New Zealand news briefs

Bankers Choice makes light of tough Trentham task

Exciting galloper Bankers Choice showed he is well on his way to becoming a star of New Zealand racing with a last to first performance to take out the Gr.3 Dixon & Dunlop Anniversary Handicap (1600m) at Trentham on Saturday.

Trainer Stephen Marsh had been in two minds about where to start the talented performer during the week with an engagement at the Tauranga meeting on Friday also an option for the four-year-old son of Mongolian Khan.

Marsh has handled Bankers Choice with kid gloves through the early stages of his career as he matured both physically and mentally and decided to throw him in the deep end on Saturday in his first major trip away from home.

“He is a horse that has needed time to learn what it is all about and to strengthen physically to be able to put the talent we know he has on the track,” Marsh said.

“We had the option of staying closer to home at Tauranga or taking the plunge to send him to Trentham and tackle stakes company.

“We rolled the dice, with my foreman Rhys Mildon travelling down with the horse to keep a good eye on him and make sure everything went as smoothly as possible.

“The horse did everything right, especially on the track as it is no mean feat to come from last off a slow tempo and win as impressively as he did.”

With regular rider Michael McNab struggling to make the 53kg weight carried by Bankers Choice, Marsh turned to in-form apprentice Joe Kamaruddin for the ride and he produced a superb effort to land the victory.

Allowed time to find his feet early on, Kamaruddin kept his mount relaxed and travelling easily before setting him alight at the 400m. Bankers Choice responded with a sustained burst of speed that carried him past topweight Coventina Bay for a comprehensive three quarters of a length win with Germanicus finishing on well for third.

“Unfortunately, Michael wasn’t going to be able to get down to the 53kgs after being off for a while on suspension, so we went for Joe, who has been riding well of late,” Marsh said.

“He produced a very cool effort that was just what was required. Full credit to Coventina Bay as she was carrying 60kgs, but I’m just thrilled for owners Ross and Corrine Kearney that we could get the job done.

“They have the dam and a half-sister to this guy at home, so to be able to put a Group Three win into the family bloodlines is huge for them and I think the way he has won, that it won’t stop there.”

Marsh is undecided as to where the horse will go next, preferring to get him home safely and monitor his recovery rate from the trip away.

“His biggest trip away before this one had been to Auckland, so I don’t want to make any concrete plans until he has come home and had a few easy days in the paddock,” he said.

“We may come back for the Thorndon Mile (Gr.1, 1600m) in a fortnight or we may just take our time and look at some other options for him.

“If he does keep improving, I think he is the type of horse you could see in Brisbane for the winter carnival later on this year.”

Bred and raced by the Kearneys under their Okaharau Station banner, Bankers Choice is the younger half-brother to talented Carl Henderson-trained mare Jodelin Gal, who will attempt to add further black type into the family in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) at Ellerslie next Saturday.

Bankers Choice is from the first crop of Windsor Park Stud stallion Mongolian Khan and becomes the first stakes winner for the son of Holy Roman Emperor, who numbered the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) and Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) amongst his eight career victories.

The first three across the line were all by Windsor Park Stud stallions, with Shamexpress the sire of Coventina Bay and Rip Van Winkle the sire of Germanicus.

Shamexpress was also in the headlines after his son Shamus landed the Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m) to maintain his unbeaten record.

Bankers Choice’ sire Mongolian Khan will be represented by nine individuals at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka in March. 

Hanalei too strong in Wellesley Stakes

Promising filly Hanalei showed she had taken plenty from her runner-up performance on debut at Te Aroha at the start of the month, when she dominated her two-year-old rivals in the Listed IRT Wellesley Stakes (1100m) at Trentham.

The Jamie Richards trained daughter of Darci Brahma had been heavily backed for her first-up performance but had to bow to stablemate Maven Belle after struggling to find clear galloping room early in the straight that day.

Trentham’s wide-open spaces worked a treat for Hanalei on Saturday as rider Michael McNab let her find her feet early in the 1100m dash before angling into the clear as they negotiated the crossing into the home straight.

Hanalei quickly joined issue with the leaders and flattened out impressively over the final 200m to dash right away to score handsomely by just on three lengths from Cambridge raider Charmario, with debut winner Zaher close up in third.

Richards gave credit to Assistant Trainer Sam Bergerson for identifying the early black-type opportunity for the filly, who was again well-supported and started a $2.90 favourite.

“She’s always shown a lot at home but just needed the time to furnish,” Richards said.

“She is still very green, but I’m pleased with the way she was able to put them away in the finish.

“Mum and Dad bred her with their good friends, Bill and Sandra Duell, so I think I might be alright in the will for a little while longer.

“She has it all ahead of her, with the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.2, 1200m) at home her next assignment.”

Bred and raced by Richard’s parents Paul and Leanne along with Bill and Sandra Duell, Hanalei is out of the Pyrus mare Lucrative and is a half-sister to Cote De Beaune, who remains unbeaten after two starts thanks to a win in the preceding event for Richards and his owners, the Te Akau Grand Cru Racing Partnership.

Hanalei and Cote De Beaune are closely related to a number of well performed staying types including Gr.2 Waikato Cup (2400m) winner Dawn Ghost and Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) winner Dorset Downs.

McNab was delighted with the win and believes the filly will take plenty of benefit from the Trentham experience.

“She got back in her race the other day, got held up and the stablemate was able to kick away,” McNab said.

“She learnt a lot and with the side winkers on, she was well prepared for today.

“She got there (the front) quite easily and went on with it which is a good sign.”