New Zealand news briefs

Wakari upsets favourites at Hastings

Awapuni galloper Wakari upset all predictions when he held out hot favourite I Wish I Win to take out the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) at Hastings.

Punters had disregarded the chances of the three-year-old son of Vespa after he could only manage second in rating 65 company first-up at Hawera when expected to win comfortably.

Trainer Royden Bergerson didn’t buy into that sentiment and was expecting a forward showing from his charge with the benefit of that race under his belt.

Rider Kozzi Asano bounced Wakari out of the outside gate (8) to dispute the early pace before sitting half a length off speedster Dragon Biscuit. Asked to lengthen at the top of the straight, Wakari found a good kick to take control before fending off the advances of the $1.30 shot I Wish I Win to draw clear in the last 50m to win by just on half a length.

Bergerson was delighted with the win as he accepted congratulations after the race.

“His work has been really good after his last race, although people were putting him down a bit after he got beaten,” he said.

“We knew he wasn’t ready that day and needed two races to get him ready for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas (Gr.2, 1400m), which is his target.

“He was tough today, really good.”

Bergerson struggled to keep his emotions in check as he described how his charge had come back from a life-threatening injury (chipped sesamoid) that he suffered after winning his second start as a two-year-old at Awapuni back in November last year.

“He’s pretty special as they were going to put him down after he won impressively at Palmerston (North) as a two-year-old,” he said.

“We sent him up to the water walker with John Trumper, who did a great job with him for two months.

“We also gelded him as we didn’t want him to come back too heavy and I think he will be hard to beat in the Guineas now.”

Asano was generous in his praise for the effort by his mount.

“He had good form coming into today and jumped really good,” he said.

“He had the widest barrier, so I had to make a decision on whether to go forward or back and I went forward where he fought really hard.

“I want to stick with him as he is a good horse.”

TAB Bookmakers were quick to react to the win by installing Wakari as the $8 third favourite for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 6, with I Wish I Win at the head of the market at $5.

Before then Wakari will take on his three-year-old rivals in the Gr.2 Dundeel at Arrowfield Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) at Hastings on October 2.

Wakari becomes the second stakes winner for his sire Vespa, who stands at Valachi Downs Stud for a service fee of $5,000 for the 2021 breeding season. 

Callsign Mav defends Group One title

Gritty local galloper Callsign Mav had to call on all his undoubted talent as he took out his second Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) in succession, in a desperate finish to the feature event at Hastings on Saturday.

The John Bary-trained son of Atlante had upset in the race in 2020 at odds of more than $80, but with the scratching of the pre-post favourite in Avantage on Friday, this time the punters were happy to install the strapping five-year-old as the top fancy at $3.30.

Rider Jonathan Riddell had no hesitation in taking Callsign Mav to the front from barrier rise, where he set up a solid speed after being taken on by several runners early in the piece.

Idling around the home bend, Riddell sent his mount for home, opening up a three-length advantage and being hailed the winner at the 250m.

No-one told last start Wanganui winner Spring Tide that was the pre-ordained result as he set out after Callsign Mav and looked certain to head him at the 50m mark, however Callsign Mav dug deep and stuck his neck out to fend off Spring Tide and claim a well-earned victory.

“He worked overtime to get there and they never made it easy for him,” said Bary, who also owns a share in the horse.

“It’s a big thank you to the owners, who let me do what I wanted to do with this horse last season and to the staff at home.

“It is a big team effort and also thanks to everyone who have put this day on.

“They never left him alone and he had to do it at both ends of the race.

“He’s a different horse now though, bigger and stronger and we got it done today.

“This is my 11th Group One, but first in the yellow colours, so that makes it pretty special.”

Bary also confirmed that the horse would be back in a fortnight to contest the Gr.1 Windsor Park Stud Stakes (1600m) before continuing on a path to the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley next month.

“We will be here in two more weeks, for another Group One,” he said.

“Hopefully he can keep moving forward and it will be off to the Cox Plate after that.”

Riddell was taking plenty of deep breaths after giving his all on his mount during the race.

“They all made me work and I just had to keep going (to get the lead),” he said.

“In the back of my mind I thought it might be his undoing, but we got it cheap around the corner and then he really found late.

“It’s just amazing and he has matured and is now one of the big boys.”

Spring Tide tried hard to make it a memorable day for trainer Chrissy Bambry, who had earlier taken out the Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) with Bellacontte, while the connections of Masetto, Gino Severini and Dragon Leap would have all been pleased with their efforts as they finished locked together in the battle for third place, which was taken by Masetto.

Out of the Volksraad mare Raadisi, Callsign Mav has now won six of his 18 starts and over $439,000 in prizemoney. 

Art De Triomphe caps magical hour for Go Racing syndicates

Albert Bosma’s Go Racing syndicates enjoyed one of their finest hours on Saturday when they celebrated three separate victories including two at stakes level in the space of sixty minutes.

Talented galloper Hasabro kicked off proceedings at Riccarton when he produced a fresh-up victory over 1200m for the Go Racing Hasabro syndicate, before exciting four-year-old Atishu made it two wins from three starts out of the Chris Waller stable in Sydney for members of the Go Racing Ring A Ring syndicate, when successful in the Gr.3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Randwick.

It was left to three-year-old filly Art De Triomphe to round out the winning treble as she dictated to her age-group rivals over the final stages of the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton, producing a stylish three-length victory for the Go Racing Beatles Syndicate.

Sent out a warm $2.50 favourite, Art De Triomphe never gave her supporters a moment of concern as she settled handy to the speed for rider Kylie Williams, before dashing clear early in the run home and cruising to victory ahead of Sorrento and Irish Red.

Bosma, who is stuck at home in Auckland during the Level 4 COVID lockdown, was feeling pretty good about the results he had just witnessed on his television.

“It’s fair to say there is a nice bottle of red to celebrate with later on this evening after what has just happened,” he said.

“You plan for things like this and hope they come off, but it’s not often they do.

“It is a very special result all around and especially for Steven McKee, who is retiring at the end of the month.

“He sent Hasabro down to Riccarton on Monday and it might be the last runner he has for us, so if it is, what a wonderful way to celebrate the partnership we have had with him.”

Bosma was also quick to sing the praises of Vadamos filly Art De Triomphe, who has the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) on her radar later in the spring.

“Art De Triomphe is a very good filly and we’ve known that for some time,” he said of the Andrew Carston-trained filly who has rocketed to the top of the Guineas market as $3.80 favourite.

“They still have to prove it though, and I think her win today goes a long way to doing that.

“She is just the ultimate professional, as at home all she wants to do is eat and sleep, but when there is a task for her, she is all business and that is a quality all the top horses we have ever had have exhibited.

“The 1000 Guineas is her main target and at this stage she will have one more run in the Barneswood Farm Stakes (Gr.3, 1400m) in a month, before she then goes to the Guineas at Riccarton.”

Out of the Gr.3 Winter Cup (1600m) winner Art Beat, Art De Triomphe has the breeding to take on greater distances as she matures, a fact that is not lost on Bosma.

“She is very well bred and being by Vadamos out of a mare that won up to 1600m, we think she has the long-term potential to get over ground,” he said.

“If she was to go well in the 1000 Guineas then the natural progression would be to look at the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) in January and then possibly an Australian campaign after that.

“That is all wishful thinking at this stage as she has to tackle the quality fillies in the 1000 Guineas, but it is good to dream.” 

Rails run aids Bellacontte to land Gold Trail

Rider Sarah Macnab produced a gem of a ride as she guided under-rated filly Bellacontte to a thrilling victory in the Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings.

The Chrissy Bambry-trained daughter of Burgundy went into the Group Three feature off the back of a gritty win in the Listed The O’Learys Fillies Stakes (1200m) at Wanganui at the start of the month and paid a generous $21.70 for the win, despite being a last-start stakes winner.

Macnab had pierced through an inside gap to win that day and repeated the dose on Saturday as she cuddled up her mount until the final 200m before charging home along the rail to nail victory.

Cambridge visitor Mustang Valley also had trouble securing a clear path in the home straight and charged late to snatch second ahead of race favourite Imperatriz, who looked the winner at the 100m, but was out-finished late in the piece.

Macnab has been aboard Bellacontte in all three of her career victories and was confident of a win if she had some luck in the home straight.

“I was going to be pretty unlucky if the gap didn’t come as I was up on heels, but she sprinted so well when it opened up,” she said.

“She just does everything so easily and you can ride her anywhere.

“When the gap opened, she just sprinted away from them.”

Bambry was quick to praise the ride by Macnab in securing victory for Bellacontte.

“That was just bloody marvellous, she rode her a cracker and just loves this little filly,” Bambry said.

“She is just the coolest filly to do anything with and to beat a field like that is pretty special.

“I’m rapt for Ben Kwok (owner) who bought her as a foal at foot off and her dam has just tested positive in foal to Circus Maximus (new stallion at Windsor Park Stud), so it’s a great result all round.

“Her coat is still coming out and she doesn’t look like she is ready, but she just loves to be a racehorse.”

Bambry confirmed her charge was on target for the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 13, where she is currently a $12 chance in the TAB Fixed odds market.

Bellacontte is raced by Singapore-based businessman Ben Kwok and is out of the Tavistock mare Devon Doll. She comes from an extended family that includes Gr.1 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) runner-up Tootsie and stakes performers La Rose Noir and No Excuse Maggie.

The victory also earns Bellacontte eight points in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series as she becomes the early leader after the first event in the 11-race series.

Bambry later went close to making it an incredible day when Spring Tide charged home late to be denied narrowly in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) by favourite Callsign Mav.

The Central Districts horsewoman confirmed that she is likely to late nominate Spring Tide for the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) should he come through the run well.

Bambry is one of the rising stars of the trainers’ ranks and success at black-type level is sure to attract more owners to the stable.

“The last couple of weeks has been a bit of a buzz. We have been working 18 horses this week and to have four here on a premier day is pretty special, especially to have live chances in the Group races and to have them perform like they did is pretty amazing,” Bambry said.