New Zealand news roundup

Pike well-armed on “transition day” at Hastings

Trainer Tony Pike has a host of runners at Hawke’s Bay on Saturday including exciting one-win three-year-old The Irishman, who steps straight into stakes company after continuing to please on the training track.

Pike has made no secret of the high regard in which he holds the son of Tavistock, who got up in the last stride to win on debut at Avondale a fortnight ago on an unsuitable heavy track.

The promising gelding has been installed a $2.80 favourite for the Listed El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) which is set to be run on a good track.

“He’s flying,” Pike said. “He galloped brilliantly on Tuesday, hence why we paid up for the race tomorrow. We were tempted to run at Ellerslie next weekend over 1400m but looking at the long-range forecast it is likely to be a reasonably wet track there, so we are taking the opportunity to get him on a better track at Hawke’s Bay.

“It looks like a nice race. He has a little bit of a sticky barrier (9 of 12) and as long as Leith (Innes, jockey) can gets some cover on him he should run well.

“He has got a beautiful action. We were really concerned first-up at Avondale about even running him, but we had to get the show on the road. I’ve been dying to get him back on a firm track to be fair.”

While The Irishman is well found in the market, the same can’t be said for stablemate Loire, who has drifted from $34 to $51 with TAB Bookmakers for the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m). 

“We were discussing her price this morning and maybe it’s the wide gate (15 of 16), I am not quite sure why she is so long in the market,” Pike said.

“Her trial at Ruakaka was very good and her work through the week has been outstanding.

“That gate restricts her options a wee bit, but she generally does get back in her races. Ideally it would have been nice to slot in midfield, but she might have to go a touch further back than that. 

“There looks to be plenty of speed in the race and if they do go a reasonably solid tempo up front, while I don’t think she could beat Avantage ($1.85 favourite) over 1400m, the way she is going she will be flashing at them late. 

“She is a big price ($8) for a place and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her getting home very strongly and filling a minor placing.” 

Pike will be kept busy with eight runners at the meeting and is hoping Hawke’s Bay gets enough rain on Friday to provide the perfect spring surface ahead of what he describes as a transition day for all concerned. 

“If the track does come back to the dead range, then Makzabeel is probably a nice chance in the special conditions maiden. He is a promising horse,” Pike said. 

“Cyber Attack from gate one is getting close to a win and he should be able to sit reasonably close behind the speed and looks a genuine each-way chance. 

“The staying race will be interesting. We have always liked La Casa as a horse. He got stuck in the mud two starts back and then he probably didn’t beat much at Taupo. He is on the quick back-up and has come through really well. The way he won at Taupo he looks like a progressive stayer.

“You find out which horses are going to handle the better surfaces. It is probably a hard time for punters as you have got the transition with fit wet-track horses versus the fresher horses looking for better ground. 

“It is a transition day tomorrow and a lot of horses that race tomorrow, their immediate futures will be decided depending on their performance on the better track.” 

Savvy Racing gears up for landmark day

With runners in two stakes races, the opening day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival at Hastings looms as a landmark moment in the short history of syndicator Savvy Racing.

Proven black-type performer Pinmedown will begin a new campaign in Saturday’s Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m), while the Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) will provide an early test for promising filly Tokorangi’s credentials for this season’s age-group features. 

Both horses are part-owned by a Savvy Racing syndicate, both are trained at Matamata by Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard, and both will be ridden by Cameron Lammas.

Savvy Racing was established by Keith and Janice McDonald less than four years ago with their first purchase at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale at Karaka in November 2016. As he made his way towards Hawke’s Bay on Friday, Keith McDonald reflected on a rapid rise.

“Having runners in two big stakes races on the same day is so exciting for us,” he said. “As a syndicator, these are the days on the New Zealand calendar that you really want to be involved in.

“When we started up Savvy Racing only a few years ago, it was a dream to get our owners to a Group race with one horse. To have two on the same day is absolutely incredible.

“It’s been great to bring so many people into horse ownership already, many of them for the very first time. With Tokorangi in particular, probably half of the syndicate are first-time owners. It’s hugely exciting for them.

“A few of those owners will be there on Saturday – as many as possible, given the limited capacity on course at the moment. But I’m sure the rest will be glued to their TV screens all around the country.”

Racing featured prominently in McDonald’s upbringing, with family members involved in ownership, training, breeding and even as a raceday starter. He is also a successful businessman with extensive customer-facing experience, and Savvy Racing brings both of those things together.

Another point of difference of the Savvy syndicates is their unique rugby flavour. McDonald is a keen follower of the sport and has spent more than a decade coaching at representative and premier club level.

“Each syndicate has a rugby region as a theme to it,” he said. “Tokorangi is the Steelers, which is Counties Manukau, while Pinmedown is the Blues. It’s a bit of fun to have these rugby region themes for our syndicates, but it doesn’t mean that all of the owners have to come from that region. With all our horses, the owners are spread out all over the place. We welcome anyone who wants to be involved.”

Savvy Racing has had six starters to date, three of them winners with Pinmedown the headline act. As a three-year-old, the classy daughter of Pins won the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) and Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m).

Van Diamond and Tokorangi have also won races, the latter by six and a half lengths in a spectacular performance at Matamata in January. That was only her second career start.

“We’re so excited to see what Pinmedown and Tokorangi can do at Hastings on Saturday,” McDonald said. “The build-up has gone really well for both horses. Mike and Pam are really happy with them.

“Obviously it’s the first run back from a long break for both horses, so there are other runners in those races who have a bit more fitness under their belts.

“But Tokorangi won really well at Matamata in her last campaign, so we’re very excited about what could be in store for her. We’re expecting her to be competitive on Saturday, and I’m sure Pinmedown will be running on strongly at the end of her race as well.”

McDonald is hoping to continue Savvy Racing’s growth, with shares currently available in two-year-old fillies by Burgundy and Wrote in partnership with Ballymore Stables.

“Hopefully it’ll be onwards and upwards for us from here,” McDonald said. “We’ve got another couple of horses advertised recently, two really lovely fillies for people to get involved with.

“We’d certainly like Savvy Racing to continue to grow into the future, and obviously a good result on Saturday would give us a bit of a helping hand.” 

Pinmedown, picture Trish Dunell

Hastings milestone may be on cards

Alchemia could provide Katrina and Simon Alexander with a memorable milestone at Hastings on Saturday if she lives up to the promise she has shown her Matamata trainers.

The daughter of Per Incanto is a one-race maiden set to take on the colts and geldings in the Listed El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m), but it would be no surprise to the Alexanders if she provided them with their first win since going into partnership when returning north to Matamata last season.

“We’ve got a high opinion of her,” Katrina Alexander said. 

“We nominated her for the fillies race (Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes, 1200m) as well and double accepted with her, but she’s drawn more favourably (four) in the El Roca.

“First-up she was underdone and we knew she would improve. She showed that how easily she won at the Taupo trials.”

Alchemia is unbeaten in her three trials and before she cruised away for a five and a half-length win at the Taupo trials earlier this month she had finished third on raceday on the same course behind the highly rated Miss Aotearoa and Atishu, who followed up with a second to Only Words in the Listed Wanganui Guineas (1200m).

“The form out of that Taupo race has stacked up and we’re very happy with her,” Alexander said. 

“She’s a lovely, relaxed filly that will settle anywhere and she should get at least 1600m.

“She’s not a big filly, but she is developing strength-wise.”

Alchemia is raced by a syndicate which includes Simon Alexander after being purchased from the Ardsley Stud draft at the 2019 Ready To Run Sale at Karaka for $42,500 by the Alexanders to help kick off their return to racing. 

Katrina Alexander had successfully trained on her own account from the 1990s through to 2013-14 with a four-season period away from racing between times.

“Simon and I went through the breeze-up videos one by one and she was one of them who impressed us with the way she stretched out,” Alexander said. 

“When we inspected her at the sale we liked her. She’s incredibly like Tots Off, the first filly I trained.”

Tots Off picked up two wins and three placings from five juvenile starts, including a third to Facing The Music and Makarpura Star in the 1993 Listed Castletown Juvenile Stakes (1200m) at Foxton before being sold to race in Dubai.

During her previous term of training, Alexander saddled up more than 100 winners with the highlight being Honor Babe’s victory in the 2003 Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m). 

Kalamata features in the pedigree of Alchemia, who will be just the sixth starter for the Alexander training partnership.

“It’s taken time to build up a racing team,” Alexander said. “We’ve got 26 horses in work and 10 of them are the racing team. The rest are ready-to-runners and pre-trainers for Westbury Stud.”

If Alchemia performs well in the hands of Rosie Myers on Saturday she is likely to return to Hastings for the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) on October 3.

“That’s another reason she’s lining up against the boys on Saturday,” Alexander said. 

“She’s nominated for the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November, but it will depend on how she is going.

“I’m mindful that she will have to go out for a break some time. I don’t want to keep her going through the hard summer tracks and I’m not afraid of her going further the other side of Christmas.”

The Alexanders will also have a special interest in the race prior to Alchemia’s, the Remember “Jooky” 1200, which pays tribute to their late son Jackson, or Jooky as he was known to friends and family, who died last year aged 22 after a five-year battle with cancer.  

Fashionable maiden win by Savabeel filly

Savabeel filly Fashion Shoot broke her maiden at the second time of asking when scoring over 1200m at Te Rapa on Thursday.

The daughter of Savabeel surged clear to beat Extortion by a length and a quarter, while Royce Roca was another half-length away in third. 
Trainer Jamie Richards was pleased to see the three-year-old perform well against her own age group after running third against older horses at her first start.

“It was a nice win by a promising filly,” Richards said.

“She shaped up well at the trials and raced really well on the speed at Taupo. It’s always difficult for a first starter to lead like that and I thought she found a good kick against the older horses on that occasion.

“She drew a nice gate on Thursday, raced comfortably outside the speed and quickened in well against her own age group.”

Purchased by Te Akau’s David Ellis for NZ$320,000 at Book 1 of the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale, the filly is one of two winners out of dual Group Three winner High Fashion. 

Ellis was pleased with the win and was delighted to see the filly repay her connections faith.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to see her win at just her second start,” Ellis said. 

“She was the last yearling filly to fully sell in 2019. I did a promotional video of her working with Gingernuts, here at the farm, saying what a beautiful filly she was and it’s turned out to be correct.”

New hoop for Jennifer Eccles

Group One winner Jennifer Eccles will have a change of rider in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on Saturday.

Regular rider Jason Waddell has been stood down by the Racing Integrity Unit until further notice and will not be riding at Hastings this weekend.

His coveted ride on Jennifer Eccles will be taken by Matthew Cameron, while Troy Harris will ride his only other booked ride on the day, Vigor Winner in the Hastings – Heart Of Hawke’s Bay (1200m).