New Zealand news briefs

Daring ride secures royal result in Rotorua feature

Consistent sprinter Pop Star Princess secured her first black type success when she took out the Gr.3 Rydges Rotorua Stakes (1400m) on Saturday, courtesy of a daring ride by Jonathan Riddell.

The noted front-runner had disappointed just seven days ago at Te Rapa when fading badly after being annoyed throughout the 1200m journey when taking up her customary pacemaking role.

Riddell wouldn’t let that happen this time as he bounced the six-year-old mare to a clear lead from the starting gates and maintained a steady tempo that kept his race rivals at bay in the first half of the race.

With his main rivals making swooping runs to race into contention at the 400m, Riddell hugged the rails on Pop Star Princess who kicked hard and put up a three-length advantage. Although starting to weaken in the final 100m Pop Star Princess had enough in reserve to hold out race favourite Supreme Heights and the well fancied Katie Perrie to secure a gritty victory.

Co-trainer Fred Cornege, who prepares the Makfi mare with his wife Lindsay, was at home on the couch recovering from surgery during the week but found time to give some last-minute instructions that played their part in the victory.

“I couldn’t go to Rotorua as I had hernia surgery during the week, so my wife Lindsay was in charge,” he said.

“I guess when you are watching at home you can see a bit more about what is going on and with the kickback there was in the earlier races, I rang Lindsay and told her the best thing would be to hug the rail and try and sneak a break on the corner.

“When she is in the zone this mare is very tough to head and when she got the break, I thought she was going to be very hard to catch.
“They were pegging her back, but she still had something up her sleeve to hold them out.”

Cornege and his wife race Pop Star Princess on lease in conjunction with Sue and Pat Calnan, with Cornege resigned to farewelling his stable star at the end of the season.

“Our lease runs out at the end of this season so she will be going back to her owners then,” he said.

“Now she has shown she can handle the deeper tracks we will give her a week in the paddock and then get her ready for a race at Tauranga towards the end of next month.”

Cornege was referring to the Listed Team Wealleans Tauranga Classic (1400m) to be run at Tauranga on June 26.

Pop Star Princess is the second foal of stakes placed Pins mare Queen Of Pop, who also finished fourth in the 2010 Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m). 
Pop Star Princess has now won nine of her 39 starts and over $243,000 in prizemoney. 

Sharrock duo quinella opening race at New Plymouth 

Trainer Allan Sharrock continued the red-hot run for his stable this season when he produced the quinella in the first race on his home turf at New Plymouth on Saturday.

Promising three-year-olds Darci La Bella and Butler cleared out from their age-group rivals at the finish of the 1000m contest, with both producing eye-catching performances that augur well for future assignments.

While it was Darci La Bella who grabbed bragging rights from her stablemate, courtesy of a well-judged front running ride from Sharrock’s talented apprentice Hazel Schofer, Sharrock was of the opinion it may well have been a different story if Butler had not been tardily away from the starting gates.

“It’s a good start to the day but positions might have been reversed had the other horse (Butler) done it right at the start,” Sharrock said.
“I think the loading process was a little slow and both my horses got a little volatile, so for Butler to miss it by five lengths and only get beaten a couple of lengths, it was a big effort.

“Mind you the filly (Darci La Bella) is no mug as she is a half to Tavi Mac and has only been beaten once and that was by Babylon Berlin, who is a very smart filly.”

Sharrock was encouraged by how both of his runners handled the Heavy10 track surface, particularly Darci La Bella who he thought may struggle in the testing conditions.

“Butler loves wet ground so he will be set for a decent winter campaign, however I wasn’t too sure about Darci La Bella,” he said.

“She showed a liking for it today to suggest we can go a little further with her in this prep.

“Butler looks like a bull; he’s a big strong horse and I expect him to get to open company fairly quickly.

“We’re not too sure about where to target him just yet although I think he’s the sort of horse who could well get to an Opunake Cup (Listed, 1400m) or a Winter Cup (Gr.3, 1600m) if he can keep improving.”

The victory brought up win number 45 for the season for Sharrock, his best since he commenced his career over thirty-five years ago, as he looks to add to that number over the next two months. 

“I’ve got quite a few nice horses coming up through for the winter that will tick a few boxes,” he said.

“My goal is to get to at least fifty wins as my previous best was 40 and we’re past that already.

“With horses like Butler, Justaskme, London Express and Aricina, I’m hoping we can keep it all ticking over as we’ve been going pretty good so far.” 

The victory also moved Schofer (58) within one win of Kozzi Asano (59) in the race for the leading apprentice title this season, although she is now the favourite to take out the award with Asano on the sidelines for the next six weeks after sustaining injuries in a raceday fall at Woodville last Sunday.

Schofer drew level with Asano two races later as she scored aboard favourite Cross Talk in race three on the card, before drawing one clear when completing a personal treble and a double for Sharrock with victory on Sumi in the last race of the day. 

The Good Fight scores knockout in Rotorua Cup

Consistent stayer The Good Fight left his race rivals in his wake as he scooted clear in the home straight to take out the Gr.3 Campbell Infrastructure Rotorua Cup (2200m) at Arawa Park on Saturday.

The six-year-old son of High Chaparral was having just his second run after a summer break following a disappointing showing in the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) in January but stripped a fit horse for trainers Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray.

Settled in a handy position by rider Sam Collett, The Good Fight looked to be full of running when looming into contention at the 600m mark. 

Collett let him have his head on the home turn and The Good Fight bounded clear to crush his rivals in the last 300m, winning by five-lengths from Voler Pour Moi and Initiative who both ran on resolutely from well back in the pack.

Ritchie had been confident of a bold showing before the race but didn’t expect to see such a handsome winning margin.

“I’ve always felt he feels the harder tracks, but we’ve run him in the spring and summer as that is where the better money is for a staying horse like him,” he said.

“He had won quite easily on a heavy track earlier in his career, so we thought we’d put him away after the Wellington Cup and bring him back for a crack at a race like this.

“I think he loved it out there today as he just kept coming over the last 800m and looked good doing it.”

Ritchie was delighted with the ride by Collett who has been in a purple patch of form of late.

“Sam said to me before the race she was aware he hit flat spots in his races and that she was going to try and keep his momentum up when that happened,” Ritchie said.

“Her actual words were that he’s a lazy bugger and she’s right and even though she had him trucking along he still tried to pull up on her in the straight as he thought his job was done.”

Ritchie will now scan the racing calendar for further opportunities over the winter although he has an ambitious long-range plan for the horse.

“We had a go at the New Zealand Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) at Riccarton last year, but the ground was just too firm for him,” he said.

“This time we’ve been thinking about the Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool in November as it tends to be run on a wet track.

“It’s a race worth over A$300,000 and we think he is just the type of horse that would be suited as long as we can get him qualified.

“There is a qualifying race at New Plymouth in September that we would target, but at this stage it is just one of the thoughts that we have for him.”

Restricted to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses, the Jericho Cup is the brainchild of philanthropist and historian Bill Gibbins to commemorate a race held in the desert in Palestine during World War I. 

New Zealand-bred horses have dominated the event with the inaugural race in 2018 won by Redwood gelding High Mode while in 2019 it was Ablaze, a son of Raise The Flag who took first prize, while last year the winner was Count Zero who is a son of the Grangewilliam Stud-based stallion Zed.

This years’ Jericho Cup will be run at Warrnambool on November 28.

The Good Fight is out of the well-performed Zabeel mare Pravda, who won three times at stakes level and was runner-up in the 1999 Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m). He has now won four of his 29 starts and has earned over $243,000 in prizemoney.