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Wexford mare seeking stakes highlight at Tauranga

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Wexford Stables hope to live up to the name of their Pukekohe victor in Winexpress when they take a strong team to Tauranga on Saturday.

The Matamata outfit led by Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott commenced the week in decisive fashion at Pukekohe’s Wednesday meeting, claiming the Acknowledging ATR Partners 1200 with the son of Shamexpress.

A previous winner of two races in heavy conditions, Winexpress relished the testing going late in the day under a patient ride by apprentice Ace Lawson-Carroll at the tail of the field. The four-year-old tracked race favourite Hey Hey Baby into the straight and came out on top in a driving finish down the centre of the track.

Scott was pleased to see the gelding back in form after a couple of conditioning runs to build fitness.

“He’s a gelding that, being a little bit older, has just taken a few runs to get his fitness up for the testing footing at this time of year,” he said.

“We’ve found that when he gets fit like he is at the present time, he races consistently and honestly.

“It was a pleasing performance from him today, he won with a good bit of authority and certainly by the way he won, it indicates that another win is close.

“He’ll go up a grade now to 75, and there’s a good few options coming up, so that experience and age in horses is a massive aid.”

Talented winter galloper Highlighter headlines Wexford’s contingent when they head across to the Bay of Plenty on Saturday, with the mare contesting the Listed Team Wealleans Tauranga Classic (1400m).

Another progeny of Shamexpress, the mare has been a consistent force for the stable in recent seasons, with a trio of wins and minor placings on the board this term including a third behind the in-form Caitlyns Wish last Saturday.

“We were really pleased with her performance last week, and it certainly warranted going forward into the stakes race this weekend,” Scott said.

“She’s fit, and with the quick back-up it should aid her getting out over the 1400m. There is a bit of a question mark on whether she can stay the trip, but she’s in really good form and is another mare that is seasoned for the testing conditions.”

Highlighter will have the services of Warren Kennedy in the feature for fillies and mares, jumping from barrier four.

“She usually finds rhythm, you can’t really push or pull and just have to go with her,” Scott said.

“She’s got a good strong finish, so we’re really hopeful she can pick up some valuable black-type on the weekend.”

Among the stable’s other representatives is I Am Groot in the Gartshore Construction 3YO, a three-year-old by Wrote who has performed well in his first racing preparation.

“He’s got good race day fitness behind him, we’ve freshened him and hopefully the ground holds well for the weekend,” Scott said.

“He’s a horse that is racing consistently, and he should be right in the finish on the weekend. He looks particularly well in the coat for this time of the year and has held up well in a long preparation.” 

Consistent maidener Ever Charm has been knocking on the door for his breakthrough success in with four third-placed efforts to date and will aim to collect that elusive win in the TAB Odds Surge Every Race at Tauranga (1600m).

“He’s building towards a win and is another with a good load of fitness under his belt. You would think with a bit of good fortune in the run, he should be hard to beat,” Scott said.

“He’s working well, he’s consistent, and has confidence going into Saturday.”

The Super Liquor Greerton 1400 will feature Jaffira, a versatile son of Iffraaj who has been within 1 ½ lengths of the winner in his last two efforts in heavy conditions. 

“He’s won around Tauranga before, he’s adept in the soft ground and he’s a tough, fit gelding which will be required with the track conditions on the weekend,” Scott said.

“He can be a little bit hard to catch, but he’s working well and we’re confident that he’ll run well.”

Each of the three runners will be ridden by young apprentice Ngakau Hailey, who picked up his 17th winner for the season at Pukekohe on Wednesday.

“You start to see as we get deeper into the winter that the claims are a massive aid for the horses,” Scott said.

 “There are some really promising young jockeys out there with the likes of Triston (Moodley) and Ngakau, it’s the right time of the year for these kids to step-up.”

Scott also made a notable mention of Silver Javelin, another contender in the Rating 65 1400m event with Lawson-Carroll claiming two-kilograms off her carded weight (57kg).

“She definitely won’t be out of it either, her last couple of runs have been needed to get fit but she’s another on the back-up that can handle the really soft ground,” he said.

“We expect her to be a lot more competitive this weekend.” 

Poser in fine fettle for Cup assignment

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

All key indicators point to proven winter performer Poser going close to adding to her record at Tauranga on Saturday.

The Paul Pertab-trained mare will tackle the Seeka Kiwifruit Cup (2100m) third-up after a pair of solid lead-up performances while stablemate The Ugly Sister’s recent form has earned her a crack at the Listed Team Wealleans Tauranga Classic (1400m).

Poser’s five career victories including the Listed Rotorua Cup (2200m) have come on rain-affected going, she is a past winner on the track and hasn’t missed a beat ahead of her upcoming challenge.

“The more rain the better for her and she’s at the top of her game,” Pertab said.

“She’s certainly fit enough and I think she will be a really good chance.”

Poser was spelled after she was unplaced on a good track in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) in the spring and returned to finish a resuming third over 1800m at New Plymouth and was then a gallant fourth over 2200m at Trentham.

While Pertab has no set winter plans, there are a number of options ahead of the daughter of Ocean Park after Saturday.

“She’s an older mare now and even though she’s sound, her riders and the vets are happy with her, you have to take it a day at a time,” he said.

“There are other suitable races coming up and she’s a grinding sort of mare who doesn’t have a turn of foot, so we just have to place her well.”

Poser has been ridden in all five of her career victories by Tegan Newman, who takes the reins again at the weekend.

Barnmate The Ugly Sister, who will be partnered by Sam Spratt, has been in sparkling form with three successes and two placings from her last five appearances to earn a crack at stakes level.

“It’s quite a strong field, there’s a bit of quality in there, and even though she’s consistent she’s going to have to bring her A-game,” Pertab said.

“Her work was very good the other day though and she’ll definitely be a chance if she gets some luck in the running.”

The Ugly Sister also holds a nomination for the Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations Winter Cup (1600m) at Riccarton on August 3.

“As far as her broodmare worth goes, any black type whether it be down south or up here would add to her credentials. I’ll talk to the owner about it after Saturday,” Pertab said.

Raced by Taranaki breeder Graham Meredith, the Tivaci four-year-old is out of a half-sister to the dual Australian Group Two winners Ugachaka. 

Ryder Stakes locked in for gallant filly

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Ortega has earned a late season shot at black type following her midweek success at Pukekohe.

The juvenile daughter of Reliable Man produced a tenacious performance at her second appearance to break her maiden over 1200m on Wednesday for trainer Stephen Marsh and rider Masa Hashizume.

“She did a good job, she was very gutsy after racing wide and worked pretty hard, so it was a really good effort,” Marsh said.

The Cambridge horseman will keep Ortega ticking over and head to the Central Districts next month for the final two-year-old feature of 2023/24.

“She seems to have come through the race well and at the end of July is the Ryder Stakes (Listed, 1200m),” Marsh said.

“She handles wet ground so we’ll have a go at that for some black type and if she could win then she’s a valuable filly.

“That’s what we’ll be doing and with the gap between races we can nurse her along and she could have a jump-out or a trial somewhere before that next run.”

While Ortega has proven adept in winter conditions, Marsh doesn’t believe she is a one trick pony.

“She’s one of those fillies that is tough and very genuine, she is getting through the wet tracks because she’s so gutsy,” he said.

“She has a great attitude and will to win and I certainly don’t think she’s just a wet tracker.”

Ortega set up a winning double for the stable at Pukekohe with Penurious later accounting for her Benchmark 65 rivals over 2200m under rider Tegan Newman.

“She won very well and she’s a nice stayer on the rise,” Marsh said.

By the late Sacred Falls, Penurious has won twice during a relatively brief career with both victories posted over middle distances.

Meanwhile, Marsh will only have two runners at Saturday’s feature meeting with Dubai Diva and Hasstobefast in the Listed Team Wealleans Tauranga Classic (1400m).

“It’s a throw at the stumps, Dubai Diva was great first-up and has a good second-up record and she’s got a bit of black type and I would love to see her add to it,” he said.

Runner-up behind the champion mare Imperatriz in the Gr.3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) as a three-year-old, Dubai Diva ran second after a chequered run when resuming at Pukekohe last month.

Hasstobefast has finished fifth in both of her runs at Pukekohe and on the synthetic track at Cambridge this preparation.

“She was a bit plain second-up the other day, but she has trained on well since,” Marsh said.

He will also have runners at the Amberley meeting at Riccarton on Saturday.

“I quite like Miss Nico Belle and Thee Auld Minx, both are racing well are drawn to be right in it,” Marsh said.

Miss Nico Belle runs in the Daphne Bannan Memorial Open Handicap (1200m) off the back of a win and a third on the all-weather track at Riccarton.

Thee Auld Minx will shoot for two on the bounce in the Cup Week Hospitality On Sale 26 June Handicap (1000m) after effortlessly breaking her maiden last time out at Timaru. 

Chilli Con Khan cooks up an impressive win at Pukekohe

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Chilli Con Khan could have been described as leftovers at one point in her life but was given a chance by Murray Garrett and the Pukekohe trainer was rewarded with an impressive maiden win at his home track on Wednesday.

Chilli Co Khan was part of Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry’s dispersal sale a couple of years ago, but was unwanted, with Garrett only taking her on after purchasing a Mongolian Falcon filly in the auction.

“When they had their dispersal sale, I bought a Mongolian Falcon filly out of Middlebrook and she (Chilli Con Khan) was one of the ones that was leftover,” Garrett said. “I liked the look of her and thought we would give her ago.”

She has rewarded Garrett for taking a chance on her, placing second-up at Te Aroha earlier this month before posting an impressive four length victory in the TAB NZ 1600 on Wednesday.

“I broke her in myself and she has been a sweetheart the whole way,” Garrett said.

“Her first time in, in her trial she ran third and then she was put out with shin soreness and came back in this time and has done everything right.

“She had been showing a bit in previous starts, so it was good to get the win. She has shown that she can handle the sticky ground.

“I think she can go on with it too, she is out of a Zabeel mare.”

Earlier on the card, Garrett almost caused an upset with juvenile Beau Luca in the First Weanlings By Sword Of State 1200, with the son of Embellish just getting pipped at the post by Ortega following a brave front-running effort.

“When he shot out a couple of lengths on them at the start I thought he would stop halfway down the straight, but to his credit he kept going,” Garrett said.

“I think he will want the give in the track, I don’t think he will like the hard tracks, so we will just see how he comes through this and then have a look at what is around.”

Garrett bred and owns the gelding and said it was a sentimental win for the family.

“The mare was given to me by my uncle,” he said. “I have got a full-sister to him at home as well.”

Meanwhile, Garret will head to Tauranga on Saturday with just the one contender.

“Impaired Vision will be lining up at Tauranga on Saturday,” Garrett said. “He needs to do something, but he has gone a couple of reasonable races in his last couple of starts.” 

Hawke’s Bay trip on the cards for Auld Jock

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Promising jumper Auld Jock could earn a place in his first prestige jumping assignment with a strong showing on Sunday at Te Aroha.

Auld Jock is trained at Matamata by Peter and Jessica Brosnan, who reaped the rewards of an educational season last year when the gelding went back-to-back over fences at Hawera and Woodville in May.

The Adelaide six-year-old has accepted into both the Piako Rural Services Steeplechase (3500m) and The Bottle-O Te Aroha Hurdles (3100m) on Sunday, with the decision of which to run in still up in the air for the Brosnans.

A number of recent injuries and retirements have led to a lack of licensed jumps jockeys this season so far, although another English rider will join the Kiwi ranks on Sunday in Jay Kozaczek.

“We’re not sure which race we’ll run Auld Jock in yet due to the lack of riders available, but I think he’ll be competitive whatever race he ends up running in,” Brosnan said.

“Hopefully the jockey situation can be helped by getting the riding fee up as well, but we’ll make the call later in the week for Jock’s race.”

With a strong showing in either event, a trip to Hastings for next Saturday’s AHD Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) is on the cards.

“Our idea was to potentially back-up next Saturday with him, so if he can keep stepping up, then we’ll go onto the steeplechase there,” Brosnan said.

“We put him in a race down there last year and he jumped some fair, then some good, so he’s had a look around the jumps course.

“When he won the steeplechase at Woodville the fences weren’t live and that’s pretty much horses for courses, similar to Hastings.”

Jakama Krystal is another in consideration for the Hawke’s Bay features, dependent upon her performance in the open hurdle after finishing a distant sixth in the Awapuni Hurdle (3000m) last month.

“She just needs that bit of moisture in the track which she didn’t get down at Woodville,” Brosnan said.

“We’ve freshened her up a little bit and she pulled Peter’s arms off this morning so she’s feeling well.

“We would like to have a couple at Hastings, so hopefully she can go alright to possibly follow on to the Hawke’s Bay Hurdles. We’ll make our minds up after the weekend.”

Ima Wonder picked up her maiden steeplechasing success at the course last-start and will step into open grade against the likes of returning Great Northern Steeplechase (6200m) winner Te Kahu.

“I’ve just taken her up for a farm ride and she’s come through the run really well,” Brosnan said.

“Those top couple of horses such as Te Kahu do like the track so he should be hard to beat, same with Jo Rathbone’s horse (Des De Jeu) going back to the live fences.

“It’s hard to win two in a row, so we’ll see how it plays out on Sunday and then make a plan for her. She’s really a day-by-day kind of horse.”

Maideners Civil Unrest and Rocem will contest the Agrisea NZ Steeplechase (3500m) and TAJC Hospitality Function Centre Hurdles (3100m) respectively, with the latter having her third start over fences under Portia Matthews.

“She’s not a bad horse Rocem, if she can just get over those last couple of fences she should be right in the finish on Sunday,” Brosnan said.

“It’s not an overly strong field and she’s working well.”

Molly’s Gold will continue her preparation on the flat for an impending jumping career in the Duck N Cover Maiden (2200m), following in the footsteps of her talented dam Southern Countess.

The Stark South mare won seven races for the stable and five of these were in her favoured jumping role, including the 2011 Great Northern Hurdles (4190m) at Ellerslie.

“She (Molly’s Gold) has had a couple of jumping trials now and that will be her go,” Brosnan said.

“We’re just getting a bit more race fitness into her now on the flat so she can really learn how to be a racehorse. It’s hard to put these older horses straight into jumping races when they haven’t been around on the flat.

“If she can be half as good as her mother, we’ll be rapt.” 
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