island where he has recently returned from campaigning horses on the West Coast. 

“It’s been amazing. Obviously people from Northland but also the guys down South have been really supportive. My family will be there but there are people coming to watch him that have never been to the Karaka Million before,” Rae said.

“He has got a bit of a fan club and he is not even a topline racehorse, yet. 

“This is what racing is made of. It would be a big boost for Ruakaka. If he could run in the first four I’d be rapt but wherever he finishes on Saturday, he is going to be a really good horse.”

The power of Te Akau Racing, who have five prospective runners including favoured pair On The Bubbles ($3.80) and Millefiori ($4.00), looms large, with Rae full of respect for the operation which has claimed the Karaka Million 2YO for the past four years in succession with the likes of Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel and Cool Aza Beel.

“They’d probably die of fright if we won,” Rae said.

“I’m just a small peasant stable taking on the guns. Two or three months ago it was a dream. Now it is a reality.” 

Bosson loses court appeal

Champion jockey Opie Bosson is set to miss New Zealand's richest race meeting, the Karaka Million at Ellerslie on Saturday, after his High Court appeal against careless riding charges was unsuccessful on Monday.

Bosson received two suspensions for careless riding at Ellerslie on New Year's Day and had already failed in a bid to reduce the severity of the bans which saw him outed until January 30. 

The champion hoop rode the winner of both $1 million races last year and was set to partner favoured runners in both the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) for champion trainer Jamie Richards. 

Bosson has incredibly been aboard the past four Karaka Million 2YO winners for the Te Akau team, with victories on Melody Belle (2017), Avantage (2018), Probabeel (2019) and Cool Aza Beel (2020). 

Moana worse for wear

Smart filly Moana pulled up worse for wear following a bumping duel with boom colt Brando in Saturday’s Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) in which she finished seventh behind Bonham, who narrowly prevailed from Brando. 

The Chad Ormsby-trained daughter of Ocean Park was angling for a run between horses under Vinnie Colgan when the incident occurred 400m from home. 

The filly required post-race vet treatment for lacerations to the left foreleg and she will undergo further scans this week.

“She had an examination and she has pulled up okay in herself, but there is a bit of skin off in a compromising spot on the back of a tendon, so she will have further scans once the swelling has subsided,” Ormsby said. 

“It was just one of those things where she was making her run and Vinnie (Colgan, jockey) thought she was going better than Brando at the time.”

Despite being a seven-start maiden, Moana is multiple Group Two placed, having finished third in both the Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) and the Eight Carat Classic (1600m).  

Chris Johnson celebration raceday 

The Canterbury Jockey Club racemeeting this coming Thursday, 21 January 2020, will celebrate the career of leading South Island jockey Chris Johnson. 

Johnson broke the record for the most winning rides by a jockey in New Zealand when Sassenach won the fourth race on the card at the Awapuni racemeeting on Saturday 19 December 2020. 

Thursday is the first occasion that the Canterbury Jockey Club has held a racemeeting since Johnson reached the milestone of 2452 winning rides in New Zealand to take the record from another Cantabrian David Walsh. 

New Zealand’s oldest racecourse Riccarton Park will be renamed ‘Chris Johnson Racecourse’ for the day and each race will carry the name or names of horses that hold special meaning to Johnson.