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Dwyer hoping to party from afar

A past visit to the Karaka Million evening at Ellerslie won Henry Dwyer over and convinced the Victorian trainer he had to become more involved in the $1 million two-year-old feature.

His wish has now been granted and while he can’t be in attendance on Saturday, he will be closely following the fortunes of the Tony Pike-trained Pacific Dragon.

Dwyer purchased the Charm Spirit filly out of Windsor Park Stud’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale for $70,000 specifically to target the race and the in-form youngster has fulfilled her part of the bargain.

“I went to the Karaka Million evening six or seven years ago and after that I always wanted to have a runner in the race because it was such a good night out and a good party,” he said.

“We bought a Tarzino filly a few years ago, but she wasn’t sharp enough. She was with Tony Pike and he said she wasn’t going to make it.”

At the same Book 1 Yearling Sale at Karaka in 2020, Dwyer purchased Pacific Dragon’s sister for $90,000, but she too wasn’t the right early material. As Paper Dragon, she has been successful as a three-year-old.

“She showed us a lot as a two-year-old, but mentally struggled to put it together. She’s starting to calm down now and won her maiden quite well at Geelong a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

“She’ll be running again at Yarra Valley on Saturday, she’s no star but her sister has got the ability and natural aptitude to cope with it all.”

Pacific Dragon carries the colours of Adam Sangster’s Swettenham Stud and, with Dwyer, might have hit the jackpot this time around.

“We decided to go again last year and bought Pacific Dragon after we had bought her sister the year before and Swettenham is involved with her too,” Dwyer said.

“Adam Sangster liked the Karaka Million idea too – he likes a party as well – but unfortunately we can’t get there so I’ll be in Ballarat watching online.”

It’s not the first time the Swettenham Stud colours have chased a feature two-year-old race in New Zealand.

Those with long memories may remember a Godswalk filly named Glorious Way, part-owned by Sangster’s late father Robert and trained by the late Colin Hayes. She was sent to New Zealand in 1987 for the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).

Off the back of a stakes win at Morphettville and a couple of black-type placings, Glorious Way was second at Awapuni in the hands of Noel Harris behind the Wanganui juvenile Satisfy.

Pacific Dragon, who is from the family of the Gr.1 Diamond Stakes (1200m) winner Summer Passage, finished runner-up in her first two appearances before breaking through at Pukekohe.

She was then first past the post in the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) on New Year’s Day, only to be relegated to second behind Wolverine.

“The filly is raced by Adam and some Swettenham Stud syndicate members and the idea is that she will come over here at some stage,” Dwyer said.

“If she hadn’t measured up for the Karaka Million she would have been here already, but Tony has done a great job with her.

“It would have been good to get that Group Two win, but we didn’t after the inquiry. Win, lose or draw in the Karaka Million, she will stay in New Zealand until she can win a stakes race and then come here.”

Should Pacific Dragon not bank the thick end of the stake at Ellerslie, Dwyer is determined to continue his chase for a Karaka Million title and is keen to be at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale in March.

“The one year we get a runner I can’t be there, but I’ll be over for the sale if I can get there. If I have to isolate I’d have to think again, but hopefully by that stage we might be right, fingers crossed,” he said. 

Saturday to influence stablemates’ futures

Katrina and Simon Alexander will be on a scouting mission at Trentham on Saturday with progressive stayer Stopalltheclocks, while stablemate Te Toki’s immediate future will also be locked in after he steps out at Ellerslie.

The Matamata trainers have sent Stopalltheclocks south for the Clubs NZ Summer Cup (2400m) with a view to a possible return for a black-type assignment and Te Toki’s path will be determined following his run in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

A four-year-old daughter of Real Impact, Stopalltheclocks has showed her appetite for distance racing with consecutive wins over 2000m at Matamata and over 2200m at Rotorua.

“In her first prep as a three-year-old she was a bit weak and went close to winning a couple of times and this time in she has really done everything right,” Simon Alexander said.

“The further she goes the better she will be, I’ve got no issues with the 2400 metres. It’s her first trip away and that might be the only concern.”

As long as Stopalltheclocks copes with the travel and performs well, the Listed New Zealand St Leger (2600m) at Trentham on March 19 is a possible target.

“We might go back down there for the St Leger. It’s an open race now and not for three and four-year-olds so we’re not sure how many points she’d need to get in a race like that,” Alexander said.

“A bit of black-type in a race like that would suit her nicely. She is a genuine stayer and hasn’t got a brilliant turn of foot, but she’ll roll along and keep kicking.

“She comes out of the barrier okay so she has options – she can go forward and lead or sit off it and being drawn out a bit on Saturday will suit her. She can roll forward or slot in somewhere so she won’t be dictated to.”

Te Toki won his first two starts and then and finished third behind subsequent Gr.3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) winner Bankers Choice at Te Rapa before he ran fourth in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m).

“I really think he’s a top three or four chance on Saturday and the draw hasn’t made it any easier, but we are very happy with him. It has all been geared around trying to win this race,” Alexander said.

“Riding him off the speed last time in a race that had no tempo was always a risk and we are comfortable with him. He will strip an improved horse from three weeks ago.

“He was the speed in the Guineas on New Year’s Day and when we weren’t going forward it obviously took a lot of speed out of it. We are happy the way he is tracking and Vinnie (Colgan) knows him well.”

Nominated for both the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) and the Gr.1 Wellington Seamarket Levin Classic (1600m), Te Toki’s ownership group changed following his first two wins with Gee Gee Equine’s Gerard Peterson and Rod Duke purchasing interests in the three-year-old.

“Obviously, Gerard and Rod bought into him and I have mentioned to them that a concern might be carrying on to our Derby on hard tracks,” Alexander said.

“We will get through Saturday and then regroup - win, lose or draw. We’ll have a think then where he is best placed to maximise his potential.

“It might be to stay here for another run or it might be a week or so in the paddock and then head to Australia and get ready for the autumn or the winter. He’s got options and when he gets to 2000m he will be a far better horse.” 
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