Te Rapa focus for in-form Marsh stable
Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh concedes that his season target of 100 winners is probably beyond reach but he's keen to keep progressing towards that goal with a big team at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Marsh reached 97 wins in the 2018-19 season and was keen to better that mark this term but with 82 wins to his name with less than two months remaining, he doubts whether this is the season he can get to the century mark.
"It's probably a little out of reach now but we've still got not bad numbers ticking over. We had eight at Matamata yesterday and we'll run 10 on Saturday," Marsh said.
"We can't complain about the season we've had. We've got to 10 stakes wins which we're rapt with and it's been great watching horses like Pierina and Atishu fulfil their potential. It was terrific seeing Pierina win the Travis Stakes (Gr.2, 2000m) at Te Rapa last month, certainly one of the highlights for us.
"And the really nice thing is we've got a good lot of horses to look forward to next season. We've got a nice bunch of rising three-year-olds to work with."
Marsh sits second in the national trainers' premiership behind runaway leader Jamie Richards and with four wins already this month, he remains one of the form trainers in the country.
He is hopeful of continuing his winning form at Te Rapa with several good prospects, selecting the quartet of Fighting Fire, Lock Up, Chakana and He's The Man as his strongest chances.
"He's The Man won really nicely last start. He probably should have won it even easier but he switched off a little when he got to the front," Marsh said in assessing the Dunstan Feeds 1400.
"He's always shown us good ability and he's come up really nicely this preparation. He's drawn well in barrier two and has Michael McNab on so there's a lot of positives and we'd like to think he might be winning again."
Lock Up and Chakana clash in the Fairview Motors Mile and appear leading chances.
"Lock Up went well last start and getting up to the mile really suits him. He's drawn well in three and he's a progressive horse," Marsh said.
"Chakana's second-up run was great. She'll be even better with that first run at 1600m and this race looks right up her alley. We go into that race with two good chances."
Fighting Fire will contest the SVS Starting Gates 1100 as a form runner after winning fresh-up at Ruakaka then finishing second at Hawera last start.
"His last two runs have been really good. He's drawn well in barrier four and has done well since his trip away last start. He should be competitive in this."
Marsh's other runners at Te Rapa are Luca Deli, Spring Success, Appellant, Medalza, Aspiring and Ludus.
"Appellant is improving all the time and her form is better than it reads. She didn't get a lot of luck last time and with the senior jockey on, we're expecting a good run. She's going really well."
Luca Deli is a two-year-old son of Snitzel and champion mare Lucia Valentina, who Marsh initially trained to Group Three success before she transferred to Kris Lees, winning three Group One races.
"It's great they've given us the chance with him. He's trialled up okay but it's clear he'll be a better three-year-old," Marsh said.
Matamata breakthrough for Colin Oscopy
Emerging young trainer Samantha Logan sent out an eye-catching winner at Matamata on Wednesday when the eye-wateringly-named Colin Oscopy broke maiden ranks over 2000m.
The four-year-old son of Zed looks a stayer of real promise after racing to a seven and a half length success, with Logan happy to take her time with the gelding.
“We have always had a high opinion of him, but he has just taken a bit of time, being by Zed, so I think getting up in trip and a wet track, in addition to giving him a bit of time to mature, he is starting to put it all together,” she said.
“I think next year is going to be his year. We will just tick him through the grades quietly this winter and put him out and bring him back next year with a view to some nicer races. At this stage we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we think he is a very progressive type.”
While Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed has made a name for himself as a sire of star staying mare Verry Elleegant, as well as high-class stayer Waisake, the stallion is also well known as a sire of top-level jumpers, which opens up multiple options for the likes of Colin Oscopy.
“We have jumped him,” Logan said. “We do a little bit of work over the logs with our staying horses just to keep their minds occupied. He is a lovely jumper, so that discipline could be on the cards down the track.”
Colin Oscopy has attracted plenty of social media attention at the majority of his seven starts, but Logan explained there wasn’t a lot of meaning behind the name.
“The owner has got a hard-case sense of humour. He had another one called Anita Pea and a few other strange names,” she said.
“He likes to surprise me, and he just told me he had named the horse and to look it up. It is fair to say I did get a surprise when I looked it up.”
The Cambridge-based horsewoman was also represented by four-year-old stayer Fortune Wings, a well-bred son of Tavistock and Group One performer Octapussy, who finished a close second in another 2000m maiden at Matamata.
“He is improving every race for us. It was his fifth start for us yesterday and we are just getting to know him. He was really brave yesterday and had a tough run and did a lot of work,” Logan said.
“I was proud of him. He is a nice horse once he works it all out. He still does some things wrong and wants to over-race and be a bit fierce, but he is starting to show some of the potential his breeding suggests he might have.”
With a dozen horses in work, Logan, daughter of top trainer Donna Logan, who is these days based in Singapore, is very hands-on and balances pre-training for larger stables with training a handful of her own.
“I have 12 in work at the moment, which is a nice number that keeps us busy. We can still focus on them pretty closely,” she said.
“I generally get older tried horses where people want to change things up a little bit.
“I do a lot of the work myself, which helps the financial situation, and that is part of the reason why I don’t like to get too big.
“Pre-training is a major part of the business. Tony Pike and Te Akau have been really supportive and that is basically how we stay afloat, having half a dozen for them and then having the older horses to train.”
Logan has missed seeing her mother for the best part of two years with COVID-19 making international travel and quarantine a bridge too far, but regularly keeps in contact.
“Mum is the first to ring when we get a winner. She had a really good win in Singapore a few weeks back (S$1million Kranji Mile), so we all keep in touch regularly via facetime and she was the first to ring yesterday.”
Having enjoyed some success training jumpers, Logan only has Lacustre undertaking that role at present, with hurdle trial winner Lambrusco sidelined with a tendon issue.
“I only have Lacustre jumping at the minute. It is just a small team, but they are all going well, which is the main thing,” Logan said.
Nickalls hoping whirlwind season continues at Trentham
Stephen Nickalls has to pinch himself every time he looks back on this season.
The Manawatu horseman was happy training a handful of jumpers on his Rangiotu farm and then one filly changed everything.
Llanacord, a $15,000 yearling sale purchase by his stepfather Kevin Hopson, went from winning her maiden race at Wanganui in February to winning the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings at her next start, before placing in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March.
Nickalls then made his first trip across the Tasman with her where she once again gave her trainer the experience of a lifetime when finishing runner-up in the Gr.3 South Australian Fillies Classic (2500m) at Morphettville.
“It has been a whirlwind,” Nickalls said. “We knock around and do what is best for the horses and to get a horse like her, who has come from a maiden race to winning a Group Two and placing in a Group Three in Australia has been wonderful.
“We have enjoyed it and will look back on it with fond memories.
“We are pretty excited about the future with her as well. She has got to step up to that open grade next season, but everything she has done this year tells me that we are going to have a lot of fun with her next season.
“I was up with my mum and stepfather last weekend and we sat down and said we would get her back in work early July and see how she comes up, and make a plan from there.
“We have got nothing firm set for the spring. We will probably nominate for the Hastings carnival, simply because she is at that level, but whether we get there she will tell us.”
Nickalls also experienced one of his best moments as a jumps trainer when Zartan finished third in the McGregor Grant Steeplechase (4150m) at Ellerslie on Monday.
“He was awesome. He is such a lovely horse and a joy to have around,” Nickalls said.
“Coming down the hill he was in front and we were all getting very excited.
“Jumping is what I love and I have an absolute passion for it. To have a horse run third in a McGregor Grant is wonderful.”
Zartan is set to return to Ellerslie, but Nickalls is eyeing another feature jumps race closer to home before then.
“He has come home and has pulled up really well,” he said. “We will look at going back for the Great Northern with him, he seems to like the hill.
“He will probably go there via the Wellington (Steeplechase) and Pakuranga (Hunt Cup).”
While Zartan will head to Trentham next month for the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m), Nickalls is looking forward to heading to the Upper Hutt track this weekend with a couple of other runners.
His charge will be led by last start winner Chase in the Wyndspelle At Grangewilliam Stud 1600.
The four-year-old gelding posted three previous placings and Nickalls was delighted to finally break maiden ranks with the son of Zed at Trentham last month.
“It was a lovely win,” he said. “It was good to see him get one. He threatened a little bit earlier, so it was good to get that monkey off our back.
“He has always been a horse that we have had quite a bit of time for, but he has just been a little bit dumb and learning his craft, but he put it all together a fortnight ago.
“It was really exciting for us to get that win.”
Nickalls has been pleased with Chase ahead of Saturday and he believes his wide gate of 10 and stepping up in grade won’t be too much of a concern for his gelding.
“He has bounced through the race really well,” he said.
“I think the best draw he has had was nine, so he is used to being out there. We were down there at the track on Tuesday schooling some jumpers and the track was pretty wet. I think they will be coming wide later in the day, so I don’t think it will bother him too much.
“He has to go up in grade and that is always a question. The way he won the other day, his times were comparable with the (rating) 74 mile earlier in the day, so that is why we thought why not have a crack.”
Nickalls will also line-up Coconut in the Super Star Zed Em ‘Chase’ (4000m).
“We took him down (to Trentham) on Tuesday morning and he schooled around the fences down there and was really good,” he said. “He jumped everything really well and ran to the line well.
“It was a nice fitness run for him the other day at Palmerston North, he ran home well and we were really happy with him ahead of Saturday.”
Kamaruddin takes out apprentice challenge
Joe Kamaruddin was in red-hot form at New Plymouth on Thursday when taking out the apprentice jockeys challenge.
He opened his account with a win aboard the Robbie Patterson-trained Swiss Kitty in the 1200m maiden before going on to win aboard stablemate Dame Vera in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1400m).
He closed his account with victory in the last race on the card aboard the Darrell Hollinshead-trained Lord Valentine, giving Kamaruddin a treble and the apprentice challenge title.
Kamaruddin now sits on 28 wins for the season and he was pleased with his success on Thursday.
“I have to thank all the trainers and owners who have supported me today,” he said. “I was able to ride some nice horses and it was a lucky day today.”
It was also a special day for fellow apprentice jockey Jeetesh Mudhoo who recorded his first win from his first raceday ride when victorious aboard Jane O’ in the Dave Brophy Memorial Maiden (1600m).