New Zealand news briefs

Zaher putting in the miles ahead of Wellesley

Two-year-old gelding Zaher may only be having his second start at Trentham on Saturday but he is already becoming a seasoned traveller.

The Cambridge juvenile made the long trek down to Otaki in November to score on debut and he will add on another couple of hours to that journey on Saturday when he contests the Listed IRT Wellesley Stakes (1100m).

Trainer Lauren Brennan said the son of Proisir has a great constitution and she doesn’t think the travel fazes the youngster.

“He will have two runs with two big trips away for him,” Brennan said.

“He is a horse that doesn’t worry about things like that. He is a pretty cruisy horse and is easy to do anything with.

“He has got a fantastic temperament and he has got a good mind for a two-year-old, which helps.”

Brennan gave Zaher a freshen-up following his debut win, and with the gelding not eligible for the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie next week, she put a circle around the Wellesley Stakes a week prior as a key target.

“I gave him 10 days off after that run (Otaki) just to freshen him up,” Brennan said. 

“Because he is not Karaka Million eligible, I thought I would let the Karaka Million horses race against each other and try and get their spots, and bring him back just before the Millions to run in the Wellesley.

“I had this one planned because all the top two-year-olds will be going the Karaka Million way.”

Brennan is hoping her plan pays off on Saturday and she believes he is a solid chance despite drawing the widest gate in the seven-horse field.

“He has drawn seven of seven, which isn’t ideal, but I don’t think there is a lot of early speed in the race so Matt (Cameron, jockey) should be able to put him where he wants to,” she said.

While already showing plenty of early promise, Brennan believes Zaher will make an even nicer three-year-old.

“He is still quite up in the back end, he has still got to level out a bit, so I think as a three-year-old he will be a really nice horse,” she said.

“At the moment he is doing everything we ask of him. I would imagine he will furnish into an even nicer horse at three.”

Brennan is also looking forward to heading south on Saturday with consistent galloper Packing Rockstar who will line-up in the Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m).

The six-year-old gelding has won six and placed in six of his 16 starts, and Brennan is hoping her gelding can improve on his two fourth placings over 1200m at Group One level on Saturday.

“He tries hard and that is all you can ask,” Brennan said.

“He didn’t get the best of trips in the Railway (Gr.1, 1200m), out four-wide the trip. He still stuck on well (for fourth) and he had every right to be tailed off with the trip he got, but he tried really hard and hit the line nicely.

“It is his first trip away. We haven’t taken him anywhere overnight before, but I don’t think he will worry about that. 

“I think the Wellington track will suit him, the 1200m really runs similar to a 1400m there. We just need some luck.” 

Patterson’s in-form stable set to star again

Robbie Patterson will head to Trentham buoyed by a winning midweek double and even a hefty impost for his star performer Coventina Bay on Saturday hasn’t dimmed his confidence in the mare’s prospects.

The New Plymouth trainer was successful with Bold Bette and Eddie Wood at Otaki on Thursday and runner-up finishes from Barney Rubble and Whaea Meri completed a top day out for the stable.

Patterson is bullish about Coventina Bay’s chances in the Gr.3 Dixon & Dunlop Anniversary Handicap (1600m), despite her being saddled with 60kg and giving a minimum of 6.5kg to the rest of the field, while Contribute is in top order for the Lincoln Farms Premier (1400m).

Coventina Bay didn’t show her best during a three-start Queensland winter carnival campaign but bounced straight back following a break with an emphatic first-up victory in the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) prior to Christmas.

“She’s definitely the class horse of the race and the weight tells you that. She is very well and I couldn’t have her any better for this,” Patterson said.

“She’s probably 95 percent right and this will top her off nicely for the Thorndon Mile (Gr.1, 1600m).

“Hopefully, she can get three back on the rail or in the trail on Saturday because there doesn’t look to be a lot of speed in the race. If she is within three or four lengths off them at the top of the straight, it will take a good horse to beat her.”

The six-year-old was ridden in her resuming run by Craig Grylls, who will take the reins again at Trentham.

“She has got a big weight which makes it tough, but she’s a very good mare and she will improve a lot with that first run,” Grylls said.

Should Coventina Bay run up to expectations in her next two appearance, Patterson is keen to try her over more ground in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 12 to open up further options.

“As long as she gets through Saturday and the Thorndon well, she’ll definitely go to the Herbie Dyke. It’s a prime opportunity, she loves Te Rapa and travelling doesn’t worry her,” Patterson said.

“The Herbie Dyke will tell us where her future lies really. I think she’ll get the trip and I know she’s by Shamexpress, but she is out of a High Chaparral mare and is a beautifully relaxed horse as well.”

Stablemate Contribute has won two of her six starts and Patterson is expecting another bold showing from the Contributer mare and isn’t over duly concerned by her outside gate.

“She is an absolutely gorgeous horse and while she has drawn 10 of 10 on Saturday, it’s probably not the worst thing for her as she’s a natural get back horse anyway,” he said. “It will be tempo related and she’s got a devastating finish.”

Contribute was ridden in her resuming victory on her home track by Grylls, who again retains the mount.

“She won nicely fresh-up and will take a lot of natural improvement out of the run,” he said.

Grylls has a strong book of rides at Trentham, including Jamie Richards’ New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) runner-up Shepherd’s Delight in the Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m).

“It’s nice to get on one like her and she raced well down south so she should be a really good chance,” he said.

Grylls will also partner Shepherd’s Delight’s stablemate Cote De Beaune, a runaway debut winner at New Plymouth, in the Fusion Electrical Premier (1200m) and Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) longshot Can I Get An Amen.

His other feature race ride is in the Gr.3 Mode Technology Trentham Stakes (2100m) aboard Waisake and Grylls said an improved showing was on the cards with trainer Allan Sharrock to put blinkers on the stayer. 

Schofer excited for Tavi Mac opportunity

Hazel Schofer can't wait for her dream ride at Trentham on Saturday, partnering her favourite horse Tavi Mac in the Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m).

The reigning champion apprentice rode Tavi Mac to her first raceday win and seldom misses riding him in trackwork.

"He's a horse that means a huge amount to me and this is really exciting to get this opportunity," Schofer said.

"He's like a pet to me. He's such an intelligent horse and I get to ride him in trackwork everyday and he was my first raceday ride and winner. Hopefully when he retires, he can come out and live on the farm and still be a big part of my life."

A winner of 12 of his 22 starts, the Allan Sharrock-trained Tavi Mac has won five stakes races, including last season's Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni.

In two starts in Group One races, the Tavistock six-year-old gelding finished sixth in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings and fifth in last year's Telegraph.

"His trackwork has been really good,” Schofer said. “He's had a few little issues during this preparation and it really hasn't gone as Allan would have planned but he can't help that. He's known for his awkward conformation and I guess at his age, that's just starting to show a bit.

"But he had a jump out the other day and Allan was really happy with it. He's as on target as he could be. His run at Awapuni last start was good and it took a good horse in Coventina Bay to beat him."

Tavi Mac will be Schofer's third ride at Group One level after finishing out of the money on Beefeater in last season's Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham and on House Of Cartier in the El Cheapo Cars Weight-For-Age Classic (1600m) at Otaki.

"This is my best opportunity to even run in the first three, which I would be thrilled with," Schofer said.

"Obviously the two mares (Entriviere and Levante) are the ones to beat but other than that I think he would have raced and beaten most of the rest of the field at some point. It's really encouraging to be on a horse that's a genuine place chance."

Tavi Mac is a $17 chance with bookmakers for the Telegraph behind Entriviere at $1.50 and Levante at $4.

Schofer will also ride unbeaten three-year-old Shamus for her boss Sharrock in the Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m).

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to stick with him. I'm really excited to ride him," Schofer said.

"There's quite a bit of depth to that field too and he's a genuine first-three chance against some really nice horses coming down from up north. Getting to a big track like Trentham is really going to suit him.

"At Awapuni, he has really started to flatten out at the end of his races but once he gets to Trentham, he'll just have that bit more room to really go through his gears."

Schofer's other rides at Trentham are Tavattack, Torque Time and Putorino.

"Tavattack, he's placed really nicely in that race and blinkers go on. On his last run at Awapuni, he's a really good chance." 

Wexford juvenile times Karaka Million run to perfection

Trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott have timed their run to the DoubleTree By Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie next week to perfection with promising juvenile Time Ruler.

The gelding ran away to a comfortable 5-1/2 length victory in the Ray White Mount Maunganui Juvenile (1200m) at Tauranga on Friday, with his $17,250 earnings from the race booking his spot in next week’s two-year-old feature.

It was also a good result for his sire Time Test, who recorded his first southern hemisphere victory as a sire with the win.

“He (Time Ruler) had won a trial early on and was impressive and has taken a bit more time in learning his craft. Andrew and Lance have done a wonderful job and now have the horse in the Karaka Millions,” said Little Avondale Stud principal Sam Williams, who stands Time Test at his Wairarapa farm.

“It is outstanding for Time Ruler and fantastic for Time Test to have his first winner in the southern hemisphere and a runner in the race (Karaka Million).”

Time Test filly Timeless ran on well to finish third in the race, with her earnings putting her into first emergency for the Karaka Million.

With Friday’s result, Williams’ own horse Time Flies has been pushed out to second emergency for the rich feature.

Williams co-bred the Jamie Richards-trained gelding and retained a share in him when he was purchased by bloodstock agent Chris Rutten for $115,000 at Karaka last year.

While disappointed to miss out on a run in the Karaka Million, Williams is excited for the future with the gelding.

“You never know what can happen in the space of a week in racing,” he said.

“Time Flies is still very much learning his racing craft. I think he has got untapped ability. 

“He has been impressive in his two trial wins and he has just been a bit unfortunate come raceday.

“I think he is an exciting horse going forward.”

Williams is also excited about the future with Time Test and his progeny leading into New Zealand Bloodstock’s delayed National Yearling Sale in March.

“I am so excited for the stallion and timing is everything,” he said. 

“Approaching the Karaka sales we have got a lovely bunch of Time Test’s heading to the sales.

“I have never been so relaxed during a yearling prep. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas period (break). It has been one of the best things ever. 

“We have got a lot of November foals and they are very well grown, I am very happy.

“It is going to be exciting for everyone at Karaka this year to experience those March horses.”