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Late gamble brings black-type reward for Wiles

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

While some feature-race wins are the result of months of planning and preparation, others can fall perfectly into place within the space of just 17 days.

Saturday’s Listed Staphanos at Novara Park Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe only came on to the radar for Cambridge trainer Dean Wiles after he saddled Southern Warrior for a promising fifth on debut at Matamata on May 8. The Belardo gelding produced an eye-catching late run from last over 1200m that day, giving Wiles an inkling that the 1600m of New Zealand’s longest two-year-old race might be up his alley.

Two and a half weeks later, Southern Warrior stepped out as a $20 outsider in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes and launched another big finish from the back of the field. This time his stamina counted for so much more.

“I just thought the Belardo factor might kick in today on a heavy track,” said Wiles, whose only previous stakes win came with Cong’er in the Listed Karaka Classic (1600m) at the same venue in 2012. “He had been working great. He’s only a little pony, but jeez he can run.

“I knew he’d get back to last, and I just thought he could skip through that wet ground.

“I didn’t even think about this race until that debut run at Matamata a couple of weeks ago. He got back last that day too and ran on really well.

“Everyone that’s ridden him has said that the further he goes, the better he’ll be. And then once the rain came this morning, I was quietly confident.”

Jockey Joe Doyle rode a patient race on Southern Warrior on Saturday and was still last of the nine two-year-olds in the field as Zorro’s Revenge swept to the front in a bold move at the 300m mark.

Zorro’s Revenge opened up a commanding lead of more than two lengths and appeared to have the $100,000 feature firmly in his grasp, but then Doyle brought Southern Warrior down the extreme outside of the track.

The little chestnut worked through his gears and built up his momentum, eating into Zorro’s Revenge’s advantage. That rival saw him coming and lifted again, but Southern Warrior clawed his way past in the final 60m and scored by a neck. The third-placed Magna Memory finished five and a half lengths behind the first pair.

“Fair play to Dean – he thought the ground would suit this horse and he’d get the trip,” Doyle said. “This horse isn’t big, but he’s got a big heart and tries very hard.

“It was the plan to go to the back early. If anything, it probably helped him that the other horse (Zorro’s Revenge) got so far ahead of us in the straight, because my horse is still very green. Dean has quite a small team, and it’s not the easiest when you have only a handful of horses. But I think having something to aim at was probably a key factor in his performance today.”

Wiles paid only $2,200 to buy Southern Warrior from the draft of Seaton Park in the 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock National Online Yearling Sale. Wiles also owns the gelding, whose two-start career has now earned him $57,840.

Southern Warrior joined Belardo Boy, Verona and Avonallo as the fourth southern hemisphere stakes winner for Belardo, who shuttled to Haunui Farm between 2017 and 2022.

The dam of Southern Warrior is the Cape Cross mare Cape South, whose four foals to race have all been winners. She has been the dam of two stakes winners within the space of just a few weeks, with Southern Warrior’s half-sister Apostrophe capturing last month’s Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) and Gr.3 Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2100m).

Runner-up Zorro’s Revenge became the first black-type performer for first-season sire Ferrando.

Heavy track delight for Highlighter at Pukekohe

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A strong tempo and heavy track conditions at Pukekohe Park on Saturday was the perfect winning combination for Highlighter, as the talented mare put her rivals away comfortably in the Barfoot & Thompson 1100.

While the daughter of Shamexpress is more than capable on a good surface, she really comes into her own through the soft-track period, as she displayed last year with three consecutive wins through July and August, before capping off her campaign with a runner-up finish behind classy galloper Sacred Satono.

Highlighter returned to the trials in mid-March and finished third first-up to the races at Te Rapa behind Turn The Ace, giving her trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott a vote of confidence heading into Saturday’s open sprint.

With the exception of Group Three winner Johny Johny carrying the 59kg topweight, the remaining three runners in a compact line-up sat between 51-54kg, Highlighter at 53kg aided by Triston Moodley’s three-kilogram claim.

Highlighter was tardily away from barrier three alongside Johny Johny, but the speedy frontrunner soon assumed a position three-wide outside of Winning For All and Caitlyn’s Wish, while the mare settled as far as six lengths detached in the mid-stages.

Moodley allowed his mount to slide up to the remainder of the pack turning for home and found clear air between runners at the 250m, striding through the testing track to score by 1 ¾ lengths from Caitlyn’s Wish.

Matamata-based Scott was delighted to see the mare earn her sixth career success, indicating time had been a positive for the rising eight-year-old.

“We had high levels of confidence going into today, she was coming up really well this preparation,” he said.

“Her trials and first-up run were really encouraging as she just peaked on her run the last little bit but she took good improvement from there.

“She can be a bit tardy away from the gates and she was that way today, but Triston showed good patience.

“He’s a three-kilo claimer which is a massive aid at this time of the year in the soft tracks, and he kept her balanced and didn’t panic. He did a great job.

“It was great to see this mare back in winning form, she’s a great advertisement for giving a horse time as she’s an older horse with relatively low starts. We’ve really reaped the rewards of longevity out of her.”

Wexford Stables and Andrew Williams Bloodstock purchased Highlighter for $40,000 at the 2018 Karaka Yearling Sales, an investment well returned as she surpassed the $200,000 mark in stakes on Saturday.

“She’s been an incredibly consistent, honest mare all her life and she just continues to deliver,” Scott said.

“She’ll be certainly in for a good winter preparation, she’s a sound mare with great constitution and she continues to thrive in the racing environment.

“It would be lovely to get some black-type for her to go to the broodmare paddock with, but where we find that is another thing.

“We’ll just keep her in the open 1200’s over the winter months, and she’ll hopefully pick up another nice win through this campaign.”

Bred by Monovale Holdings, Highlighter is out of the unraced Black Minnaloushe mare Donnidi Sulina with her grand-dam Sulina a half-sister to multiple Group One winner Pace Invader. 

Mary Shan all class at Pukekohe

By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Quality filly Mary Shan gave her age-group rivals a start and a beating at Pukekohe on Saturday when she cleared out for a hollow victory in the second race on the card, the Auckland Co-op Taxis 1400 (1400m) for the three-year-olds.

Eased to the rear by rider Craig Grylls, the Andrew Forsman-trained runner idled along on the Heavy 10 surface before Grylls asked her to move into contention approaching the home bend.

Any concerns she may not handle the testing conditions were quickly put to bed as Grylls kept her under a strong hold as she levelled up to pacemakers Geldof and Cintivee, before cruising clear at the 250m to win under double wraps by more than five lengths at the line.

The victory was just reward for the daughter of Almanzor who had raced in stakes company for her last seven starts, where she finished no further back than sixth and was runner-up twice at Group Two level.

Forsman was satisfied with the result as he contemplates where to next for his charge.

“I think she probably does handle these conditions okay and she was the class horse of the field,” Forsman said.

“There are a couple of options for her now in either Brisbane or Melbourne or she could just go to the paddock.

“She’s had a long season and has been up a while so we will sit down and work it out.

“She has been all around it (this campaign) with Molly Bloom being her nemesis and she would go to the paddock with multiple black type placings, although it’s just a shame she’s not a winner at that level but she will get there in time.”

Grylls was pleased to see Mary Shan pick up a win and was happy with the way she handled the underfoot conditions.

“Her last two runs have been quite good after a little freshen up,” he said.

“She didn’t have a lot of favours last time and today she was third up and too strong.

“It’s pretty testing out there but she got through it okay.”

Out of the unraced High Chaparral mare Shanzam, Mary Shan was purchased for $180,000 by Forsman out of the Prima Park draft during the Book 1 Sale at Karaka in 2022.

She has now won two of her 11 starts and over $161,000 in prizemoney for owners Jackie Rogers and Gerald Shand. 

Spencer claims Trentham feature

By Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Fresh off a seven-month spell, promising winter sprinter Spencer produced a stunning performance to claim one of the feature events on the programme at Trentham, the Metro Interiors Autumn Sprint Final (1200m).

Trainer Erin Hocquard was confident of a good performance after the four-year-old had performed well in gallops and jump-outs leading into the contest, however she was in two minds as to whether the testing Heavy10 track may trip him up after such a long break away from racing.

As it turned out, he simply relished the underfoot conditions in the hands of Lisa Allpress as he rewarded the support of punters who backed him into $7.50 in the Fixed Odds market from an opening quote of $13.

Allpress had him travelling sweetly one off the fence in behind the early speed before sticking closer to the rail as runners fanned wide at the top of the straight.

The son of Grangewilliam Stud resident sire Derryn issued his challenge at the 300m and quickly shot to the lead for Allpress, before holding out a stern challenge from Cambridge visitor Super Wraith to collect the major spoils in the $50,000 event.

 Allpress was impressed with the effort and also had plenty of praise for his trainer.

“Erin is doing a super job as she has her horses in great condition and looking so well,” Allpress said.

“I hadn’t ridden this guy before, but I went to the jump outs to ride a few and she was looking for a rider for him that day.

“He really impressed me the way he went so I asked to stick with him, and we got the result today.

“He travelled well throughout, and I had to stick closer in after he drew barrier two, but when I asked him to go, he really kicked and beat a very nice field.

“I just think he’s a real little racehorse who doesn’t mind rain affected tracks, which he is going to get from now on.

“Looking at his record he won over 1400m in his last campaign so the way he felt today I think he can certainly get over a little more ground.”

The victory also brought up a winning treble for Allpress who had earlier taken out race one aboard First Gear for trainer Kevin Gray, followed by a win aboard The Ugly Sister for trainer Paul Pertab.

“First Gear is very promising and was simply too good today,” she said.

“He hasn’t finished winning and I thought The Ugly Sister was also very determined as she fought back hard in the closing stages for a good result.”

Bred and raced by members of Taranaki’s well-known Schumacher family, Spencer has now won three of his eleven starts with the promise of more to come over the next few months. 

Prince Alby turns his luck around

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A frustrating North Island campaign for Prince Alby finally took a turn for the better with a determined victory in Saturday’s John Cryan (2200m) at Trentham.

The quality of the Riverton stayer has never been in question, with seven wins in the South Island along with a second in the Listed Marton Cup (2200m) at Hastings in January of this year. But his latest northern mission had produced more bad luck than good, most notably a last-start sixth when badly blocked in the straight in the Listed Rotorua Cup (2200m) on May 11.

Saturday’s $40,000 open handicap looked like an ideal race for the five-year-old Sacred Falls gelding, who dropped to 55kg with the 2kg claim of apprentice jockey Lemmy Douglas.

After settling at the tail of the nine-horse field for most of the journey around the Trentham circuit, Douglas brought Prince Alby to the outside and began to surge forward coming up to the home turn.

Prince Alby came widest of all and quickly took command at the top of the straight, opening up a clear advantage.

Pride Of Aspen surged through on his inside down the straight to throw down a stern challenge in the last 150m, but Prince Alby dug deep and held that rival out by a long head. There was a big margin of four and three-quarter lengths back to the third-placed Marroni.

Prince Alby is trained and part-owned by Kelvin Tyler, who bought him for only $3,000 as a yearling at Karaka in 2020. His 32-start career has now produced eight wins, six placings and more than $242,000 in stakes.

“It’s good to get that win today, he probably deserved it really,” Tyler said. “He’s been running good races but just not getting a whole lot of luck. The Rotorua Cup was a hard race to watch – we think he probably should have won that race. But that’s racing.

“He got in with 55kg today, a nice weight in that sort of race and on that sort of ground, and he’s won it well.

“I’m not really sure what we’ll do with him now. We could put him aside, or we could have a look for another race for him. I haven’t thought too far beyond today at this stage, so it’s something to think about over the next few days.” 
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