New Zealand news briefs

Ellerslie gets tick of approval from Foote

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Excitement is building at Ellerslie, with racing set to return to the Auckland venue following its first set of official trials on its new StrathAyr track on Monday morning.

The first heat was taken out by Group One performer Babylon Berlin by three lengths and trainers Ben and Ryan Foote couldn’t have been happier with the new surface.

“It was a nice trial today. All reports were good, Courtney (Barnes, jockey) said she felt great and having the first use of that track was pretty cool too. Everybody is really excited about racing there again,” said Ben Foote, speaking from Hong Kong.

Babylon Berlin finished runner-up in the Gr.1 Railway (1200m) and Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) earlier this year and she will attempt to shed her bridesmaids tag when she tackles the sprint features next month.

“She will go straight into the Railway and then the Telegraph. We have just taken our time with her this time in so she will be ready to rock and roll come January 1,” Foote said.

The daughter of All Too Hard takes good form into the Railway on New Year’s Day, having won fresh-up in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint (1200m) at Te Rapa last month before finishing runner-up in the Gr.2 Counties Bowl (1100m) at Pukekohe a fortnight later.

Foote is currently in Hong Kong where he attended the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday to watch his former purchase Golden Sixty claim his third Gr.1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) scalp.

Foote, under his Enigma Farm banner, purchased Golden Sixty as a yearling with Riversley Park’s Sam Beatson out of Element Hill’s 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale draft for A$120,000.

They then sold the son of Medaglia d’Oro through Riversley Park’s New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft later that year to trainer Francis Lui for $300,000.

He has gone on to win 26 races and more than HK$165 million (NZ$34.7 million) in prizemoney. Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year has been a dominant force in the leading racing jurisdiction in recent years and boasts 10 elite-level victories to his name.

“I bought Golden Sixty as a yearling so to see him win like that yesterday was a huge buzz. That turn of foot was amazing,” Foote said.

The Cambridge horseman was taken by Golden Sixty when inspecting him as a yearling, but said he had a few faults that may have deterred other buyers.

“He was an athletic type of horse,” he said. “He had a couple of little things that maybe people didn’t like and he was quite weak as well. At the Magic Millions they tend to go for the bigger, stronger types.”

The HKIR meeting had added Kiwi flavour, with New Zealand-bred Lucky Sweynesse taking out the Gr.1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).

Bred by Luigi Muollo, Allan Sharrock and Paul Dombroski, Lucky Sweynesse is another New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run graduate, having been purchased by J&I Bloodstock out of Woburn Farm’s 2020 draft for $90,000. 

Eagle swoops home for huge payday

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Loch Eagle added a massive boost to his career earnings at Randwick with a New Zealand-dominated syndicate cheering the five-year-old home.

Trained by Kris Lees, the son of Lonhro had finished runner-up in the A$1 million The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange before he came off the ballot to claim the thick end of the prize in Saturday’s A$2 million Gr.2 The Ingham (1600m).

Victory also earned him a golden ticket into the A$4 million Gr.1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m).

Loch Eagle was purchased by Masterton bloodstock agent Bruce Perry out of Newgate’s draft at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale for A$230,000 with his bank account now nudging A$1.8 million.

He is out of the unraced Irish-bred Shamardal mare Song Street, who is a half-sister to the dual European Group One winner and sire Laverock and to the dam of the five-time Group One winner and leading sire Pierro.

“The syndicate was in place when we bought him and the intention was to try and buy a couple of colts through the sale and one of them might hopefully make a stallion,” Perry said.

“Loch Eagle was gelded at the end of his three-year-old career though, Kris rated him all the way through but nothing went quite right for him as a three-year-old.

“He went some really good races and he won a couple of races, but he couldn’t get the decent Group win that he needed so we made the decision to geld him.”

Loch Eagle is now likely to be set for another major purse in Queensland.

“There is a $1 million race over 1400m for the older horses during the Magic Millions so there’s every chance he’ll head up there and then have a little break and target the Doncaster,” Perry said.

The Kiwi ownership group behind Loch Eagle includes Perry, Waikato Stud, Jamieson Park, Lib Petagna, Jomara Bloodstock, Aucklanders David and Nicki Wilson and Greg Clarke, of Mt Maunganui, with Victoria’s Rosemont Stud adding an Australian flavour to the syndicate.

“David and Nicki came into Ardrossan when we bought him as a yearling, that was their first venture into the game,” Perry said.

“Greg is racing one or two, he’s in a few of our horses and he didn’t race Ardrossan, but he’s got mares and breeds and bought a share in him.

“David and Nicki and Greg race (multiple Group Three winner) Milford with Lib as well.”

Ardrossan was a A$150,000 Inglis Melbourne Yearling Sale purchase for Perry and was a stakes winner and Group One placegetter before retiring to Waikato Stud.

He was represented by his first Australian black type winner when the Tony and Maddysen-trained Beau Dazzler claimed Saturday’s Listed Phelan Ready Stakes (1000m) at Eagle Farm.

He was bred by the Dewar Partnership, which includes Perry and his wife Anna, Petagna, the Wilsons, Max Brown and Tony Joyce.

Out of the Pentire mare Pwerfect, Beau Dazzler was sold through Mapperley Stud’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale for $85,000 with Paul Moroney Bloodstock, Catheryne Bruggeman and Sears Racing signing the ticket.

The Dewar Partnership, which also bred another recent Ardrossan juvenile winner in Maracatu, will offer Beau Dazzler’s brother as Lot 907 in Landsdowne Park’s consignment at Karaka in 2024.

South African-expat collects first Kiwi win

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

The Kiwi riding ranks have benefitted from the addition of another expat South African jockey in Billy Jacobson, and the family-orientated hoop was thrilled to pick up his first winner on Kiwi soil at Pukekohe on Saturday.

Entrusted with the steer aboard the Michael Moroney and Pam Gerard-trained Lingjun Xiongfeng in the Ellerslie Events 1500, Jacobson allowed the grey entire to ease back in the 14-horse field from the extreme outside draw. The pair remained at the tail throughout, while $6.00 TAB second-favourite Amberite controlled proceedings.

Still with the entirety of the field ahead of him on the home corner, a no-panic display saw Jacobson edge the five-year-old out of a tight gap at the 350m, and once the pair found clear running, Lingjun Xiongfeng stormed home in the closing stages to catch Amberite by a head at the post.

“I’ve been here for about a month, so it was really nice to get the winner,” Jacobson said.

“I worked him during the week before his race, and I said to Pam (Gerard, co-trainer) that I thought he could win, he gave me a really good feel. She did say that he gives up quite easily, so I watched his tapes and saw that when he gets to the front she basically stops, so my plan was to win it on the line.

“She said ‘as long as you win it, that’s fine’, she gave me free reign pretty much, so I just sat him at the back, switched him off and came as late as I could. Luckily it worked out for me.”

The victory came in Jacobson’s 25th attempt on New Zealand soil, though he picked up a notable black-type second placing aboard Te Akau stalwart Prise De Fer in the Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) the weekend prior at Te Rapa.

Jacobson had been offered the ride aboard the Group One-winning eight-year-old in last Saturday’s Gr.1 TAB Classic (1600m) at Trentham, but after consulting with friend and agent Donovan Mansour, he maintained faith in Gerard’s charge and remained in the North.

“I’ve ridden work for Te Akau and I was very lucky to be offered the ride on him (Prise De Fer) for both races. It was a hard decision to turn the Group One ride down,” he said.

“But I felt like I made the right decision at the end of the day. It’s great to ride in a Group One, but I told Donovan how well the horse (Lingjun Xiongfeng) had been working and I thought he could win, so we opted to stay and go for the winner here.

“Prise De Fer ran a top race for me at Te Rapa, and I think he still has more in the tank, so I’d love to ride him again if the opportunity came.”

Originally hailing from Durban, Jacobson was the latest expat-South African to enter the jockeys room in New Zealand in early November, reconnecting with former close colleagues Mansour, and premiership leader Warren Kennedy.

The 43-year-old has based himself in Cambridge and was soon joined by wife Mel and their two young sons, the main motivation for his move.

“The main reason I’m here is for my kids. South Africa for a long time coming has been going backwards and doesn’t provide a future for them. New Zealand is a beautiful country and it’s the right place to bring them up,” Jacobson said.

“I got here a month earlier than the rest of my family and they are everything to me, so I battled a bit without them. But now they are here I’m doing much better.

“Everything in this country is completely different, both inside and outside of racing, so it’s going to take a bit of getting used to for all of us, but it’s been nice so far.”

Adapting to a new racing jurisdiction is nothing new for the well-travelled hoop, having ridden across the globe, including Dubai, France, Spain, Zimbabwe, and most recently, an eight-month stint in Mauritius in 2022.

He did note a difference in the race riding, as well as the style of training between New Zealand and his home nation.

“The trackwork in the morning and the way people train here is very different to South Africa. We don’t do timed work over there, so that was something I had to get used to but it’s great, I’m learning a lot more,” he said.

“I ride work at Matamata and Cambridge. I’ve been mainly riding at Matamata for Pam, Graham Richardson and Te Akau, then at Cambridge for Stephen Marsh, Andrew Forsman, John Bell and Shaune Ritchie.

“I’ve gotten nice support from their stables on raceday, and hopefully now I’ve got the winner, we can crack on and get a few more past the post. I think everyone’s a bit wary until you get a few winners, so hopefully now it picks up.

“I’ve come in when the season’s already started, so it would be cheeky and unrealistic of me to think I’d be able to catch someone like Warren.

“My main goal this season is to get myself established with a few stables to back me and then next season hoping to be competitive in the premiership. It’s good to have goals, and that would be something I want to aim for eventually.”

Didham’s magnificent run continues with Trentham double

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Peter Didham’s impressive form this season continued at Trentham on Saturday, with eye-catching pair Fashion Icon and Manifique staking their claim for black-type opportunities this summer.

The Awapuni horseman recorded his 13th and 14th victories for the season, equalling his total winning record from 2022/23 from just 70 starts.

Didham kicked off the Trentham meeting in style when promising filly Fashion Icon produced her third win in a row as a $2.70 TAB tote-favourite in the Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors Premier (1400m).

A daughter of U S Navy Flag, Fashion Icon had collected her maiden victory at Woodville on October 5 before making her presence known in Rating 65 company when chasing down race-favourite Pepeha to score at Trentham last-start.

Returning to age-group company on Saturday, Michael McNab positioned Fashion Icon comfortably in the one-one once the six-horse field settled into stride, with the pace making role taken up by Bella Corno. When asked to extend at the top of the long straight, the filly moved to the lead, and kept finding late, holding out the late challenge of Tossuforit by a long neck.

“I was really confident, her work had been outstanding and it wasn’t really a concern going 1200m to 1400m, but it’s still there,” Didham said.

“Michael rode her beautifully, cuddled her up and just waited on the turn and went, and when the other horse came up she fought on. She’s one of those horses that I’m not sure how much class she’s got, but she just puts her ears back and tries hard.

“She’s always in for a dogfight, you saw in her last start, a three-year-old winning a Rating 65. Pepeha had her covered but she stuck her nose out and beat him. She’s a really lovely filly going forward and we’re really excited about her.”

Also part of the ownership group, Didham had intended to step the filly into stakes company last Saturday in the Listed O’Leary’s Fillies Stakes (1340m) at Wanganui, but a minor setback put that plan on hold.

“We were going to run last week in the fillies’ race but she had a little toothache, and nothing was lining up for a rider, so we just cancelled that, went to Plan B and it worked out,” he said.

“I think she will (contest black-type), we lease her off the Bax’s (breeders) and we’re always trying to do the best for everybody.”

McNab had a red-letter day at Trentham, securing four victories on the card which included guiding both of Didham’s winners, alongside the Cody Cole-trained La Verite, and Robbie Patterson’s mare The Hottie.

“She’s (Fashion Icon) just a really genuine little filly. I got a nice run, she picked up really well and was doing enough, and when she felt the other one coming she went again. For not an overly big filly, she’s got a really nice way of going about her,” McNab said.

“She conserves energy well in the race outside the leader, she never touched the bridle and when I asked her to pick up, she picked up well.

“I can’t see why not (contest black-type) off what I felt today, she’s won three in a row which is not easy to do. She’s stepped up today and all you can do is keep raising the bar and seeing what she wants to do.”

Not to be outdone by her younger stablemate, progressive mare Manifique stormed to an 8-1/2 length demolition in the Dunstan Horsefeeds Stayers Championship Qualifier Premier (2200m) later in the card.

Manifique was a dominant 4-1/2 length victor at Taranaki last start over 2000m, and punters had full faith in a repeat performance at Trentham betting the mare into a scorching $1.80 on the TAB tote.

As several of the 10-horse field chased the lead, McNab settled Manifique into a comfortable midfield position one-off-the-fence outside of second public-elect King Of Hearts. He No Opilio increased the tempo at the 800m creating a solid staying test, and as the field rounded the home turn Manifique cruised into contention under minimal pressure.

After swooping to the lead at the 400m, Manifique was in a class of her own bolting away by an extending margin that continued beyond the winning post, while $41 outsider Pep Torque held out King Of Hearts to fill the minor placings.

“That’s the pedigree coming out now, and it’s really exciting,” Didham said.

“He (McNab) just put her to sleep and when he said go he didn’t even have to touch her, so it’s super good. I didn’t expect it by that margin, it was a reasonable field and we were going from Rating 75 to Open grade so it was really good.”

Didham indicated Manifique would likely be heading for the Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2300m) back at Trentham in two weeks’ time, with further distance options in mind including a current nomination for the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) in January.

“She ran 2400m at the end of her campaign last year and she handled it really well, and Michael’s always said she’s a Cups horse,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of her so we just have to be careful with which weights we get, that’s why I went for the Open because I didn’t want her carrying 58kg in a 75.”

Manifique is out of Peter Gillespie’s four-time Group One-winning mare Shez Sinsational, who under Allan Sharrock’s care collected 12 victories from 1200m-3200m, including the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m), and more than $1.4 million in stakes.

“She (Manifique) might be another year away (from an Auckland Cup), she just taken her time and hasn’t had a lot of starts but we’re very happy,” Didham said.

Shez Sinsational continued to perform in her breeding role after retiring to stud in 2013, with her first foal being Sharrock’s five-time black-type winning mare Sinarahma. Manifique followed a couple of seasons on, the daughter of Savabeel a $420,000 purchase by Glen Cotterill out of Wellfield’s Book 1 draft at the 2020 Karaka Yearling Sales, with breeders Gillespie and Bill Gleeson remaining in the ownership.

“Peter Gillespie, Glen Cotterill and Bill Gleeson are such good owners but they don’t just race horses, they punt, they breed and they’re the heart and soul of racing that we need, so it’s really good to get a top liner for them,” Didham said.