New Zealand news briefs

Bright future tipped for debut winner

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A bright future is being tipped for Super Photon following his debut win in the Arawa Park Hotel 2YO 1150 at Rotorua on Wednesday.

The son of Super Seth jumped away fairly from his ace barrier and took an early trail behind pacemaker Force Of Law before jockey Joe Doyle was able to navigate him into the coveted one-one position behind the regally-bred Magice.

Turning for home, Super Photon peeled three-wide and quickly ranged up alongside the Magice and Force Of Law and showed his class in the concluding stages to post a 3-3/4 length victory over Magice.

Super Photon was purchased out of Waikato Stud’s 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft by Marsh in conjunction with Dennis Foster, Bourbon Lane and Dylan Johnson Bloodstock for $380,000.

He showed signs of early talent at the trials, placing in all three of his heats and was subsequently backed into $2.50 favouritism for his debut.

“He is a lovely colt by Super Seth. We paid a lot of money for him at the sales,” Marsh said.

“He is still a colt. He is a beautifully bred half to Mo’unga so it is nice that he is fully intack.

“We were very confident today and they have always got to put it together, he was beautiful today. I love the way he settled in the trail.

“He has still got a lot to learn, but he put them away pretty quick and we believe he is a colt with a big future.”

Stakes assignments are now in the crosshairs for Super Photon, with the first in his sights being the Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on May 4.

“We thought if he won well today he could potentially go to Te Rapa on 4th of May, there is a stakes race over 1400m there and then he can go out for a spell,” Marsh said.

“You just hope you can set him for a Hawke’s Bay Guineas and 2000 Guineas, that will be out long-term plan.”

American investor, and thoroughbred enthusiast, Dennis Foster, alongside Bourbon Lane’s Jamie Hill and Mike McMahon, have formed a solid partnership with Marsh in New Zealand, having previously tasted success with the likes of stakes winner Glamour Tycoon, All Black Bourbon, Hoard The Bourbon, and Mega Bourbon. 

Talented frontrunner readies for Australian challenge

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Good Oil has continued to impress Andrew Forsman this season and the Cambridge trainer will give the eye-catching frontrunner his first Australian test in Saturday’s Listed Mornington Cup (2400m).

The son of Dalghar took time to develop, only breaking his maiden early as a four-year-old, but a season later he has rapidly stepped through the grades over middle-distance trips with 11 top-four finishes in his 13 starts this term.

In his familiar pace-making role, Good Oil almost caused an upset in both the Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) and Gr.2 Auckland Cup (3200m), leading until the dying stages of the latter only to be surpassed by two-mile specialist Mahrajaan, while holding off subsequent Listed Roy Higgins (2600m) winner Mark Twain.

Forsman was thrilled with his performance, which warranted a trip across the Tasman for Saturday’s feature.

“He’s great and has thrived since he arrived in Australia, he’s taken to it really well, which is good, with the quick turnaround to get him over there and running on Saturday,” Forsman said.

Forsman has engaged Billy Egan to partner his charge, who drew the ace barrier and carries an equal-bottom weight of 54kg in the handicap.

“Having drawn barrier one is great for him, he’ll ping and put himself on pace,” Forsman said.

“I know there’s another strong frontrunning horse in Deny Knowledge and she may take the lead from him, but as long as he’s in the leading group, he’ll be happy.

“The only niggling doubt in the back of my mind is the long gap between races for him, but apart from that, I couldn’t be happier with him going into it.”

Good Oil will be one of two Kiwi horses making their bid for the Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) golden ticket available in the Mornington Cup, alongside Nereus, and Forsman is treating any further success as a bonus for the consistent gelding.

“Right from day one, we were just trying to get him to switch on and win a race, and now he’s doing what he’s doing,” Forsman said.

“Whatever he does is a bonus in my eyes, he’s a neat horse to have around and any race we line him up in, he turns up and tries hard every time.”

Forsman will also be represented in the Mornington Guineas (1600m) by Riproar, a son of Charm Spirit that has raced out of his Victorian stable through the season.

Riproar was an impressive last-start winner at Geelong and will be partnered by Harry Coffey in the three-year-old event.

“He was competitive enough against three-year-olds in the spring, but it’s always different getting into the autumn,” Forsman said.

“He won very well first-up, albeit against lesser opposition than he strikes on Saturday. We’re confident that he’s as well as he can be heading into it, but now he’s just got to prove he’s up to this level.”

Puccini four-year-old Full Of Sincerity completes Forsman’s Mornington team, contesting the Benchmark 84 Handicap (1600m) later on the card. 

Times Ticking looking to go back-to-back in Canterbury Gold Cup

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Wairarapa gelding Times Ticking has an affinity with the South Island, and he will be looking to extend that record when he heads to Riccarton on Saturday.

The eight-year-old son of Tavistock has won three of his seven starts in the south, including the Gr.3 Canterbury Gold Cup (2000m), Listed Easter Cup (1600m), Banks Peninsula Cup (1800m), and was third in the Gr.3 White Robe Lodge WFA (1600m) at Wingatui in February.

He will return to Riccarton this weekend where he will attempt to defend his crown in the Canterbury Gold Cup, where he has drawn barrier four and will be ridden by Tina Comignaghi.

Owner-breeder-trainer Alby MacGregor has the luxury of staying with his son near Rangiora during his southern stints, and said his pride and joy thrives in that environment.

“He is down in Christchurch now with my son. He has been down there for a week or so,” MacGregor said.

“He has had a fair bit of success down there and he seems to thrive down there. My son is at Rangiora and he has a little farm there and he seems to enjoy it.”

Times Ticking heads into Saturday in good form, having won the Gr.3 Trentham Stakes (2100m) in January before his White Robe Lodge placing. He was then seventh in the Listed Flying Handicap (1400m) at Trentham a fortnight ago, which MacGregor said has brought him on nicely for Saturday’s title defence.

He needed that run,” MacGregor said. “I was quite happy with it. He whacked away. He is probably not a 1400m horse nowadays, but he had to have something to blow the cobwebs out.”

MacGregor said he Times Ticking will likely head for a spell at his son’s property following Saturday’s run.

“After the weekend he is going to have a break for a little while and we will work it out from there,” he said.

Zaila set to resume at Ellerslie

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Group Two performer Zaila was in a purple patch of form late last year and trainer Kylie Hoskin is hoping she can pick up where she left off when she heads to Ellerslie on Saturday.

The five-year-old daughter of Street Boss was fourth in the Listed Fulton Family Stakes (1500m) and Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) before gaining black-type when runner-up to subsequent Group One winner Campionessa in the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa in December.

“It was such a good run in the Cal Isuzu, and to run second behind Campionessa there is no shame in that,” Hoskin said.

The Byerley Park horsewoman has been pleased with the way her stable star has returned and is looking forward to stepping her out at Ellerslie for the first time in the Barfoot & Thompson 1200.

“It is really exciting to get her back on course and to Ellerslie as well, and give her a look around there,” Hoskin said.

“She seems to like any surface – she goes on the Heavy, she goes on the Good – it doesn’t seem to bother her.

“She does seem to have better form left-handed than right, but in saying that, she has gone some good races right-handed as well. It will be a bit of a fact-finding mission and we will know more after Saturday.”

Zaila has had the one trial over 800m leading into her resuming run and Hoskin said Saturday’s 1200m contest should help bring her on further.

“She had the trial at Pukekohe, she is pretty fresh and behaved accordingly, so it was hard to get a line on her,” Hoskin said.

“She has definitely got a bit of spunk that we are trying to keep under wraps. I love her to bits, but she does take a bit of managing.

“We would have gone back to the trials, but with Waipa being moved and a bit of rain about at the end of this week, we decided to go to Ellerslie instead.”

Zaila will jump from barrier seven with Sam Spratt aboard and has been installed a $10 winning chance by TAB bookmakers.

“I think she will get a nice run in behind them,” Hoskin said. “As long as she is running on we will be happy.

“It is her first run back with just one trial under her belt, so she is probably lacking a little bit fitness-wise, but the rain will help her, it will help slow them down a bit and bring them back to her.”

Hoskin has eyed next month’s Gr.3 Rotorua Stakes (1400m) as Zaila’s main target this preparation and believes Saturday’s contest is a great starting point.

“With those trials being moved we wanted to get a run into her before the Rotorua Stakes,” Hoskin said. “We will then give her a short break and look towards the spring.”

Meanwhile, Hoskin is looking forward to her new stable acquisition Quality Time making his New Zealand debut in the near future.

“I have an import of Go Racing’s from Australia called Quality Time, who has come over from Chris Waller’s,” she said.

“He trialled at Pukekohe as well and hit the line pretty strongly. He will have his first start at Te Rapa in a few weeks, so it will be exciting to get him out for his New Zealand debut.

“Since he has had that trial he has really perked up, he is a lovely horse and a bit of a gentleman. He is a chestnut and he is showing a bit of his red-head side this week, so I am pretty excited to get him out on the track.” 

Surgenor set to unveil exciting juvenile

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Joanne Surgenor had plenty of success a couple of seasons ago with multiple Group Two winner Showoroses, and now she is set to unveil a close relative that she believes has just as much talent.

Showoroses was a standout for Surgenor, winning five of her 20 career starts, including the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m), Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile and Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m), and also placed in the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m), Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), Cal Isuzu Stakes and Auckland Thororuhgbreds Breeders’ Stakes.

She was subsequently sold at Magic Millions’ 2022 Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale to Corumbene Stud for A$525,000, where she has commenced her career as a broodmare.

Surgenor has been hoping to find that talent once more, and believes she has in the form of Whiskey ‘N Roses, a Belardo two-year-old gelding out of two-win mare Fullinbloom, a half-sister to Showoroses.

“He is from the same family as Showoroses and he has got that family trait about him – a little bit of toughness,” Surgenor said.

“I have had him since he was a foal, so he has been here all of his life. He has got a bit of tenacity about him.

“He is very much like her (Showoroses), especially his personality. I trained his mother, Fullinbloom, as well, she was a nice filly but unfortunately she got injured in a storm and that is why her career ended. She was a nice type too.”

Bred by Ashford Lodges’ Peter and Sherin Walker, the couple own Whiskey ‘N Roses in partnership with Haunui Farm, and Surgenor said they are excited to unveil his talent for the first time on raceday in Saturday’s Listed TAB Star Way 1200 at Ellerslie.

“Peter and the family are absolutely thrilled to have him and have something out of the family that is showing something again,” Surgeoner said.

Whiskey ‘N Roses has made one public appearance to date, winning his 800m trial at Pukekohe last week by 2-1/4 lengths, and Surgeoner believes he is ready to be thrown into the deep end in stakes grade this weekend.

He is very well, I am really pleased with him. He has come through his trial really well and all looks good at the moment,” she said.


“He had a jumpout at his previous prep and he went quite well. We put him away and he has come back this time around twice the horse. I am absolutely thrilled with him.

“It is coming to the end of the season for two-year-olds and you have just got to chance your luck.”

While looking forward to his debut outing on Saturday, Surgenor believes he will be better with time.

“I think he is going to be a lovely three-year-old,” she said. “He won that trial and he has done it nicely, it is nice to get a race into them going forward into their three-year-old season. I think his future is more three and onwards.” 

Opie cooks up century of wins

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

After spending more than two decades travelling the world as a chef, Gavin Opie returned to New Zealand 14 years ago to pursue his initial love of horses, and now he has joined the 100-win club as a trainer.

He brought up the milestone at Arawa Park on Wednesday when Opaea Joe got his nose in front on the line to take out the Lance Lawson 1230.

“We have had a lot of seconds, so to get that off the back now is great,” Opie said.

“It was a great ride by Billy (Jacobson). He was the only one who had rung up for the ride, so he benefitted.

“He (Opaea Joe) had a couple of below par performances when he went up to rating 75 grade. I threw him in the paddock on some fresh grass and then brought him back and got him to his favourite place, Rotorua, and he got the job done.”

A son of trainer Keith Opie, horses were always a passion for Gavin, however, when his aspirations of becoming a jockey were dashed, he elected to follow a different vocation, which led to a memorable journey around the globe.

“I wanted to be a jockey at one stage, but Dad said that I was going to be too big to do that,” Opie said. “I had to earn some pocket money, so I started to help a chef out at the local pub and one thing led to another.

“I went away and was a chef overseas for 20 years. I was in England, Melbourne and Miami. I am glad that I did it and I have a lot of good memories.

“I had a good time at Stella restaurant in Melbourne and my last three years (as a chef) I worked privately for a guy on his yacht chasing the sun (based out of Miami). That was a brilliant experience.

“My wife and kids wanted to live in New Zealand where it was a bit more relaxed, so we came back here and I went back into the horses with Dad.”

Opie tasted plenty of success with his father, highlighted by the deeds of Indikator, who won 18 races, including four Gr.3 Rotorua Cups and two Listed Kiwifruit Cups.

After a decade in partnership, Opie junior took over the reins in a solo capacity in 2020, and he has loved the challenge.

“Dad and I had a lot of success together and now on my own it is working out quite well,” he said.

“I love training, I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Opie is now hoping to quickly add to his win tally later in the week at Matamata, where he believes last start runner-ups Deebee Bellfer and You Know are strong chances of going one better in the RSA Red Poppy Raceday 26th April (2000m) and Challenge Matamata 2000 respectively.

“Deebee Bellfer should be pretty hard to beat, and You Know has been dealt a few bad draws and just lost the bob at Ellerslie last time,” he said.