New Zealand news briefs

Savaglee springs Slipper surprise

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A fruitless summer saw Savaglee slip under the radar in this season’s two-year-old crop, but that all changed with a brilliant upset victory in Saturday’s Gr.3 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m) on his home track.

The blue-blooded colt is by Savabeel out of Glee, who is a full-sister to the dam of Orchestral and a three-quarter-sister to the dam of Daffodil. Savaglee was bought by The Oaks Stud for $400,000 at Karaka last year, and he looked worth every cent of that purchase price with a scintillating four-length romp on debut at Trentham in October.

But Savaglee went winless in all of his next three starts. He was slowly away in the Listed Counties Challenge Stakes (1100m), then worked too hard to circle the field and force a fast pace. Those efforts took their toll and he faded into fifth.

He did things wrong and again did plenty of work in front when third at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, then ran a creditable fifth without all favours in the running in last month’s Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m).

Savaglee went out as the $16 outsider in Saturday’s six-horse Slipper field. The market was dominated by fellow local Move To Strike, who was the $1.55 favourite to deliver an extraordinary tenth Matamata Slipper win for Te Akau Racing. But in the end it was all about Savaglee.

Ridden by Sam Spratt for trainers Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard, Savaglee settled in fourth along the rail as the race broke up into three sets of pairs. Red Sea and Poetic Champion were side by side in the lead, followed by Move To Strike and Savaglee, with another couple of lengths back to Unbridled Joy and Full Force at the tail.

Poetic Champion shook free of Red Sea at the home turn, with Move To Strike beginning to warm up down the outside and posing a threat. Poetic Champion was showing no sign of slowing down, however, and by halfway down the straight he had kicked away and looked the winner.

But then Savaglee burst out of the pack with just over 100m remaining and swept up alongside Poetic Champion, and he gradually got the better of that rival through the final few strides to win by half a length.

“He was really good and had a good turn of foot,” Spratt said. “He travelled beautifully on the bit and did everything really well.”

The Oaks Stud’s general manager Rick Williams took special satisfaction from Savaglee joining a Matamata Slipper honour roll that also features stallions such as The Oaks Stud’s own Darci Brahma, along with the likes of Heroic Valour and Sword Of State.

“It great to win a stakes race here at Matamata, especially being a colt and winning what has become a stallion-making race,” he said. “We paid a lot of money for him, he’s a lovely horse and Sam gave him a great ride.”

Gerard was relieved to see Savaglee make a well-deserved return to winning form.

“I’m very grateful to Rick Williams and The Oaks Stud for giving us the opportunity to train such a lovely colt,” she said. “It comes with a little bit of pressure – we realise how much they put into it and that they have plans for this colt, who was sensational winning on debut and has now won again after racing so well in the Karaka Millions. Hopefully between us in New Zealand and Mike in Australia, we can get the results they want.

“He’s a Savabeel colt that is still getting there, but he’s shown very good ability. He learned a lot from Karaka Millions night and sat beautifully before showing a really good turn of foot today.

“We can’t wait to get him up over 1400m and hopefully keep the good results coming.”

Savaglee was bred by Waikato Stud, whose exciting first-season stallion Super Seth is the sire of runner-up Poetic Champion. 

Black type reward for Saint Alice in Kaimai Stakes

By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Underrated mare Saint Alice added valuable winning black type to her blossoming career record when she took out the Listed Matamata Veterinary Services Equine Kaimai Stakes (2000m) in a blanket finish.

The Peter and Dawn Williams-prepared six-year-old looks to have come of age in her current campaign with a win at Tauranga over 1600m two starts back followed by a gritty run for third in the Gr.3 Taranaki Cup (1800m) earlier in the month.

In an even field where betting was dominated by Awapuni visitor Manifique ($3.10), Saint Alice ($14.30) and rider Ashvin Goindasamy settled beautifully outside leader Roger That with eventual runner-up Langkawi tracking her throughout.

Goindasamy pushed the button straightening for home as Langkawi moved alongside and they began a tooth and nail struggle for supremacy. Aotea Lad shot through on the inner to join issue and the trio went hammer and tongs before Saint Alice thrust her nose in front on the line to take the win.

Dawn Williams had been hoping for a good performance after convincing husband Peter that the mare was a good chance in the event.

“Peter was a little worried as she blew a bit in her work the other day, but I had to remind him she had just worked with Desert Lightning so it was probably to be expected,” Williams said.

“She really is a tough little biddy and she got left a sitting duck a little when she hit the lead.

“She loves a scrap though and she put her head down and wouldn’t give in.

“When Aotea Lad dashed through on the inner I thought she might be done, but that mental toughness kicked in and she fought back again.”

While the mare has always possessed oodles of ability Williams believes it has taken time for her to strengthen up and show her best.

“They all take time as she was a little frail earlier on,” she said.

“She has looked good this time in and we thought she was very good at New Plymouth on a track that was just too wet for her last time.

“She is hitting her peak now so we have a few things to look forward to over the next couple of months as she does handle cut in the ground and she is still fairly lightly raced.”

Owned by Barneswood Farm Ltd for Sarah Green & Ger Beemsterboer, Saint Alice was purchased for $220,000 by Beemsterboer from the Jamieson Park draft during Book 1 at Karaka in 2019.

The daughter of prolific Group One winner So You Think has took her career record to seven wins from 25 starts while she has also been placed seven times including finishing third in the 2023 Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m). 

Unbeaten Captured By Love dominant in Breeders’ Stakes

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

All roads now lead to the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) for Captured By Love, after the talented juvenile maintained her unbeaten status in the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors LTD Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).

Local powerhouse stable Te Akau Racing have been victorious in the last two editions of the Breeders’ with Zourion (2023) and Maven Belle (2022) and headed to Matamata on Saturday with a top chance of scoring a three-peat.

A daughter of Written Tycoon, Captured By Love had formed an impeccable record early in her career, with a comfortable victory on debut preceding a three-length demolition in the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) in December.

Starting a scorching $1.40 favourite in the Gr.3 Taranaki 2YO Classic (1200m), the filly showed her fighting quality through undesirable track conditions to score a third win on the bounce, setting up an intriguing battle with newcomer Alabama Lass at their home track on Saturday.

Alabama Lass, courtesy of a storming nine-length debut win a fortnight ago, started the $2.30 TAB favourite, with Captured By Love just adrift in the market at $2.90.

Ken & Bev Kelso’s filly flew the ace draw to assume the front-running role under Sam Spratt, while Opie Bosson slotted Captured By Love in behind a strong tempo in third. Bosson moved the filly into contention turning for home, and the two favourites went head-to-head at the 200m, Captured By Love proving too strong for her less-experienced counterpart and stormed clear by 1 & ¾ lengths, with her ears pricked crossing the line.

“She’s got a lot of star qualities about her and it really was another terrific win by her today,” co-trainer Mark Walker said.

“She’s certainly a very exciting filly and what she’s doing as a two-year-old could be a bonus to what she does at three, as she looks the type to keep getting better with age.

“She not only has natural talent, but also a tremendous will to win and all roads lead to the Group One now.”

Today’s contest is a key lead-in for the fast-approaching Sistema Stakes, which will be contested at Ellerslie on March 9. All going to plan for both parties, it will be the first occasion Captured By Love will face-off against Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) hero Velocious, another daughter of in-form stallion Written Tycoon.

Velocious maintains early TAB Futures favouristism for the $450,000 juvenile feature at $2.40, though Captured By Love has shortened into $2.80, with Alabama Lass currently sitting at $6.

A $525,000 purchase by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM at the 2023 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, Captured By Love has earned back over $250,000 in just four starts for the Te Akau 2023 Magic Fillies’ Breeding Syndicate.

“What a thrill for us to win this race again, it’s very exciting and I’m especially happy to provide Sam Bergerson (co-trainer) with his first win in the Matamata Breeder’s Stakes,” Ellis said.

“It keeps our colours to the forefront on the jockey statue in the birdcage and it’s a race that we just love to compete in and try to win.”

Captured By Love headlined a successful local meeting for Te Akau, with impressive victories by El Viento (Ancroft Developments 1400), and Freeze Frame (Westbury Stud 1400), alongside a strong runner-up finish in the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m) by Fashion Shoot. 

 La Crique back to brilliant best in WFA Classic

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Katrina and Simon Alexander celebrated one of their most satisfying moments on a racetrack with La Crique’s triumphant turnaround in the Gr.1 Trackside Otaki-Maori WFA Classic (1600m) on Saturday.

The undisputed star of the Alexanders’ Te Awamutu stable, La Crique had endured a turbulent 12 months since her runner-up finish behind Levante in the same race in February of last year.

But the efforts and patience of everyone connected with the Vadamos mare was richly rewarded as she bounded away from a star-studded weight-for-age field at Otaki.

“It’s the first time I’ve had the shakes for a while,” Katrina Alexander said. “I don’t think anyone other than the team at home will understand what’s gone into getting her here today.

“Inch by inch, we’ve improved her, tried to get her back on track and tried to get her back to the horse that we knew as a three-year-old.

“I was pretty happy with her during the week. I ride her in all of her trackwork, and I really felt that we were getting her personality back. So this is hugely satisfying and we couldn’t be happier.”

There has never been any doubt around La Crique’s quality. She burst on the scene as a three-year-old with five wins from eight starts, including the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) and Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m). She placed in all of her other three, headed by an unlucky second in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) behind another of this summer’s comeback horses, Asterix.

La Crique became a Group One winner with a dazzling Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) performance at Matamata in the spring of her four-year-old season, but she had gone winless in seven starts through the 16 months since.

“She just had one of those annoying blowouts that happened as soon as she came into the stable at the beginning of her last preparation,” Alexander explained. “Unfortunately it blew out of the coronet, and the hole that came out split horizontally around the coronet.

“So every time the hoof grew down, the gap got wider. She obviously had a lot of discomfort in her movement and it was really bothering her.

“It’s been frustrating, and mostly for the horse. She’s put up with a lot. She’s very tough and she’s tried to battle her way through it. Even here last year, it was bothering her and she hung in slightly in the straight. I just hate doing that to a horse.

“She’s been brave, she’s got here, and she’s just matured so much as well. We’re absolutely thrilled.

“It’s so good for Matt (Cameron) as well. This was his first sit on the horse and he produced a beautiful ride.”

Cameron settled La Crique in fifth along the inside, keeping a close watch on the $2.30 favourite Desert Lightning, who was in an early speed duel before easing back to take a trail behind Belclare.

The field moved away from the rail in search of better ground coming towards the home turn, and Cameron cut the corner and went for gold. She scythed through and burst to the lead at the top of the straight, kicking hard and taking command.

Aegon chased hard and ate into the margin late in the piece, with Desert Lightning sticking on bravely in third, but La Crique triumphed by a length and a quarter.

“I’d never sat on her before, but she makes my job easy,” Cameron said. “My job was to follow the favourite, and she just tracked along beautifully. She’s so athletic and she’s a little machine. She felt super.

“She was lovely and quiet and stepped out of the gates well. There was a bit of hustle-bustle in front, and I was fine just doing my thing behind her. She was great.

“Jockeys always have a hard choice, either coming here for this race where there isn’t as much on the undercard, or going to Matamata where there’s a lot of good races. I was happy to pick up the ride on this mare today and it was definitely worth the trip.”

Bred and raced by John and Jan Cassin, La Crique has had 18 starts for seven wins, seven placings and $956,777 in stakes.

Alexander hinted that La Crique might be in line for a return to Australia, where her one previous appearance produced a fourth placing in the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).

“A lot depended on today and how she finished this race off, not necessarily the placing,” Alexander said. “We haven’t looked too far ahead, so we’ll go home and make some plans.

“I think we know now that she’s an autumn horse. The spring just doesn’t suit her.”