New Zealand news briefs

Hypnos looking to put his rivals in a trance at Te Aroha

Group One performer Hypnos is in fine fettle ahead of the Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha on Saturday according to trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood.

The six-year-old son of Reliable Man has drawn well in gate six in an 11-horse field, with Group One winner Royal Performer at the top of the book in the set weights and penalties feature. 

Hypnos heads into the race in good form, having placed in two of his three starts this preparation, including a last start runner-up effort behind Justaskme in the Gr.2 Tauranga Stakes (1600m).

“He hit the front probably a bit too early last start, but I am happy enough with him,” James said.

James is pleased with Hypnos’ draw and said that will give him plenty of options out of the gates.

“There is no doubt that a good draw is a big help and it will be an assist for him because we can ride him where we want to from six without doing any work, whereas if you start using him at the beginning of the race he can get quite aggressive,” he said.

Saturday will likely be Hypnos’ last appearance this preparation, with James looking towards the autumn with the gelding.

“He may well not have many more runs in this preparation, we might save him for the autumn again,” he said.

“I don’t know that hard tracks are going to be his best friend at all. He has a bit of mileage on his legs these days so we are taking every run at a time.”

Meanwhile, James has elected to scratch stablemate Madam Hass from the Listed Courtesy Ford Levin Stakes (1200m) at Otaki on Thursday after she drew the outside of the 14-horse field.

“She drew wide in the Pegasus (Listed, 1000m) and was still able to run third, the draw (8) definitely cost her that day,” James said.

“She drew the outside (13) in the Stewards (Gr.3, 1200m) and we ran her because we were down there (Riccarton) and it was a race that we had targeted, and her run was very good, but again the draw cost her.

“She drew the outside again at Levin so we weren’t going to go all the way to Otaki and do the same thing.”

The Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day remains her main target of the summer but James is yet to decide where she will have her final lead-in run.

“She will have one run somewhere between now and then, but where I am not certain at this stage,” he said. 

Leviathan Australian owner secures smart filly

The curtain is likely to come down on Unusual Culture’s brief New Zealand career when she takes on a competitive age group line-up in the three-year-old feature at Otaki on Thursday.

Off the back of a lead-up trial placing, the Fraser Auret-trained filly overcame a slow start to score effortlessly when she made her debut on the course earlier this month.

That performance saw prominent owner Ozzie Kheir come calling and she will carry his colours in the Gr.3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1600m).

“She has been sold and will start on Thursday under the new ownership, it is my understanding that she will do her future racing out of Melbourne,” Auret said.

“She is a gorgeous horse and there is a lot of depth in that field. You would certainly say that she is the new kid on the block and got a fair bit to learn, but I really do think she has a very bright future.”

Unusual Culture was bred and raced by Auret’s parents Nigel and Adaire, who also stand her sire Unusual Suspect at their Letham Stud operation on the outskirts of Wanganui.

The filly’s pedigree features the Auret family’s Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Stakes (1600m) winner Saint Cecile and her half-brother Mettre En Jeu, a stakes winner who ran second in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and formerly stood at Letham.

Fraser Auret’s Marton stable will also chase black-type honours on Saturday when Marietta Lane and Uareastar go head-to-head in the Listed Steelform Roofing Group Wanganui Cup (2040m).

Marietta Lane was unplaced when opening her current campaign before finishing runner-up in the Listed Feilding Gold Cup (2100m).

“She is going really well and I thought it was a terrific run last time out. She is still obviously on the way up as that was only her second run and she’s come on really nicely again,” Auret said.

“She is lightly raced and she does hold nominations for the Wellington Cup (Gr.3, 3200m) and the Auckland Cup (Gr.2, 3200m) and, at this stage, the focus is certainly on getting her to the Wellington Cup.

“She’s been slow to strengthen and a late-starter, she’s only now a furnished horse and typical of some of the Zeds and does prefer good ground. She has copped a bit of weight (58.5kg), but her form probably warrants that.”

Also nominated for the Trentham and Ellerslie staying features is Uareastar, who will similarly go third-up into the Wanganui Cup off the back of an open handicap fourth over 1550m at Awapuni.

“I thought her last run was better than it looked, it was never going to suit her being back on the inside with her racing style,” Auret said.

“She will derive benefit from the fact that the other mare cops the weight and she’ll get in at 54kg. She is a very progressive type as well.”

Auret will also have three other lower grade representatives on the Wanganui undercard.

“We’ve got Exquisite Pearl going in the Rating 65 2040m (Loaders Wanganui) race and she trialled up really well last week and should go a good race,” he said.

“We’ve also got Trifolium and Little Wing in the Rating 65 (Sound Electrical) over 1340m and they’ve also both done well.”

Cromwell to miss carnival atmosphere

While Cromwell’s annual two-day meeting ‘Racing In The Vines’ won’t have the same carnival atmosphere as it usually does as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, Riverton trainer Kelvin Tyler is looking forward to heading north this week nonetheless.

Normally it’s a chance for Tyler and his hardworking Southland team to let their hair down with a typically student-based crowd celebrating the end of their university exams.

However, with the region still under Level 2 restrictions, there will be no General Admission this year, putting a dampener on what is usually a jovial atmosphere.

“It is my favourite race meeting of the whole year,” said Tyler, who trains in partnership with his daughter Aimee.

“It has got a really good atmosphere and it is a nice place to be racing over the two days up there.

“It is normally a fun weekend away and we take all of our staff and try to make it a fun weekend for everyone.”

While the usual festivities will be missing, Tyler is still looking forward to taking a handful of runners north on Friday to compete on the opening day.

Group Three performer He’s Got Power is set to contest the Clare Memorial Central Otago Cup (1220m), however, Tyler said he is still playing with the idea of focusing solely on the second day of the meeting with the last start winner.

“It was a good run last start,” Tyler said. “I am in two minds as to whether I run him or save him for the last day.

“We will just see what the track is like when I get up there.”

While he is undecided about whether He’s Got Power will be seen on the first day, Tyler is excited about the prospects of three-year-old filly Hyspec in the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1400m).

“She has got a lot of ability but she is pretty highly strung and has had a few issues. Hopefully we have sorted them out,” Tyler said.

“Ability-wise she has got tonnes of it, we have just got to find a way to get it out of her.”

Four-year-old gelding No Quarter Asked will contest the Alexandra New World (2030m) and Tyler is hopeful of a winning result at his fifth start for the stable.

“He is screaming out for 2000m. It is his best chance since we have had him, he will be a nice chance,” he said.

Tyler will also line-up Zac Black in the Breen Construction (1400m) and Full Fury in the Catalyst Performance Agronomy (2030m). 

Browne to sign off Australia foray with Jericho tilt

Cambridge trainers Emma-Lee and David Browne will be represented by handy stayer Border Leicester in Sunday’s A$300,000 Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool, the longest flat race in Australasia.

Restricted to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses, the Jericho is the brainchild of philanthropist and historian Bill Gibbins to commemorate a three-mile race held in the desert in Palestine during World War I.

The Brownes have enjoyed a fruitful spring in Victoria with their quartet of raiders, with Elephant, Rhinoceros and Bifrost all finding the winner’s circle, while Border Leicester hasn’t been far away as he has built towards Sunday’s target.

It will be the last opportunity to add some more Australian dollars to the bank account this spring, with David Browne set to head home to New Zealand in early December after more than four months as a Cranbourne resident.

Border Leicester enters off the back of a sixth placing at The Valley last start over 3800m in a Jericho qualifier, in a race dominated by Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) contender True Marvel in wet conditions.

“I’m pretty happy with the way he is going. We had to back off him the month before and make sure we had enough horse to get to Sunday,” David Browne said.

“He ran okay the other day. There was a little bit of kick-back and he doesn’t like that much. I think it is a totally different race to the one he is going into this weekend.

“There is a lot of turning, a lot of up and down hills and circles so it is all a bit different at Warrnambool.”

Preparing horses to contest extreme staying distances in nothing new to Browne, the grandson of jumps racing icons Ann Browne and her late husband Ken.

David and Emma-Lee relocated to the famed Browne family property on the outskirts of Cambridge in 2019, with many of New Zealand’s stoutest stayers having utilised the stiff hill on the property to give them a fitness edge.

But Browne has praised the facilities at his home away from home in Cranbourne, which is quickly becoming Victoria’s busiest training centre.

“The facilities are excellent,” Browne said. “They have a back track that is a heavy sand and has an uphill climb on that, it is about 2000m round on that.

“You can go quietly downhill and work them going up quite a few times. There are quite a few options and plenty of tracks to choose from.”

It is somewhat fitting that a horse named after a breed of sheep will represent the Kiwis in a race that commemorates the ANZACs.

“It is always something that you think of, what they have done in that time and the sacrifices they made, and part of the reason the Aussies and Kiwis are so close,” Browne said.

Darryl Horner will ride Border Leceister, who has banked around A$30,000 this campaign and Browne said the key to the 4600m journey is for the horse to relax and switch off.

“Essentially you are running a Grand Annual or Great Northern without jumps. The relevance of being able to gallop becomes less than being able to stay,” Browne said.

“Darryl galloped him the other day and was really happy with him so that gives up a bit of confidence that he should be able to do the job.”

With Elephant, Rhinoceros and Bifrost back home in New Zealand, Browne said having just one horse remaining to look after had afforded him more of a chance to familiarise himself with Melbourne and he is keen to return. 

“I would say we would be back in the Autumn with most of those horses again. It does work out quite well and as long as you hit it right then the prizemoney is outstanding compared to home,” he said.

“The feedback from the jockeys is just outstanding and we have learnt to back our judgement.

“We took those two maideners (Rhinoceros and Bifrost) and people looked at us a bit strange, but we knew they were good enough. You can win a $25,000 maiden you have paid for your trip.”

Browne said the Victorian success has introduced a few new clients to the stable and wife Emma-Lee was active at last week’s New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale, purchasing youngsters by Turn Me Loose and Savabeel.

“We have had a lot of interest, so it has been pretty good,” Browne said. “The two horses we bought last week were syndicated pretty much straight away. They were existing clients with a couple of new ones.

“It gives you a bit of confidence that people are keen to invest in your judgement.”

Browne is looking forward to getting home for Christmas after snaring an MIQ slot where he will undertake a week’s quarantine before being re-united with his family.

“It has been over four months so it is a reasonable amount of time, the most we have spent apart anyway,” he said. 

Rosberg gets chequered flag at Tauranga

Promising three-year-old Rosberg impressed at Tauranga on Wednesday when scoring his maiden victory in the Katy Laidlaw Property Management 1400.

The son of Reliable Man was having his fourth raceday start, having placed in two of his previous outings.

The gelding was positive out of the gates for jockey Ashvin Goindasamy, settling just behind the speed.

Goindasamy navigated his charge five-wide turning for home where he was able to comfortably reel in his rivals and run away to win by a long neck over Principessa, with a further length back to Divine Sava in third.

Trainers Simon and Katrina Alexander were pleased with Rosberg’s winning effort, showing his versatility.

“It was very pleasing to see,” Katrina Alexander said. “I have always been a little bit concerned with him on top of the ground, but he has shown he is comfortable with that, having earlier shown that he also cops wet tracks.

“He is an incredibly honest little horse. He is not a big horse, but he has got a big heart and he really is still learning what it is all about.

“He is a really nice horse to train and is 100 percent genuine, which is really pleasing.”

While no solid plans have been made after Wednesday’s victory, Alexander hasn’t ruled out a path towards the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie next March despite the Gerry Harvey bred and owned gelding missing from the initial nominations.

“Distance will be his best friend in the future,” Alexander said.

“Ashvin said that after the line he just wanted to go again and he pulled up down the back straight. 

“Just on his breeding, being by Reliable Man, they are comfortable at a mile to 2000m at least. 

“We haven’t made too many plans past here, we just wanted to tick this box and to see him doing it over 1400m. Knowing it is a bit short for him gives us a bit to work with.” 

Punctual finish from Apostrophe 

The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Apostrophe broke maiden ranks in style on Wednesday, coming from off the speed to triumph over 1400m. 

The four-year-old daughter of Tavistock had been luckless at her previous start when stopped in her tracks at Te Aroha. 

“It was a very nice win. She is a mare that has always shown a little bit of ability but had quite a bad injury at three,” Wellwood said. 

“She had a long time off the scene and was very luckless at Te Aroha. She put it all together today and I think we will see more and more of her as the season goes by. 

“I think a mile to 2000m will be her go. I don’t think she is a real dour stayer and the way she quickened today if she can put it all together there is probably a decent race in her.” 

The stable also tasted success with four-year-old gelding Dionysus, who dug deep to win over 2100m and land his second win from seven starts. 

“He’s a horse that has always been mentally and physically immature but piece by piece is putting it together. He is probably still eight or twelve months away from his best, but it was a good win today,” Wellwood said. 

The Cambridge stable came out second best with three-year-old filly Principessa finishing runner-up to Roseberg over 1400m, but the OTI raced daughter of Vadamos looks a promising type.

“If she drew a barrier she probably goes close to winning today, but unfortunately she drew poorly and the rail was out, so it made it very hard but she was game in defeat. She is certainly a filly we are going to enjoy seeing progress through some of the fillies black-type races,” Wellwood said. 

Principessa is bred to get over further with her mother a sister to Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Prince Of Penzance. 

James and Wellwood are enjoying a fine season with nine wins on the board from 58 runners, including stakes winners Cheaperthandivorce and Two Illicit, with 28 top-three finishes.  

“We have got some really nice horses and some horses that haven’t even stepped out yet, so it is exciting,” Wellwood said.

“Let’s just hope they can continue in good form and hopefully we will be even more prominent over the Christmas and New Year period.”