New Zealand news briefs

Pitman has eye on $100,000 prize with Zoulander

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Riccarton trainer Michael Pitman is hoping Zoulander has done enough to qualify for a lucrative polytrack target during Riccarton’s Grand National Festival of Racing in August following his win at the synthetic track on Wednesday.

Following the abandonment of racing at Phar Lap Raceway on Sunday, a six-race meeting was scheduled for Riccarton’s synthetic track on Wednesday, much to the delight of Pitman, who trains in partnership with his son Matthew.

They were pleased to give their now seven-win gelding another test on the polytrack and he didn’t disappoint, taking out the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Open Handicap (1200m) by a neck over Caravella.

“He won nicely and he is not a front-runner. It was an outstanding ride by Kylie (Williams), she just used her initiative, there was no pace on, and went to the front,” Michael Pitman said.

“We are trying to get him ready for the $100,000 1200m polytrack race on the middle day of the Grand National Carnival.

“With transferring of the race today, it just gave another opportunity to qualify, which I am appreciative of. He has probably done enough to gain a start now.”

Initially in the care of Hamilton trainers Graeme and Debbie Rogerson, Pitman said he has been a delight to train since joining his barn two years ago.

“He is just a genuine racehorse,” he said. “From the first day we had him I have said to a lot of people that he reminds us so much of El Chico. He has now won seven races, he is very honest and has done a good job.

“When I bought him, Graeme Rogerson stayed in for a share, and he was of the opinion that if we could get him right, he would win races.”

A race prior, the stable picked up a placing courtesy of Ceddy Smith in the Book A Suite Mid-Winter Xmas 22 June Rating 60 (1400m).

“Ceddy Smith went well,” Pitman said. “He is not an easy horse to ride, and he (Abdul Najib) rode him well. He will keep on improving and will win one shortly.”

Pitman will return to the synthetic track on Thursday to line-up a handful of runners, including Motiontime and Blanche in the Riccarton Park Function Centre Three-Year-Old (1400m).

We can win the first (race),” he said. “There are only five in it and both of our fillies, Motiontime and Blanche, are in-form.


“Blanche will possibly end up in front and Motiontime can hopefully get a nice trail. Motiontime is a better horse ridden quietly, the other day she ended up in front and it wasn’t ideal.”


Meanwhile, Pitman is looking forward to a rare weekend off and is excited to watch his grandson play rugby league on Saturday.

“I am looking forward to seeing my grandson Benji play on Saturday,” he said. “Last year Matthew got coach of the year for the Hornby Panthers in his first year of coaching. I am pleased for Matthew, he is enjoying it with his son.” 

HK audience celebrates 2YO success at Cambridge

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Target Audience’s New Zealand racing career will be brief, but the youngster made it a memorable one with a debut victory at Cambridge on Wednesday.

The Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray-trained juvenile led all the way to win the Entain/NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race (1300m) on his home synthetic track.

The son of Derryn attracted overseas interest following a trial success at Avondale last month and recently changed ownership.

“He’ll be going up to Hong Kong, the horse was vetted after his last trial and the money came through this week,” Ritchie said.

“He’s obviously a very smart horse and he can only get better.”

Target Audience lobbed along in front under rider Michael McNab and kicked in the straight to defeat another first-timer in Vesphire.

“He’s a lovely horse and while it didn’t look overly impressive because he walked and only just won, he’s extremely green,” Ritchie said.

“He was pricking his ears throughout the race and can only improve.

“We’re not 100 percent sure if this qualifies him, so he may have to have another start here and his ringcraft will be much better if he does.

“If he doesn’t, then job done, and he goes to Hong Kong and hopefully performs well and flies the New Zealand flag and they come back and buy some more.”

Inside family knowledge came into play when Ritchie secured Target Audience at Karaka last year.

The Cambridge trainer purchased the son of Derryn out of Grangewilliam Stud’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale for $70,000.

He is a son of the Magic Ring mare Magic Tryst, who won on five occasions and was a multiple black-type placegetter when trained by Ritchie’s brother Craig.

“Dad (Frank) and Craig also trained (granddam) Our Tristajet and they were extremely fast horses,” Ritchie said.

“They would fly the gates and were hard to restrain and lead easily and usually keep going and occasionally get run down, so they were exciting sprinters to watch.

“The main thing of course is that they had a ton of speed and Colm and I were very mindful that we don’t have that many two-year-old winners.

“We’ve tried this year to buy a couple of horses that will be able to hit the ground running and Target Audience was one from last year.”

The gelding has been a work in progress and still far from the finished article.

“His greenness has stopped us from getting him to the races until this point,” Ritchie said.

“He had three trials and only got mildly better, but he will in time. He’s a kind horse around the stable but gets on the racetrack and thinks it’s all a big game.” 

Marroni chasing return to top form

By Paul Vettise, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Marroni produced an improved last-start performance in his quest for an overdue return to winning ways.

The son of Makfi has gone through a barren spell, but his most recent third placing at Trentham augured well for his return to the capital city track for Saturday’s Hallmark & Strone Parliamentary Handicap (2200m).

These days with Waipukurau horseman Simon Wilson, Marroni hasn’t proved the easiest to place due to his past glory days.

“It’s hard with a horse with his rating at 88 to find some nice races,” Wilson said.

“He’s wanted a softer track and we got that at Trentham last time and he came through the race nicely.

“It will probably be his last start on Saturday and then we’ll turn him out for a while.”

Marroni is a multiple winner up to Group level with hopes of a change of environment again bringing out the best in the gelding.

“Obviously, he’s been a very handy horse for the owners and I’m enjoying training him, and he goes to the track and around the farm,” Wilson said.

“He is in the latter part of his career so it’s a nice change for him and he’s a lovely horse to have around.”

Wilson will again use of the services of an apprentice on Saturday with Toni Davies to reduce Marroni’s impost to 56kg.

“He needs to get a bit of weight off, so we’ll take the claim,” Wilson said.

A past and successful association with the ownership group resulted in Marroni moving south from Cambridge.

“I’ve had a couple of horses for the owners before, Scutar and Vidiano, after they had finished with stable life,” Wilson said.

Scutar won three races after he relocated from Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s operation while Vidiano was successful from Peter Moody’s Victorian stable before he was also a winner for Wilson.

“They gave me the opportunity to train them and mix it up with the track, the farm and the beach and this horse was the same,” he said.

Marroni was successful on six occasions for Baker and Forsman, including victory in the Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2300m).

He also placed in the Gr.2 Easter Handicap (1600m) and the Gr.3 Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.

Following Baker’s retirement, Marroni added his seventh and last win for Forsman at Te Rapa in the spring of 2022.

The gelding subsequently ran second in the Gr.2 Japan Trophy (1600m) and following two below par performances during a Victorian campaign, he joined Wilson’s rural stable.

“It’s a relatively strong field on Saturday so we’ll take our chances and see what happens and then he’ll have a break,” he said.

Queensland mission accomplished for La Crique

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

It’s a case of mission accomplished in Queensland for multiple Group One winner La Crique, who will now head for a spell in the warmer climes of the Sunshine State following her victory in last Saturday’s A$500,000 Magic Millions National Classic (1600m) at Eagle Farm.

Trainers Simon and Katrina Alexander felt a sense of relief and vindication by the victory after a tumultuous few months battling feet issues with their mare.

“You always want those sorts of horses to showcase a good performance,” Katrina Alexander said. “It was nice to come back and prove that she can do the job, albeit wasn’t a black-type race.

“It was a great sense of relief to begin with and it was an exciting run after you have had the opportunity to watch it a few more times.

“We were really happy when we sent her over, she was in good nick. Travelling does take a lot out of her, it is not an easy thing for her, she does drop body condition quite quickly.

“We have given her a bit of extra time this time in to settle in, she had a week extra than last time (she travelled to Australia), which was helpful. She trained on well over there and we didn’t think like we missed any work, which was really good.

“I think she is maturing mentally all the time with those questions being asked of her. Hopefully next time round we will get a more continuous season with her where we can string a few races together, because it has been target racing (this season) and having to find something else.”

The daughter of Vadamos felt the impact of Saturday’s run in the ensuing days, but Alexander said she has since recovered well and will now enjoy some downtime.

“She came through it relatively well, she was a bit jarry on the Monday that we took her for a light bit of exercise, but that was to be expected because that track was quite firm,” she said.

“We have had a lovely situation where we have been able to put her out in the paddock for a few days and she has recovered relatively quickly from it. That is all very pleasing.

“She will go back into the stable to do a bit of light work to make sure that she feels better than what she did after the race.

“At this stage it looks like we won’t race her again (this time in). There is nothing really terribly suitable for her that doesn’t involve her carrying a hell of a lot of weight to get over the distance we feel she needs to be over when she is in Australia.

“At this stage it will be the end of the line. She will spell there and it is a better climate for that and then we will make a plan from there as to whether she stays there to be pre-trained for her next campaign or not, depending on the weather here (New Zealand).”

La Crique has been plagued by feet issues this season, which resulted in her missing a large part of her autumn preparation, and Alexander is pleased they have finally got on top of the issue, but said it is another good reason to spell her in Queensland.

“It just makes sense,” she said. “She is there, it is a way nicer climate at the moment, and it is dry under foot. We are really happy with her feet, they are in good order, and they have got a good quality hoof wall now, so hopefully that maintains.

“It always makes you a bit nervous when you know you have got that issue and you are not there to keep an eye on it, but we have to trust the people we put her with and they will get a full run down on what her issues are that they need to keep an eye on.”

Alexander has already eyed a pre-trainer in Australia, wanting to avoid the wet spring conditions in New Zealand, and said they will now start weighing up what is best for their mare in her spring preparation, mindful of not wanting to travel her too much.

“It’s not that she doesn’t handle the wet track racing here in the spring, it is just to be able to prepare her on the wet training surfaces that have been a problem,” Alexander said.

“We have a pre-trainer in-mind and when we get closer to that stage we will see what our racing season is looking like. There is definitely racing back here that she is more than capable and is suitable for.

“However, she may come up over there and have a bit of a spring campaign (in Australia) and then really target what we really wanted to go for (this year) like the Doomben Cup (Gr.1, 2000m) later in the season.

“We are trying to minimise the travel we do backwards and forwards (across the Tasman).” 

Globe-trotting Kiwi enjoying time in Malaysia

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Expat Kiwi trainer Simon Dunderdale has spent the last two decades plying his trade around the world, with his latest stop being at Selangor Turf Club in Malaysia.

Dunderdale has spent the last six years in the developing racing jurisdiction, and he said he is excited about the future of racing in Malaysia, with the closure of racing in both Singapore and Macau opening up plenty of opportunities.

“I have got 58 horses in training at present, and with Singapore closing we are picking up a lot of nice owners, and there is a shipment of Macau horses about to arrive,” he said.

“They are slowly starting to drip over (from Singapore). I would imagine from the middle of next year we will be looking to buy horses from elsewhere.

“Malaysia is definitely on the move. There are already a few Singaporean trainers booked in to come, there are jockeys arriving, and it is looking promising.

“It is a great place to live, it is a safe place, and it offers a really good lifestyle.”

Dunderdale has found himself at home in Malaysia and he is enjoying plenty of success, currently leading the trainers’ premiership at Selangor Turf Club, which he extended on Sunday with three wins.

“I am in front with 26 winners this year, with the next on 23,” he said. “My team has doubled pretty quickly, but I saw it coming about six months ago so I did buy quite a few young horses from New Zealand, and there have been a few that have come from Australia too.

“I bought horses in all three ready to run sales in Australasia. I prefer tried horses, because it is a bit of a lottery buying a young one. I have had a bit of luck from those ones recently from New Zealand, which has been very good.”

One of those Kiwi success stories has been Antipodean, who Dunderdale purchased out of Regal Farm’s 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft for $23,000.

“I had three winners on Sunday including Antipodean, who I bought at the (New Zealand Bloodstock) ready to run sales in 2022, he is a Derryn horse who is unbeaten in his five starts,” he said.

“He was a Class 3 horse on Sunday and he was up against the best horses here and he cleaned them up, so he is probably the best horse here. I also have a U S Navy Flag that I bought at that same sale called Military Flag and he is one of the up-and-coming three-year-olds.”

Dunderdale learned his craft in New Zealand and Australia before spreading his wings further afield, riding trackwork in Japan, England, Ireland and Germany, before training in Macau and Turkey.

“I was foreman for Mike Moroney and Tony Noonan in Australia, I worked for Roger James for three and a half years as a track rider, and also worked for Maurice Campbell, and in Australia I started off with Robbie Laing,” Dunderdale said.

“I have been in Malaysia for six years now. I did 10 years in Turkey and prior to that I was in Macau for four years in the nineties where it was at the top of its game.”

Dunderdale said he had no intention of training in Turkey, however, an opportunity presented itself and he enjoyed being the only foreign trainer in the country for a decade.

“Turkey is a great place, I was only going to go to there for a short time, but I ended up staying there for 10 years,” he said.

“There was a veterinary surgeon that I was very friendly with when I was working in Macau and he went over there. I went over to visit him, and I was offered a job, I wasn’t interested, but they just kept on hounding me and finally I went there.

“I trained a few Group winners, I didn’t get a Group One, but I had a very good mare called Tiara.”

Dunderdale said Turkey was an enjoyable but eye-opening experience.

“Racing over there is a closed shop, they breed their own horses, you can’t bring in a yearling, but you can bring in a broodmare in-foal,” he said.

“Even though the Turkish economy has crashed recently, the prizemoney is very good. The Derby is in a couple of weeks and that is worth NZ$1 million to the winner.

“There are two race meetings in Turkey every day, one during the day and one at night.

“In Turkey you only work for one owner. I worked for some pretty good owners over there and they usually gave you 30 to 40 horses.

I was the only foreign trainer there and it was challenging. It wasn’t easy with the language barrier with the jockeys, it was pretty hard to get by in the early days, but I stuck it out.”

Malaysia is home to Dunderdale for now and he said he has no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

“I have done the hard yards here,” he said. “When I first came here it was quite low, and now there is a big focus on it with Singapore and Macau closing. I would be foolish to run away right at the moment.”