New Zealand news briefs

Sentimental victory for Karman Line in Lisa Chittick Plate

By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

It was hard to think of a more fitting victory on Saturday than when Karman Line dashed home out wide to take out the Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m).

The race is named in honour of the late Lisa Chittick (nee O’Sullivan), the sister of former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan who now trains in partnership with Andrew Scott, with the pair producing the five-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie from their Matamata-based Wexford Stables operation.

Carrying the well-known yellow and blue Wexford colours, Karman Line settled near the rear of the field for rider Maas Hashizume as tearaway pacemaker Impresa bowled along up to five lengths clear during the mid-stages of the contest.

As race favourite Churchillian and local mare Tevere dragged the field up to Impresa approaching the home bend, Hashizume sat quietly before taking his mount wide for one run at the leaders.

Just as Fashion Shoot was being hailed the winner, Karman Line loomed on her outer and with Hashizume desperately slapping her on the shoulder after losing his whip at the 100m, she thrust her head in front on the line to take the win.

O’Sullivan admitted the victory held a special meaning for the family, with his father Dave on-course to witness proceedings.

“We had actually thought we would start her in the Rating 75 1400m which was one race earlier, but when we looked at the prospective fields they looked quite similar on paper,” O’Sullivan said.

“I did say to Scotty it would be a special win if she could get this one as I knew Dad would be on-course for the day and he would get a real kick out of it.

“We just turned the page on her last start at Ellerslie in the Westbury Classic (Gr.2, 1400m) where she beat a couple home as she got back and it was very hard to make ground that day.

“The race today set up nicely for her with plenty of speed on and she got to come with an uninterrupted run which she really appreciated.”

O’Sullivan has lofty ambitions with the mare including a tilt at the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) on 30 March in his sights.

“The Breeders’ is a natural target for her as her racing pattern suggest she can get the mile,” he said.

“We will take a look at the programme and assess if she needs a run before then, but firstly we will get her home, look after her and enjoy this victory.”

Bred by the Little Avondale Trust, Karman Line is out of the Pierro mare World Away and is the granddaughter of American Group One winner Miss World, while her extended family also includes Gr.1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) winner Miss Finland.

She was purchased by Wexford Stables for $67,500 from the Book 2 Sale at Karaka in 2020 and has now won three of her 14 starts and over $187,000 for her large group of connections.

The victory brought up a winning double for the day for the O’Sullivan and Scott team after Jaffira took out the first race on the card.

The Underbelly all the way in St Leger Trial

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Up-and-coming stayer The Underbelly continued his rapid rise with a dominant front-running performance in Saturday’s New World Otaki New Zealand St Leger Trial (2300m) at Otaki, booking himself a ticket to a time-honoured feature at Trentham next month.

The Robbie Patterson-trained five-year-old has now won seven of his 14 career starts, and he has been unbeaten and increasingly impressive in his last four appearances dating back to a 2100m Rating 75 at Otaki on Boxing Day. He later won a 2200m Rating 75 on Telegraph Day at Trentham, then added a 2060m Rating 79 handicap at Wanganui on February 9.

Saturday marked a first step into open company for The Underbelly, and he showed that he was well and truly up to the task.

Ridden by Craig Grylls, The Underbelly went forward and took the lead within the first 100m of Saturday’s $50,000 race, and that was where he remained.

With no pressure from any of his six rivals, The Underbelly had an easy time in front and was able to dictate terms all the way. Grylls began to up the ante coming up to the home turn, and the chasers were unable to match The Underbelly’s acceleration.

The $2.30 favourite increased his advantage with big, powerful strides down the Otaki straight, charging past the finish line four lengths in front of runner-up Mark Twain.

“He just keeps improving, which is promising,” Grylls said. “In all fairness, I got it pretty cheap and was left alone with a soft lead. We just quickened up from about the 500m, and he kept getting quicker and quicker.

“I don’t think he’ll have any problem going further than this, and in higher-pressure races as well. He just keeps improving and relaxes really well in his races.”

One of 26 winners from just 56 runners for Grangewilliam Stud stallion The Bold One, The Underbelly is bred and raced by Eddie and Nicole Bourke and Alan Piercy. He has so far earned $144,320, with Patterson now eyeing the $90,000 New Zealand St Leger (2600m) at Trentham on March 16.

“They gave the race to him today, and you can’t do that with a horse of his ability,” Patterson said. “And especially when he’s carrying only 55kg. He’s a big, strong horse.

“But he was impressive. He’s a proper horse. We’ll probably go to the St Leger and then put him aside, and I’ll be really looking forward to a great six-year-old season with him.

“Every time he goes out, he seems to get better. We’ll get him home tonight, at 11 o’clock or whatever, and he’ll lick the bowl. He’ll work again on Monday and he won’t care.” 

Solidify returns to winning form at Otaki

By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A patient ride by Jonathan Riddell was the key to a much improved performance from talented galloper Solidify as he returned to winning form in the opening event at Otaki on Saturday, the Cavallo Farm Chris Rutten Bloodstock 3YO (1600m).

Riddell, who was having his first ride on the son of Redwood with regular pilot Ryan Elliot unavailable on the day, sat back in the five-horse field before looming into contention approaching the home corner.

The Team Rogerson-prepared galloper moved clear of his rivals halfway down the straight and went to the line under a hold to defeat the late finishing Bozo by a length with pacemaker Danjuro fighting on well for third.

Riddell was happy with the way the race unfolded around him and the way his mount finished off proceedings.

“The speed seemed genuine enough and I was able to get off the fence and into the perfect spot,” Riddell said.

“He did it all himself and it was a fairly easy win.

“His form is pretty good and I was lucky enough to pick up ride which I appreciate.”

Solidify holds a nomination for the Gr.1 TAB New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie next Saturday and Riddell felt the horse had the ability to be a contender in the race at the distance.

“He has the right trainer to do it and anything is possible with Rogie,” he said.

“I’ve only had one go on him but it seems to me why not have a go (at the Derby).”

Rogerson confirmed that as long as the horse recovered well he would take his place in the Derby field.

Rogerson purchased Solidify for $140,000 from the Westbury Stud draft during the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale, with stud proprietor Gerry Harvey remaining in the ownership group.

Out of the Redoute’s Choice mare The Warrior Woman, who is a sister to outstanding racemare Royal Descent, Solidify has now won four of his 12 starts and over $168,000 in prizemoney.

He is currently rated as a $21 chance in the Fixed Odds market for the New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie next Saturday, with Orchestral the current $1.40 favourite. 

Danis returning to Singapore

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

With Singapore Turf Club’s impending closure, there a more people exiting than entering the racing jurisdiction, but New Zealand-based jockey Darren Danis will be one of the few going against the tide.

Danis will make a dream come true in the coming months when he heads back to his homeland to take up a riding contract at the Singapore Turf Club, the place where he began his riding career.

The son of former jockey Luke Danis, Darren first got hooked on racing when he went to help at his father’s barn when he left high school in Malaysia, and subsequently headed to Singapore to commence his riding journey.

“Dad used to be a jockey and was a champion apprentice for two years in a row in MRA (Malaysian Racing Association),” Danis said.

“I started helping him out and then I moved to Singapore to do my apprenticeship. That is where I started to get more into racing at the Singapore Turf Club with Brian Dean.”

Following his mandatory two-year military service, Danis returned to Dean, but it soon became apparent that he needed to head offshore to further his career as a jockey and the decision was made to move to New Zealand.

Fast-forward nearly a decade and Danis has established himself in New Zealand’s senior jockey ranks and earlier this season recorded his first Group victory and brought up his 100th career win aboard the Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson-trained Star Of Justice in the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton.

Danis always held ambitions of returning to Singapore and securing a license with the Singapore Turf Club, and with its looming closure, there wasn’t a better time than now to bring those plans to fruition.

“I always wanted to ride back home but I didn’t think it would be this soon, with the shock move of Singapore (Turf Club) announcing they are closing down in October,” Danis said.

“I reached that target of getting a Group winner and 100 wins at the same time. After that it has been quite slow, hence the decision to try and make a change. It fell into place with Singapore closing down, so I thought a change might give a boost to my career and give me more exposure and experiences.”

While granted a license for the remainder of the Singapore season, Danis won’t be heading to the racing jurisdiction until April.

“I am going back on April 18. I was going to go back and start riding straight away in May, but Mum’s birthday is on April 22, so I thought I better go back for that,” he said.

“It falls into place well. I think there are a few (Singapore) Group Ones while I am there, including the Kranji Mile in May, and the Singapore Derby and Lion City Cup in July. Just looking at the calendar, there are a couple of races I would love to see myself winning.

“It has been 10 years since I last rode at the Singapore Turf Club and just winning a race back home would be quite insane.”

While looking forward to riding in his homeland, Danis said he is more excited about getting to spend a couple of months with his family, something he has sorely missed over the last decade.

“It will just be great being back home with family,” he said. “I have missed out on a lot with my family. My niece is two-years-old and I have only seen her once. It has been a long time and I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

“It’s not just a couple of weeks either this time, I will be working there and doing what I love. I don’t think a lot of my family apart from my Mum, Dad and my siblings have seen me race, so it will be quite nice to ride in front of them.”

While he was born and raised in Singapore, Danis said New Zealand is now home, and he is looking forward to returning to Cambridge to continue his riding career following his Singapore sojourn.

“I don’t know when I will be coming back, but I am coming back. New Zealand is my home now,” Danis said.

“The trainers here in Cambridge have been so supportive after my move following finishing my apprenticeship. The friends that I have are all in Cambridge and the Waikato area, and Hayley Hassman, my partner, and her mum are very supportive. I have a great support network over here.”