Pike fillies show class in Te Rapa features
By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
Tony Pike’s classy pair of Harlow Rocks and Vera Rose put their hands up for loftier targets after playing the bridesmaid role at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Harlow Rocks, a daughter of Roc De Cambes, had shown early promise including a strong maiden victory in late November, before a switch to the right-handed track at Pukekohe was not to her liking in a first attempt at black-type on Boxing Day.
Cambridge-based Pike opted to scratch the filly from the Listed Oaks Prelude (1800m) in deteriorating New Plymouth conditions on February 3 in favour of contesting several headliners of the three-year-old fillies’ ranks in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m).
Starting a $35 outside chance, Harlow Rocks was ridden positively out of barrier three by Ryan Elliot and took up the pace making role. She remained in the leading position to the 200m mark, fighting bravely to be surpassed only by Molly Bloom in the closing stages, with a further 1-1/2 lengths to Livid Sky in third.
“I was very pleased with her, she’s a filly we’ve really liked and she’s kept improving all the way through this preparation,” Pike said.
“We had scratched her off the wet track at New Plymouth the week before which was the easier race, it was a very strong field on Saturday with high-quality fillies and she really put her hand up.
“She’s a lot better left-handed, she got quite awkward last start at Pukekohe going right-handed, so we were reasonably confident we would see an improved run back left-handed at Te Rapa.”
Following Saturday’s performance, the Oaks Stud-bred and owned filly shortened into $12 in a widening TAB Futures market for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m), Pike indicating the Trentham feature now being her main target.
“She looks like she’ll stay, so at this stage she’ll progress through to the Lowland Stakes (Gr.2, 2100m) at Hastings on the 28th, and all going well, she’ll progress onto the Oaks.”
Another representing Dick Karreman’s Cambridge nursery was Vera Rose, the tough Fiorente filly finishing a highly-creditable third in the inaugural $350,000 Sir Patrick Hogan Karapiro Classic (1600m) later on the Te Rapa card.
In the hands of new Swedish arrival Per-Anders Graberg, Vera Rose tracked eventual second-placegetter Hasstobeawinner throughout on the fence before maintaining a solid sprint to the post, the pair only denied late in a sensational late dash by Wallen.
“We decided to leave her at the mile again, as well as being the Sir Patrick Hogan Karapiro Classic for the first time, we wanted to support the race with great prizemoney on offer,” Pike said.
“She was given a great trip by Per-Anders, it was a big run against some seasoned older horses.”
The filly also holds a nomination for the Oaks on March 16, but Pike will test her staying abilities first in the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie on March 2.
“She’s definitely heading the right way, but it’s a bit of a question mark whether she’ll stay. Being by Fiorente (former Melbourne Cup winner), she should, but she’s out of quite a fast family.
“We’ll probably head to the Sunline Vase next, that will tell us if she’ll get the Oaks trip or not. If not, there will probably be some nice options for her in Australia as well, back in trip slightly.”
Pike will head to Ellerslie on Saturday with a talented team, including consistent four-year-olds Rudyard and Churchillian, the latter returning after a brief fresh-up following her Gr.3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) triumph at Trentham in mid-January.
A son of Charm Spirit, Rudyard topped five top-four finishes this campaign with a third-placing behind Group One-winning pair Desert Lightning and Legarto in the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) on Karaka Millions Night.
Both horses will contest the Open 1500m on Saturday, with the Gr.3 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) a potential aim for Rudyard, while an attempt at Group One level next month may arise for Churchillian.
“If she keeps stepping up, we may give her a chance at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) at Te Aroha,” he said.
Pike will also have two representatives in the Gr.2 Eagle Technology Avondale Guineas (2100m) with High Country and City Gold Ready, both geldings potential hopes for the Gr.1 Trackside New Zealand Derby (2400m) on March 2.
“They both look like nice staying three-year-olds in good form, so they’ll head to the Guineas,” he said.
Tauranga doubles for Ballymore and Pencarrow
By LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
It was a day of doubles for Ballymore Stables and owner Sir Peter Vela, of Pencarrow Stud, at Tauranga on Sunday, with the pair combining to score in the Pure Lighting Maiden (1200m) with debutant Naxos.
The three-year-old son of Harry Angel was having her first raceday start and first public outing since finishing third in a close three-way finish in his 850m heat at Te Awamutu in December.
While he came off third best in that contest, he wasn’t to be outdone in another close finish in his first raceday appearance.
After settling in the trail behind leader My Girl Candy, jockey Bily Jacobsen had to navigate Naxos three-wide to find clear running room when My Girl Candy began to tire when turning for home. Naxos continued to lift and hit the front in the final 50m and held on to score by a long head over Grand Cru, with a further half head back to Letsbringthebling in third.
“It was good to finally get him to the races, after taking him to Hastings (last month) and having the meeting abandoned, and we’d been waiting for a race to suit him,” said Pam Gerard, who trains in partnership with Michael Moroney.
“He’d come such a long way in this preparation and now looks like a racehorse - has the right attitude to want to be out there and try, and I thought he could be thereabouts if everything went his way.
“Billy (Jacobson) gave him a beautiful trip and the horse does everything right, likes to be competitive, honest, and tries hard.
“We bought another Harry Angel yearling (Lot 508) for $55,000 at the Karaka sales, out of a Group One-winning mare, and we’ve got shares available. He’s bred to be fast and I love him.”
Jacobsen was just as pleased with the winning performance after being impressed with the gelding at the trials.
“I knew coming into the straight that I had a good shout, he gave me a nice kick, and held on well,” he said.
“Pam’s done a great job with him. At the trials he showed me a bit, so I fancied him from there and rode him positively.
“It was a tight finish, but we were in for the fight, and he proved the best in winning.”
Naxos made it consecutive wins for Sir Peter Vela after Bonifleur won the STE Industrial Electrical Maiden (1200m) for trainer Paul Richards.
Sir Peter Vela’s racing manager Garry Cossey was trackside to witness the winning double.
“Paul (Richards) told me the first winner for Sir Peter, Bonifleur, probably could have done with another trial, but she got away with it and looked professional, so it’ very pleasing to get a double,” Cossey said.
“Sir Peter will be very pleased with getting a double on the day at Tauranga, and we’re very pleased with the way the horses are being prepared and the feedback we get.
“I spoke with Pam after Naxos trialled, trying to find somewhere he’d be competitive. They were patient and found a lovely race at Hastings, and they were called off which was frustrating, but we’ve been rewarded today. It just goes to show that there’s always something around the corner.
“She placed him very well and had a good handle on him.”
Ballymore secured a double of their own when Madame La Fay took out the last event on the eight-race card, the Tauranga Crossing Fashions In The Field 1600.
“She’s held her condition right through this campaign,” Gerard said. “If it wasn’t for striking a few wet tracks and a jockey losing his stick at a vital stage, she probably should have won a couple more times.”
Molly back in full Bloom for breeder
By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
Scott Eagleton might not have had the best seat in the house to watch Molly Bloom’s latest success, but it didn’t detract from the satisfaction derived from the star filly’s return to winning ways.
The Seaton Park principal bred and sold the high-class daughter of Ace High whose victory in Saturday’s Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa may have been her final appearance in New Zealand.
“It was another huge result for the farm, even though we couldn’t get there,” Eagleton said.
“We were on a horse trek (at Katikati) and in the middle of the bush trying to watch the race on the phone.
“It was a huge thrill after the way the Karaka Millions ($1.5 million, 1600m) panned out for her, and it was nice to see her bounce back.
“It all continues to help the pedigree as she’s the first foal out of the mare, so it was great stuff.”
Molly Bloom was purchased out of Seaton Park’s New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale draft by trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott for $150,000.
She has now won four of her eight starts, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m).
High-profile Australian owner Ozzie Kheir bought into the ownership group of the filly ahead of her Te Rapa success and she will remain with Wexford Stables for the remainder of her three-year-old preparation.
She is likely to chase Australian black-type with potential targets including the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) in Sydney and the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) in Brisbane before she joins a yet to be decided Australian stable.
Molly Bloom is out of the Iffraaj mare Dancilla, a half-sister to the dual Group Three winner Decorah from the family of the multiple Group One winner Rough Habit.
“Dancilla was born here and was owned and raced by Alan and Colleen Jackson, who were one of my very first clients,” Eagleton said.
“Alan was slowly but surely phasing down his breeding operation and said to me ‘what am I going to do with her?’ and I said I’ll take her, so he effectively gifted her to me.”
Dancilla was a one-race winner before a setback forced her retirement and was sent to High Chaparral’s son Ace High for her first covering.
“I had bought a share in Ace High and really liked the fact that he had won his Group Ones as a spring three-year-old and loved the sire line, it made sense,” Eagleton said.
“When the foal was born, she was one of the tidiest I had bred and just stood out in the paddock.
“We took the full sister to Karaka last year, she is much bigger and was in Book 1 and failed to get a bid so we have retained her and she’s with Fraser Auret at Marton.
“The reason being is that the other two directors in the company, my stepfather and uncle Gary and Alan Thomas, are accountants in Taihape where I grew up and it’s nice to keep them involved.
“They love their racing and can go and see her and with Molly going so well it keeps it all ticking over nicely.”
Molly Bloom currently heads the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series and Eagleton is hoping she can hang on to her lead.
“Hopefully, she has done enough to be the Filly of the Year and further the family,” he said.
“Dancilla was in foal last season to Proisir, but unfortunately absorbed and she’s in foal now to Contributer so it’s all really exciting.”
Australian targets for Master Fay
By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
Exciting sprinter Master Fay is set to test his talents across the Tasman, with the six-year-old gelding booked to fly to Melbourne next week to chase elite-level targets.
The former Hong Kong galloper repaid the faith of owner-trainer Chad Ormsby with his dominant display when winning the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie last month, and his post-race condition has given the Matamata horseman the confidence to press on toward bigger targets.
“He is a lot better now than he was before the race,” Ormsby said. “I think he has gone to another level.”
Orsmby resisted the temptation of backing up Master Fay in last Saturday’s Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa in favour of testing the waters in Australia and attempt to gain a place in one of the best feature sprints in the world.
The Gr.1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) remains the ultimate goal, however, Ormsby said with Master Fay’s relatively low rating of 80, he is in talks with Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper David Hegan to gauge the best options for his charge.
“He is going to fly to Melbourne on the 25th (of February) and then we will assess what race we will have a go at,” Ormsby said.
“He hasn’t got the highest rating yet, so whether he goes straight into those fields or he has to go over there and win a race at a lower grade.
“We would like to have a go at the Newmarket, but it’s just whether or not he gets in with his rating. Hopefully being a last start Group Three winner might sneak him in as I would like to have a crack at some of the bigger ones.
“We are waiting on the handicapper to see whether he sneaks into that Newmarket, but there are plenty of other sprint races before the end of March that he can have a go at. If we are not looking like we are making those Group Ones we can change tack and try at one of those other sprint races.”
Master Fay, who was originally purchased by Ormsby as a yearling before he was subsequently sold to Hong Kong as a juvenile, is undefeated in his three starts to date, having won his sole outing in Hong Kong before returning to Ormsby’s care, for whom he has won both starts this preparation.
Ormsby is looking forward to campaigning Master Fay in Melbourne, and the magnitude of the opportunity has not been lost on the Waikato horseman.
“I know there is plenty in-store for him going forward but we are trying to get him over there and give him a taste of it,” he said.
“I have been doing this game a long time and it is not often I come across a horse like this. We are pretty excited to go over and have a go.
“He is not going to lack any of the ability. It is still only early days for him, it is his first prep back from Hong Kong.“It is pretty exciting to think that we might be able to have a go at a Group One in Australia in his first prep.”