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Triumph to tragedy in Gore Guineas

The connections of highly talented three-year-old Mackenzie Lad went from a stakes-winning high to one of the worst feelings in racing within the space of a few seconds on Saturday afternoon.

The Vespa gelding edged out the favourite Ruby’s Lad by a neck to claim his first black-type win in the Listed Liquorland Gore Guineas (1335m) but broke down badly soon after the finish line.

“Sadly, he broke his leg past the line and had to be put down,” co-trainer Matthew Pitman said. “At least Diego (Montes de Oca, jockey) wasn’t injured, but we’ve gone from a big high to a terrible low pretty quickly.”

Raced by his breeders Grant Midgley and Stephanie Rathgen, Mackenzie Lad lined up in 13 races for three wins, seven placings and more than $104,000 in stakes.

Prior to his first black-type victory in Saturday’s Guineas, Mackenzie Lad had finished second in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m) and third behind top colt Noverre in the Gr.3 War Decree Stakes. He was also an unlucky sixth in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in November.

“It sometimes happens to the really good ones because they try so hard,” Pitman said. “He was a pretty special horse. The only time he ever finished worse than fourth was when he was sixth in the 2000 Guineas from a wide run. We had been working our way towards the Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham in March, that was how highly we thought of him, but unfortunately it’s not to be. It’s a tough one to take.”

Mackenzie Lad became the third stakes winner for Valachi Downs stallion Vespa, who had previously been represented by Listed Southland Guineas (1600m) winner Chokito and this season’s Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) winner Wakari. Chokito was also a winner earlier on Saturday’s Gore Guineas card.

Sword Of State back with a vengeance at Ellerslie

Talented three-year-old colt Sword Of State shrugged off an indifferent Australian spring campaign to display his true class when he dominated his rivals in the Gr.3 Cambridge Stud Almanzor Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie.

Wearing the colours of Brendan and Jo Lindsay, who co-own the colt and sponsored the race, the son of Snitzel sat in the trail behind pacemaker Bonny Lass before rider Opie Bosson had him off the rail to challenge on the point of the home turn.

Bosson said go at the 300m and Sword Of State bounded clear before stablemate Imperatriz set out in pursuit as the pair knuckled down to fight out the finish. Bosson asked for the supreme effort at the 150m and Sword Of State answered as he maintained a comfortable length and a half margin at the post with Wewillrock holding out a late run from Rhinoceros for third.

Trainer Jamie Richards, who has made this night his own over the past few years, was pleased to get his first win on the board for the evening.

“We’re on the board, which is pleasing and now we can concentrate on the next few races,” he said.

“Good to see him back in form as he is obviously a quality colt.

“Things didn’t go our way in the spring, but he was back with a vengeance today.”

Richards wasn’t making any excuses for his charge who had finished out of the placings in all three of his Australian races, where he clashed with quality gallopers such as the Chris Waller-trained group One winner, Home Affairs.

“You can put his defeats in Australia down to the quality of the horses he met over there,” he said.

“You’re going over there trying to beat them at what they are best at doing which is producing quality sprinting horses.

“No disrespect to our racing, but it is slightly easier here than Melbourne or Sydney in the spring and there was nothing like Home Affairs here tonight.

“It was a good, positive Opie ride as he popped off and challenged at just the right time.”

Bosson was delighted with the effort and particularly with the colt’s racing manners.

“He raced beautifully and wanted to be on the pace and was keen,” he said.

“He towed me into the race, pinned his ears back and ran to the line, which is what you want out of a colt.

“I hadn’t gone for him until the 150m and although I didn’t know what was coming after him, he ran the race right out.”

Purchased by Te Akau’s David Ellis from the Gold Coast yearling sale, Sword Of State is raced by the Te Akau 2020 Four Colts Breeding Syndicate, where Cambridge Stud are the majority shareholders.

Crowned New Zealand Champion two-year-old for the 2020/2021 season, Sword Of State has now won five of his 9 starts including the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) and the Gr.3 Waikato Stud Slipper last season.

Richards added further glory to his already outstanding record when he took out both $1million races on the card with Dynastic in the Doubletree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and Pin Me Up in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m). 

Bosson and Te Akau Racing take Karaka Million 2YO

The more things change, the more they stay the same was the feeling after the running of the Doubletree By Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

On a night that generates enormous interest throughout New Zealand it was the familiar tangerine and blue racing colours of Te Akau Racing carried by the Jamie Richards-trained Dynastic who scooped the lion’s share of the $1million prize pool for owners the Te Akau 2021 Stallion Syndicate.

By Cambridge Stud-based stallion Almanzor, Dynastic had disputed favouritism with the unbeaten Wolverine throughout the week and it was fitting the pair would set down to fight out the finish as they swooped into the race from midfield to issue their challenges side by side in the closing stages.

Rider Opie Bosson was at his brilliant best as he got every ounce of effort out of Dynastic in the last 100m to draw clear of the game Wolverine and win by a length and a half with his stablemate Fellini running on resolutely to claim third. 

The victory provided Richards and the Te Akau Racing stable with a sixth consecutive victory in the race (the first two with Richards in partnership with Stephen Autridge) and possibly Richards’ last as he leaves New Zealand in April to take up a contract to train in Hong Kong.

An emotional Richards was full of praise for his charge as he spoke about what the victory means to him as he prepares to leave New Zealand racing.

“They were going along a bit, which was always going to set it up for something to come off the speed,” he said.

“What an amazing thrill to get six in a row and to have Almanzor get his first New Zealand winner in a $1million race.

“I’m delighted for Brendan and Jo (Lindsay) and everybody at Cambridge Stud, also all of our staff at home.

“Dave (Ellis) has done it again and that man on top (Bosson), what a champion.

“As everyone knows, things are going to change for me in the near future and hopefully we are not finished yet.

“There are plenty of options for a colt like him as what he is doing at the moment is really a bonus for what he will do next year.”

Bred by Windsor Park Stud in partnership with long-time client John Thompson and his wife Margaret out of the Volksraad mare Meir, Dynastic was purchased from their 2021 National Yearling sale Book 1 draft for $360,000 by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis and is the first southern hemisphere winner for former European champion three-year-old colt Almanzor.

Ellis, who watched the race with Cambridge Stud’s Brendan Lindsay, also cut an emotional figure as he celebrated a sixth win in the race.

“It was just amazing and I was so emotional when Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) said go and lead the horse back in, I nearly had tears streaming down my cheeks,” he said.

“This is such a fun night and an amazing effort from our whole staff who prepare these horses.

“Jamie has done a great job as has Opie and I’m thrilled to have Cambridge Stud, Waikato Stud and Windsor Park supporting us in a horse like this.”

It was also a fifth consecutive win in the race for Bosson, who missed the 2021 edition through suspension and he was ecstatic to have made the right decision on which of the four Richards-trained runners to ride in the race.

“I probably wasn’t in the right spot early on, but then I saw Wolverine outside me and I managed to get on her back,” he said.

“Once the big boy balanced up, he sure has got a stride on him.

“In his trial at Rotorua he really put in some big strides and when I rode him first up when he ran second he just gave me the gut feel he was the horse to be on.

“There were so many trying to change my mind on who to ride so I’m glad I stuck true to him.

“It’s awesome to ride five in a row and I’m privileged to ride horses that David Ellis buys as he is a freak at getting them for this type of race and they go on with it as they get older.

“I’m going to miss Jamie as well as we get on so well together and while he is a loss for us, I’m sure he will make a go of it in Hong Kong.”

A half-brother to Dynastic by Mongolian Khan will be sold by Windsor Park as Lot 929 during the Book 2 sale at Karaka that starts on March 10.

Richards added a second $1million prize to the stable haul two races later when Pin Me Up took out the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m). 

Babylon Berlin takes flight in Concorde

Speedy mare Babylon Berlin was at her brilliant front-running best when she led all the way to take out the Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Eminent First Yearlings Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie.

The Ben Foote-trained daughter of All Too Hard went into the race after a third placed finish behind Entriviere and Levante in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway at the venue on New Year’s day and was installed a $2.50 favourite for the contest ahead of the Jamie Richards-trained runner Festivity ($3.70).

Most expected the pair to fight out the finish and so it unfolded as rider Michael McNab made use of a brilliant beginning from his mount to dictate terms out in front throughout.

McNab kicked Babylon Berlin away early in the run home, with Festivity beginning to mount her challenge at that point, but still three lengths in arrears.

Just as Babylon Berlin looked home, Festivity really started to charge at her and in a desperate slog it was Babylon Berlin who found something in reserve to hold out Festivity by a long neck with Iconic Star claiming a prized black-type placing in third.

Foote was all smiles after the race as he celebrated the victory.

“She fought on really well and is probably learning how to be a racehorse now,” he said.

“She got there (the front) quite easily as we didn’t expect to lead with Iconic Star in the race.

“I said to Michael to ride her how you find her and they produced a great result.

“The owners will be stoked and we will probably be having a few beers later tonight.”

McNab had been keen to ensure the mare made the most of her barrier speed and was thrilled with how his plan unfolded.

“I think the main thing was I got her out of the gates today as she was a bit slow away last time and that messed up our race,” he said.

“She kicked really well, probably the best she ever has for me and she deserves a win like this.

“I wanted to lead and when I got out so well and crossed them I was really happy.

“Normally the last 150m is her weakness and today she was really strong.”

Raced by Foote along with Scott Williams, Kim Rogers, Sam Beatson, Cedric Foote and Andrew Stuart, Babylon Berlin is out of Fusaichi Pegasus mare You Can’t Say That, a daughter of What Can I Say who won eight races including six at stakes level.

Babylon Berlin has now won six of her 14 starts and over $228,000 in prizemoney.

Foote also advised that Babylon Berlin’s stablemate Travelling Light, who numbered the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) amongst her five career wins had been retired after finishing unplaced in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) earlier in the night.

Richards collects another Karaka Million feature

On a night he has made somewhat his own in recent years, trainer Jamie Richards scooped a second $1million prize at Ellerslie on Saturday when Pin Me Up scored an upset victory in the Karaka Million 3YO (1600m).

After snaring a sixth consecutive Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) with Dynastic just two races earlier, Richards was confidently expected to do the double with three-year-old On The Bubbles, who started a $1.50 favourite in the race.

Last season’s winner of the two-year-old feature had a red-hot Opie Bosson aboard, but it all turned to custard for the combination when they were trapped three-wide outside the leaders after making a lightning move to try and snatch pacemaking duties at the 800m.

Just as On The Bubbles started to weaken and an upset appeared on the cards it was three-year-old Pins filly Pin Me Up who reignited the Te Akau Racing challenge in the race as she strode to the front for rider Sam Weatherley.

Chased hard by Tutukaka, Karman Line and Verona, Pin Me Up held them all out by a neck to score her second and biggest career victory.

Pin Me Up was purchased by Sydney based bloodstock agent Andrew Williams, who has worked in conjunction with David Ellis to purchase horses for owner Peter Collier, outlaying $270,000 to capture her from the 2020 Karaka Book 1 Sale from Waikato Stud’s draft.

“She has been a slow maturing filly that has needed a bit of time,” Richards said.

“Andy Williams bought her for Peter Collier from Sydney, who owns her and he has been very patient, so I’m thrilled to get a very nice win for the boys.

“You can’t condemn On The Bubbles on that as he was three wide racing on the speed when Opie went forward and got caught out there, which made it an ugly watch.

“Thankfully we had a very able sidekick in Pin Me Up to do it for us.

“I’d like to give the team at home a big thanks as she is not the best of eaters and I’m also thrilled she carries that very good Waikato Stud brand.”

Richards believes the filly, who holds a nomination for both the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) and Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March will only get better as she matures.

“Whatever she does as a three-year-old, she will be lengths better next season,” he said.

“It’s all in front of her and we won’t rush with her.

“I’d also like to give a big thanks to Sam Weatherley.

“He is the next generation of riders coming through, he has been to Sydney and learnt his craft and after he rode with such maturity for us on New Year’s day, we were happy to give him the opportunity today.”

Weatherley was in awe of what had transpired just minutes earlier as he described his feelings about the victory.

“It’s indescribable really,” he said.

“I came into today with two very nice rides and I’m very thankful to Jamie and to David (Ellis) and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) for putting me on as they didn’t have to.

“I’m just so glad I could deliver and gee she won with a bit in hand.

“Jamie told me she was a big top three chance and he was spot on.

“I just travelled nicely in my own little world and when we got to the front, I thought I had gone a bit early.

“Fortunately, she is a good filly and it was a super training effort.”

Bred by Waikato Stud, she is by award winning stallion Pins (twice NZ leading sire for global progeny earnings), with her dam, Brampton Loco (O’Reilly), a half-sister to Group Two winner Pimms Time.

Both are out of Zabeel mare Brampton Legs and come from the family of former Australian Horse of the Year, Emancipation, while her third dam La Suffragette left Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Gr.1 Metropolitan Handicap (2400m) winner Railings.

Third time lucky for Dragon Queen

The third time was the charm for Dragon Queen at Ellerslie’s Karaka Million twilight meeting on Saturday, landing a career-best victory in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m).

Since her purchase for $50,000 by the New Zealand Chinese Jockey Club and Paul Moroney Bloodstock at Karaka in 2019, the daughter of Sweynesse has spent much of her 18-start career in stakes grade. That includes a close fifth in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) in 2020, followed by a sixth in last year’s Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

Dragon Queen returned to Karaka Million night for the third year in a row on Saturday, and this time she came out on top.

Ridden by Taiki Yanagida, the four-year-old settled in sixth place before dashing out of the pack as the field fanned wide across the track in the straight. In-form rival Faithful Feat came through on her inside and joined her in a head-bobbing duel to the line, but Dragon Queen edged her out by a nose in an $18.70 upset.

It was a first black-type success for Yanagida, who had recorded 14 second or third placings from his 56 previous rides in stakes races.

“I’ve never won a black-type race before today, but Pam and the owners gave me this great opportunity tonight and I’m so grateful,” he said. “She always hits the line strongly but sometimes gets there a bit too soon. I tried to time it right this time, and I knew I’d got there on the line.”

Dragon Queen has now won two of her 18 starts, with another eight placings including a last-start third in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) and a third in last year’s Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m). She has also run fourth in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) and seventh in another three Group races including the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

For trainers Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard, Saturday’s narrow win was not only a deserved triumph for Dragon Queen, but also a welcome turnaround after stablemate Roch ‘N’ Horse came up short by the same margin against Levante in last Saturday’s Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m).

“These finishes always seem to go against us lately,” Gerard said. “But this is a great result. We’ve been trying at this meeting for three years and we’ve finally done it. She’s one of my absolute favourite mares in the stable – she’s just got such a great nature.

“She was only a one-win horse, but she’s always run well in good races like this. She’s been a bit unlucky and probably should have been Group One-placed already.

“She’s really matured and has come back in outstanding order this season. She’s just getting better and better, and she really deserved this.

“It’s also great for Taiki, who has formed a fantastic association with this horse. I know he had the prospect of a good book of rides down at Trentham today, but he wanted to stay here to ride her, and I’m so pleased it worked out for him.”

Babylon Berlin takes flight in Concorde

Speedy mare Babylon Berlin was at her brilliant front-running best when she led all the way to take out the Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Eminent First Yearlings Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie.

The Ben Foote-trained daughter of All Too Hard went into the race after a third placed finish behind Entriviere and Levante in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway at the venue on New Year’s day and was installed a $2.50 favourite for the contest ahead of the Jamie Richards-trained runner Festivity ($3.70).

Most expected the pair to fight out the finish and so it unfolded as rider Michael McNab made use of a brilliant beginning from his mount to dictate terms out in front throughout.

McNab kicked Babylon Berlin away early in the run home, with Festivity beginning to mount her challenge at that point, but still three lengths in arrears.

Just as Babylon Berlin looked home, Festivity really started to charge at her and in a desperate slog it was Babylon Berlin who found something in reserve to hold out Festivity by a long neck with Iconic Star claiming a prized black-type placing in third.

Foote was all smiles after the race as he celebrated the victory.

“She fought on really well and is probably learning how to be a racehorse now,” he said.

“She got there (the front) quite easily as we didn’t expect to lead with Iconic Star in the race.

“I said to Michael to ride her how you find her and they produced a great result.

“The owners will be stoked and we will probably be having a few beers later tonight.”

McNab had been keen to ensure the mare made the most of her barrier speed and was thrilled with how his plan unfolded.

“I think the main thing was I got her out of the gates today as she was a bit slow away last time and that messed up our race,” he said.

“She kicked really well, probably the best she ever has for me and she deserves a win like this.

“I wanted to lead and when I got out so well and crossed them I was really happy.

“Normally the last 150m is her weakness and today she was really strong.”

Raced by Foote along with Scott Williams, Kim Rogers, Sam Beatson, Cedric Foote and Andrew Stuart, Babylon Berlin is out of Fusaichi Pegasus mare You Can’t Say That, a daughter of What Can I Say who won eight races including six at stakes level.

Babylon Berlin has now won six of her 14 starts and over $228,000 in prizemoney.

Foote also advised that Babylon Berlin’s stablemate Travelling Light, who numbered the Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) amongst her five career wins had been retired after finishing unplaced in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) earlier in the night. 

 

 

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