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Hastings return for Llanacord 

Llanacord will return to the venue of her biggest moment in racing when she lines-up in the Brew’s & Que’s Tickets On Sale Now (1400m) at Hastings on Saturday.

The daughter of Contributer has an unblemished record at the Hawke’s Bay track, having won her sole start, the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) in March.

“Hastings has been good for her, being a Group Two winner, so you can’t complain with that,” trainer Stephen Nickalls said.

She subsequently went on to finish third in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m), before crossing the Tasman where she was runner-up in the Gr.3 SA Fillies Classic (2500m).

“She took everything in her stride from the time she left (for Australia). I met her at Patrick Payne’s and she never turned a hair on the transporter,” Nickalls said.

“She got to Morphettville, put her head in the feed bin and didn’t stop eating until she got on the plane to come home. 

“She was amazing over there and settled back into life here in our lovely Manawatu mud quite comfortably. It is quite different to the warm climate of Morphettville.

“She has always been an easy filly to do anything with and that is why we had a bit of confidence to go to Adelaide.”

Nickalls has been pleased with the way she has returned this season and was buoyed by her runner-up result in a 1000m trial at Foxton earlier this month.

“We were really happy with her trial at Foxton the other day,” Nickalls said. “Leah (Hemi, jockey) got off and said she felt really nice. She then went to the Levin jumpouts a week later and did the same thing and pulled up really well.”

Saturday’s run will help prepare her for the last two legs of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown, with her ultimate target being the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) on October 16. 

“She is going to need the run on Saturday I am picking, she is a staying mare, but you have got to start somewhere,” Nickalls said.

“My gut feeling is that the last day will suit her much better. 2000m third-up was always going to be our target. Having said that, you have got to find a suitable race, the only other mile around the place is at Te Rapa the day before the Windsor Park (Gr.1, 1600m), so necessity may dictate that she has to go to the Hastings race (on October 2).

“There are a lot of things to happen, and that three to four-year-old year they all tell me that is the hardest jump. She is a two-win mare on a rating 82. You have got to jump in with the big kids and she hasn’t done that yet.

“We will see what she does on Saturday and make a decision from there, we have got no firm plans.”

While looking forward to Saturday, Nickalls is more animated about saddling up Zartan a day later at Te Aroha where he will contest the CLC Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4200m).

“I can’t wait. I am really excited about him,” Nickalls said.

The son of Zed went down by just a nose when resuming at Te Aroha earlier this month, pleasing Nickalls ahead of his feature assignment this weekend.

“He went super the other day. Craig Thornton (jockey of winner No Tip) sort of cut the corner and that was probably the difference in the finish,” Nickalls said.

“He has bounced out of that exceptionally well and galloped super the other day.”

Zartan had a few weeks off after he was pulled up in the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) at Hastings in July and Nickalls said he has benefited from the break.

“Everything went wrong in that Wellington Chase,” Nickalls said. “We decided not to go to the Hawke’s Bay Chase because we didn’t think he would go that flash on the better surface.

“When they shifted the Wellington Chase to Hastings we were in two minds, but thought he would be alright. Hindsight is a great thing and we probably should have stayed at home.

“He had a couple of weeks in the paddock and he has bounced out of it really well. 

“He had a good trial at Foxton before his race at Te Aroha. He is absolutely bouncing out of his skin at the moment, you wouldn’t think he is a 12-year-old the way he is behaving.”

Zartan will be ridden on Sunday by Shaun Fannin, with regular rider James Seivwright forced to head back to England.

Nickalls is uncertain what his next step will be with Zartan after Sunday, with the COVID-19 Alert Levels in Auckland pivotal in whether the Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) is run at Ellerslie on October 3.

“I don’t know that he is a genuine four-mile horse over the hill. But I can’t see the Northern being at Ellerslie anyway given the COVID level,” he said.

“He has had two starts over the hill for a second and a third, so he goes okay, it’s just whether his front-running style will catch him out three times over the hill. But until you have a go you will never know, so we certainly won’t rule it out.

“If it was at Te Aroha we would definitely have a crack.”

With the looming sale of the Ellerslie Hill, and the end of jumps racing in Auckland, the jumping fraternity may be robbed of farewelling the track if COVID-19 levels do not ease in the coming weeks.

“It’s an absolute tragedy,” Nickalls said. “There is no better spectacle than the third time climbing that hill for those horses, it is one of the greatest races in the world. 

“Unfortunately, COVID means that we probably won’t get that opportunity (to race over the Ellerslie Hill for a final time).” 

Williams set for dual role at Riccarton

Leading South Island jockey Kylie Williams will don two hats at Riccarton on Saturday.

While set to ride a quality book at the Christchurch meeting, she will also have her first runner as a trainer in six years.

Williams previously trained for eight seasons where she recorded five wins and she is looking forward to returning to the training ranks this weekend when she will line-up debutant Grandiloquent in the Speight’s Maiden (1200m).

Williams has had the four-year-old gelding in her care since he was a weanling and she is hoping her hard work over the last few years will pay off on Saturday.

“We saw him on Gavelhouse when he was a weanling. I used to ride his mother (Esquina), that Jan Hay trained,” Williams said.

“My friend was looking for a horse so we bought him and have had him all the way through.

“He has always shown a wee bit, but he is one of those horses that has taken three or four times to do something before he clicks on.”

The son of Makfi has had four trials, including two this preparation, and Williams has been happy with what she has seen.

“The first trial was just experience, and the second trial he won that and then went out for a spell,” she said.

“Both trials this time in he has probably been a little bit fat and the tracks have been a bit wet, and I don’t think he is a wet tracker. 

“They have both been encouraging enough, knowing that he wasn’t quite ready. It has just been a bit of experience for him.”

Williams has recently doubled the size of her team with the acquisition of Just Maybe, another gavelhouse.com purchase.

“I have got a three-year-old filly that we bought off Graham Richardson, that was on Gavelhouse, called Just Maybe. She is a Tivaci filly and has just come into work,” Williams said.

“I just have those two. They are enough, between them and kids.”

Williams is enjoying training and said it gives another perspective on raceday.

“It is a new challenge and you get a different perspective from being a jockey. You understand the work that goes into getting horses ready for the races,” she said.

Williams will have eight other rides on Saturday, including two for local trainer Andrew Carston – last start winner Art De Triomphe in the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) and Severine in the Pryde’s Easifeed Open (1200m).

“Art De Triomphe is pretty smart,” Williams said. “The way she won the other day when she wasn’t 100 percent fit and her coat is still falling out, it was quite impressive.

“She is pretty quiet, so that makes it easier when you can ride ones like that. They adapt to things pretty easy.

“She has drawn wide (11) but we will probably get her back again because she has got that amazing turn of foot.

“Severine trialled up nicely a couple of weeks ago. It is quite a smart field and 1200m is probably not her ideal distance. She is fresh-up and is looking forward to other races, this will be a guide for them.”

Williams is also looking forward to riding the Terri Rae-trained Southern Ocean in the Martin Collins New Zealand Cup Trial (1800m).

The Ocean Park five-year-old gelding has won four of his six starts, finishing runner-up in his other two appearances, and Williams has been pleased with his two trials ahead of Saturday.

“I rode him quite a bit last year before I got hurt and then missed out on a few of the rides,” Williams said. 

“His trials this time in have been encouraging. He is fresh-up into 1800m but you can always trust Terri to have a horse spot-on on raceday.

“He has got a nice draw (4), so from there he would have to be a good chance.”

Williams will also partner stablemate Arklow in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Rating 74 (1400m).

“He trialled up the same day as Southern Ocean,” Williams said. “He didn’t get a lot of room in the trial, so it was a bit quiet, but he is a lovely big horse who has shown a bit of ability. He wouldn’t be the worst in that field.”

In-form gelding Top Guy also looks a nice ride for Williams in the Group 1 Raceday Party 23 October Rating 65 (2000m).

The Steve Tyler-trained gelding was unplaced in his first two starts this preparation before winning at Ashburton and finishing runner-up last start at the same Canterbury course.

“His first two runs probably didn’t look much to people but riding him he looked quite encouraging,” Williams said. 

“When he raced at the National (meeting) I said to Steve ‘he will run in the money next start’, and he came out and won.

“Stepping up in grade and weight, he probably should have won his next start, but I have looked after him a little bit instead of sending him on a mission.

“He is going back to the 2000m and the big straight at Riccarton will suit him. He is a nice horse going forward.” 

Rain the only drawback for heavily armed Richards

This weekend will prove to be one of trainer Jamie Richards’ busiest to date, with 34 horses accepted at Taupo on Friday, Riccarton and Hastings on Saturday, and Te Aroha on Sunday, plus a trio of stars — Probabeel, Kahma Lass and Amarelinha — in Australia.  

"It is probably the most we’ve had entered for a weekend,” Richards said.

"But it's the time of year that we look forward to and hopefully the weather can play its part. We've got the gun loaded but it's just kept raining."

Rain forecast for late in the week, particularly in the North Island, has Richards nervous because he doesn't want to flatten key members of his spring team early in their new preparations and he said he was prepared to scratch horses if he wasn't happy that they would handle conditions.

The Te Akau trainer has Avantage, Prise De Fer and Savy Yong Blonk chasing Group One spoils in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings.

Prise De Fer was a fast-finishing third in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa a fortnight ago, while odds-on favourite Avantage could only manage eighth place off a wide run. Savy Yong Blonk goes into the Tarzino fresh-up off two trials.

"I can't fault Avantage. Hopefully it was just a bad day for her at Te Rapa. I'm really pleased with where she's at and how she's going. She's been eating well and she seems to be her normal self," Richards said.

"Hopefully she can bounce back. She's an older mare now and it wouldn't be the first time an older mare has thrown in a bad one first-up. She's got a nice draw. She should get a soft run from there."

Danielle Johnson again rides Avantage with Lisa Allpress booked for Savy Yong Blonk and Troy Harris a late replacement for Ryan Elliot on Prise De Fer.

"I had Ryan Elliot booked. With Catalyst not running, I asked him permission to put Troy on him and he's let us do that. I'll look after him," Richards said.

"Prise De Fer is doing well. He's a more mature horse now. He's always been physically immature but he's done everything right since Te Rapa. 

"But we've got our fingers and toes crossed that they don't get the rain down there because most of our horses want to be running on a better track. A mile is his pet trip but he can be competitive from 1200m to 2000m.

"Savy Yong Blonk is going really well. I thought back to Our Abbadean, who sprinted well fresh in this race (for third in 2018), and I think she can put up a similar performance. She'll get back but she'll be hitting the line strongly. She's another that wants good ground."

Richards said all three would return to Hastings for the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on October 2.

Richards will produce unbeaten I Am Invincible filly Imperatriz as a $2.20 favourite in the Gr.3 Hawke's Bay Breeders' Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings, pleased with how she came through her three-quarters of a length fresh-up win over stablemate I Wish I Win at Te Rapa.

"Her work has been up to scratch. I'm pleased with how she's going. She's drawn well (in barrier one) and seems to handle most track conditions. Hopefully she can front up again," Richards said.

Richards has Imperatriz entered for the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 13 and though he wasn't convinced she was a natural miler, he was keen to give her the chance of progressing towards that race.

I Wish I Win and Sophisticardo will contest the Listed El Roca Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) at Hastings.

"I Wish I Win is going really well. He's bounced through Te Rapa in good shape and has really come on with that run so he should be hard to beat," Richards said.

"Sophisticardo had no luck at Cambridge but had trialled really well beforehand. It's turned out a pretty good field but he'll get a good run from barrier two and he's only got to find his good two-year-old form to be a good chance."

Richards will also line up the trio of Miss Aotearoa, Phantom Witness and Vamos Bebe in the Caro Meo Fashion In The Field 1200 at Hastings, while his other domestic runners on Saturday are Shepherd's Delight, Fashion Shoot, Radegast, Markus Aurelius, Need I Say More, Summer Monsoon, Irish Red, Synchronize and Zouluminous at Riccarton.

"I am happy with the team down there but not so happy with some of the barrier draws. We're looking forward to seeing Synchronize, and Need I Say More is kicking off down there, hopefully getting ready for the Stewards (Handicap over 1200m at Riccarton on November 10)." 

At Taupo on Friday, Richards has accepted with Aotea Lad, Aromatic, Exaltation, Feelin’ Fancy, Maasir, Seajetz, Vincere and Leica Star, while his entry at Te Aroha on Sunday is Shebringsmerubies, Richard Of Yorke, Brando and Mai Tai. 
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