New Zealand news briefs

Potential wet conditions a concern for exciting mare

What initially proved to be a massive headache for Robbie Patterson has proven to be one of the highlights of his training career.

Exciting mare Coventina Bay came into the Taranaki conditioner’s care with a few quirky traits, but she has matured with time and is now giving him the ride of his life.

Not meeting her $20,000 reserve at New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2017 Select Yearling Sale, Coventina Bay found her way down to Patterson’s grazing block in Taranaki and he decided to take a chance on the boisterous youngster.

“She was grazing at the place that I run and it was natural progression that I grabbed her out of the paddock and took her in because she had a few issues,” Patterson said.

“She was a bit of a handful of a horse and she was a handful for a long time after that as well.

“But now she is a sweetheart. She is just a true professional, does her work, and sleeps. She is making my job a lot easier now.”

The five-year-old mare has won eight of her 13 career starts, including the Gr.3 J Swap Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa last December, and the Gr.3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) at Trentham last month.

She has also placed in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint (1200m) and Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m).

The daughter of Shamexpress will have her first tilt at Group One glory when she contests the Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha on Saturday, but Patterson said the forecast wet weather won’t be ideal for his mare. 

“She is very consistent and is in the zone at the moment. She has done really well since the Cuddle at Wellington,” he said.

“It is definitely not going to be easy on Saturday with a couple of really smart mares in there.

“The rain is going to be the concern. It looks like there is a big low coming across the Tasman.

“She won her first start on a heavy track by six lengths. I am not saying she is going to love it, but how often do you get a chance to run in a Group One?

“We have done everything we can for her and she is well.”

If Coventina Bay performs well on Saturday a trip north to Te Rapa on May 1 for the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) could be on the cards in preference to spelling ahead of spring racing.

“It’s hard for us to get them ready for spring racing in Taranaki with all of the wet tracks,” Patterson said.

“We will just see how she gets through this one, but she may go to the Travis Stakes in three weeks time and just give her one over 2000m to see if she cops the distance.

“If she had won we would have thought about the Stradbroke (Gr.1, 1400m), but with all this COVID going on it makes it unrealistic really. We will just wait for next year to head for that sort of stuff (in Australia).”

Meanwhile, Patterson will line-up two runners at Ashburton’s meeting on Wednesday.

Pownce will drop back in grade to contest the Barneswood Farm R74 1600 after finishing fifth in the Hororata Gold Cup (1800m) at Riccarton last start.

“I probably threw her out of her class a little bit, she got in well at the weights,” Patterson said.

“She has pulled through it fine and should be pretty competitive in that grade over a mile. She just got beaten a couple of weeks back.”

Stablemate Malo Bik will line-up in the Gary McCormick Transport Open 1400 where he will carry 60kg with the assistance of apprentice jockey Rahul Beeharry’s two-kilogram claim.

“We have got the two kilo claim, which will help big time,” Patterson said. “If he can get it soft in front and relaxes, he is always competitive. 

“He over raced last time a bit and they went 1:22, and they got him in the last bit.

“He is a quirky bugger and if he drops the bit for a few hundred metres he will be pretty hard to beat.” 

Coventina Bay, picture Race Images

Top mares retired, stud beckons

Group Two winning Savabeel mare Yearn has been retired and is likely to be sold as a broodmare prospect in the coming months. 

Prepared by Karen Fursdon for the majority of her career, Yearn’s biggest win came when landing the Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) in late 2019, while she also boasts a Group One placing in the Thorndon Mile (1600m) and multiple Group Two placings. 

Part-owner Mark Lupton, who trained Yearn in the early part of her career, said the next phase of life beckoned the seven-time winner, who also placed on 16 occasions.

“We retried her last week,” he said 

“She just had a little niggle. She is a bit averse to wet tracks, so there is not much point keeping her going. We could have spelled her and given her another go but she is a rising eight-year-old and I would rather retire her sound and in good health.”

Lupton indicated that the mare would most likely be auctioned via online platform Gavelhouse Plus. 

“I’ve had a couple of bloodstock agents enquire about her but unless something comes up in the next week or 10 days, she will most likely go on Gavelhouse Plus towards the end of the month.

“She deserves to go to a good stallion and I am not really into the commercial side of breeding. My passion is racing them and if we get a reasonable price we will sell her. 

“She has been a great horse to us and we have had a lot of fun with her.”

Meanwhile, Lupton reported that last year’s Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m) winner Etah James has also been retired. 

A mare that he and wife Cath bred and part-owned, Etah James won the Sydney Cup for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace. 

The mare had previously been trained to stakes success by Matt Cumani, while Lupton had also trained the daughter of Raise The Flag during her time in New Zealand, including a Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) placing and fourth in the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m). 

“She was going to have another crack at the Sydney Cup and she was in work on a water walker in Melbourne but a sarcoid started growing and she had to go back to Sydney for an operation,” he said. 

“We decided she had been through enough and we have retired her. She looks a picture of health and the sarcoids have almost disappeared. She owes us nothing and has been a hell of a good mare to us. 

“She looks amazing and is spelling with our trotting trainer James Ratray, south of Menangle and she will go to stud in Australia this year before coming back to New Zealand.”

Etah James won eight races and A$1.25 million in prizemoney.