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Autridge in search of more Karaka Gold

Stephen Autridge has twice celebrated victories in New Zealand’s richest juvenile event and will on Saturday be bidding to halt the run of his former employer in the Ellerslie feature.

During his successful stint with Te Akau, Autridge prepared the subsequent multiple Group One winners Melody Belle and Avantage to claim successive Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) titles in 2017 and 2018.

He was then training in partnership with Jamie Richards, who in his own right sent out Probabeel, Cool Aza Beel and On The Bubbles to win the next three editions.

Richards has Dynastic, Fellini, Lord Cosmos, and Time Flies in Saturday’s line-up and Autridge will attempt to break the Te Akau dominance in the DoubleTree by Hilton-sponsored feature with Alabama Gold.

He prepares the youngster with Kris Shailer and the colt has made an encouraging start and will strip in prime order for the stiffest test of his fledgling career.

“Basically, he has improved every time and we’re very happy that he has already gone around at Ellerslie and did everything right,” Autridge said.

“The horse that beat him there is one of the favourites for the race and we believe our colt has improved again so we are very happy with where we are.”

At his most recent appearance, Alabama Gold finished runner-up behind Fellini and prior to that was just edged out at New Plymouth by Lord Cosmos.

“I’ve won it twice before so it would be good to do it with different colours on this time,” he said.

A son of Turn Me Loose, Alabama Gold is raced by Stan Painton, who has enjoyed a long and successful association with Autridge.

“We go back about 25 years and we think around 44 winners in that time,” Autridge said.

Among their leading lights have been the seven-time winners Abbey Tralae and Silverdale, who was also a multiple black-type placegetter.

“Alabama Gold is shaping up well and they all say Turn Me Looses want to be three-year-olds, but Stan wanted a horse to have a crack at the Million so that’s why we bought him,” Autridge said.

Unfortunately, the colt has drawn the outside gate but connections can take heart from the winning runs in more recent times of Probabeel and On The Bubbles, who both jumped from the widest barrier.

Alabama Gold was an $85,000 purchase out of Highline Thoroughbreds’ draft at Karaka and is from the speedy family of Vinaka, who won both the Gr.1 Railway (1200m) and the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m).

Meanwhile, exciting stablemate Glory Bound has trained on well since her runaway last-start maiden success as she prepares for a return to stakes racing.

“We’re very happy with her and she will run at Ellerslie on Sunday week and then, hopefully, we’re in the old Sir Tristram,” said Autridge, referring to the renamed Gr.2 David and Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m).

Glory Bound’s first taste of black type racing came in the spring when she worked home late to finish fifth in the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m). She was then spelled and showed the benefit of a break with her effortless first-up Matamata victory.

The Kevin Hickman-bred and raced Tavistock filly also holds Group One nominations for the Wellington Seamarket Levin Classic (1600m) and the Dubai Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

Both events are carded for Trentham on March 19 and a decision has yet to be made as to which race is Glory Bound’s primary target, but Autridge does believe the daughter of the Group-performed Zabeel mare Mia Le Fay will stay. 

Wolverine heads Bergerson’s Karaka Million tilt

Multiple Group One winning trainer Roydon Bergerson is looking forward to what could potentially be his most lucrative weekend in racing when he ventures to Ellerslie on Saturday.

The Palmerston North horseman has leading contender Wolverine in the Doubletree By Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and improving galloper Reign It In in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

Long-time favourite Wolverine ($3.80, barrier 12) has been usurped at the head of the market by Dynastic ($3.50, barrier 4) with punters gravitating to the proven combination of Jamie Richards and Opie Bosson with the latter runner after Wolverine drew wide on Wednesday.

Bergerson remains bullish about the chances of the undefeated Wolverine, who boasts victories in both the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) and Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at her most recent outings.

“I’d rather be out a little bit with her than drawn on the fence, she's hasn’t got any early speed in the race so hopefully we can settle midfield and get some cover,” Bergerson said.

“Her work on Tuesday was excellent and she has maintained her condition well. After each of her races she has had three or four days in the paddock at Chris Rutten’s (part-owner) place.

“She comes back in and it’s the same routine the last couple of times, it seems to be working.”

The daughter of Tivaci, who was purchased by Bergerson in conjunction with astute horseman Chris Rutten for $50,000 as a yearling from the draft of Waikato Stud, these days sports the colours of Australian Bloodstock who bought into the talented juvenile after her maiden victory.

While Bergerson remains amongst the ownership, the longer term future for Wolverine will be in Australia with the filly to join Kris Lees this season.

“There’s a chance, if she wins or ran a good race, that she’ll have a freshen up and have a crack at the Manawatu Sires (Gr.1, 1400m) but the new part-owners do want to get her across the Tasman,” Bergerson said.

The Awapuni conditioner also has time for Reign It In, who will start long-odds the three-year-old feature and has been luckless in a number of his races.

“I thought he probably should’ve won the other day at Awapuni to be fair. It’s just taken a long time for the penny to drop with him. It will keep him thinking on Saturday going the other way around (right-handed) for the first time, but his works been good this way around.

“I’m happy with his form and his condition, he’s a roughie but I don’t know if he should be paying $51. It's not an overly strong field if you took the top weight out (On The Bubbles), it is pretty even really.

“Hopefully with the big field there will be genuine tempo because he likes to settle back and round off pretty strongly. He’s got a good turn of foot when he lets down.”

New Zealand has three races contested for $1 million, with the two Karaka features only matched financially by the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), and Bergerson is excited by the prospect of having contenders in all three, with Nest Egg, who runs at Trentham on Saturday very much on-track for the Derby. 

“We’ve only got 18 in work at the moment and three of them look like they're going to run in the three big races for the season so it's quite exciting,” he said.

“It’s an exciting time for the family, my kids have got a few shares.

“My oldest son Sam, who is Assistant Trainer at Te Akau, has got shares in Wolverine plus all his mates are in Reign It In. It’ll be a pretty big night if one or both of them put their foot in the till.”

In addition to Nest Egg, who contests the Cosmopolitan And Workingmen’s Clubs 1600, Bergerson will have Bradman and Stormcast line up at Trentham, and all three are winning chances.

“The team are starting to hit their straps since the tracks have come good. They’re all working really well so hopefully we have a big day, you never know in this game though, it can knock you down straight away,” Bergerson said.

That statement is quickly evidenced by the departure of quality galloper Sindacato, who has joined the Chris Waller stable in the past week after winning two of five starts for Bergerson with a further three placings including finishing third to quality galloper Bankers Choice at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and subsequent winner Carolina Reaper. .

“He’s a very good horse. It is a shame to lose a horse like that out of our stable, I think he was a Group horse. He was a bit unlucky in the Stella Artois Championship (1500m), if he got the run the favourite got, I think he might have won.” 

Guineas contender not for sale

The not for sale sign has been put on exciting three-year-old Ruby’s Lad as he prepares for the Southern Guineas Series.

There has been plenty of interest in the son of Ghibellines following his four raceday appearances which have resulted in three wins and a second-placing.

“He is doing the job right,” said co-breeder and part-owner Brian Anderton, who trains the gelding in partnership with his son Shane.

“Right from the word go he has always shown he is a decent sort of horse. 

“He doesn’t do much more than he has got to, he is still growing and is immature, but he has got a lot of ability.”

That ability has instigated a fair bit of interested in the gelding, however, Anderton and his fellow owners have resisted the urge to entertain any of the offers.

“There has been a lot of interest in him, but he is not for sale,” he said.

“The two fellas who are in with Lorraine (wife) and I have been looking for a horse like him all of their lives. They want to keep going.”

Their exciting ride with the gelding will kick up a notch on Saturday when he contests the Listed Liquorland Gore Guineas (1335m).

“It will be a test for him, especially it being a tighter track to what he has been racing on,” Anderton said. 

“I can’t see why he won’t give a good account of himself.”

While he is showing a lot of promise to date, Anderton said Ruby’s Lad will be kept to his region for now.

“He is going to go through the three-year-old series here and that will do him,” he said.

Ruby’s Lad will be joined in the race by stablemate Burgie who takes a similarly impressive form line into Saturday.

She won at the track when on debut last month before finishing runner-up to Ruby’s Lad at Wingatui last week.

“She wasn’t far away the other day and that tight track might suit her too,” Anderton said.

Meanwhile, Anderton is looking forward to New Zealand Bloodstock’s delayed National Yearling Sale Series in March where he is set to sell three well-bred fillies in their Book 1 session under his White Robe Lodge banner.

The southern stud farm will offer lot 239, the Per Incanto filly out of Group Three performer Fascinate; lot 315 the Savabeel filly out of multiple stakes winner Include; and lot 585, the Almanzor filly who is a close relation to Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Roger That.

“We don’t take big numbers because of the travel. We only take the best and the three that we have got are really lovely horses,” Anderton said. 
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