New Zealand news briefs

Sharrock eyes another Opunake Cup with Justaskme

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Winter warhorse Justaskme is already a two-time winner of the Listed Opunake Cup (1400m), and New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock is using Saturday’s Valley D’Vine Restaurant Handicap (1400m) at Hastings as a springboard into another shot at the local feature on July 20.

Justaskme won his first Opunake Cup with a two-length victory over his stablemate London Express in 2021. He finished fourth behind Helena Baby a year later, then triumphed again 12 months ago with a powerful performance under 60kg.

The eight-year-old has kicked off his latest winter campaign in good style, making up eye-catching ground for fifth under 59kg in the Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m) and finishing a last-start third in the Listed AGC Training Stakes (1600m) at Wanganui just over a month ago.

“He’s had a little freshen up since Wanganui and has done really well,” Sharrock said. “This race fits in nicely in his preparation for the Opunake Cup. He needs a run to get him ready for that race.

“I’m probably not expecting him to be overly competitive on Saturday. You don’t have much hope when you’re given 62kg, but that’s life. It helps to take a few kilos off with Elle Sole’s 4kg claim, but that’s also a bit of a disadvantage with this horse because he really needs a senior rider to get him going.”

Sharrock’s Hastings contingent also includes the unbeaten Indian Gold in the Livamol Classic On Sale Now Handicap (1200m). The three-year-old son of Ocean Park was an impressive maiden winner over the same distance in his only previous start on June 6.

“He’s a nice horse,” Sharrock said. “He’s second-up here and goes up in weight. It’s a much harder race for him, but I think he’s a fair bit better than a one-win horse.”

Indian Gold also has the pedigree to extend over longer distances than Saturday’s 1200m. His dam is the High Chaparral mare Chapinta, who won six races up to 2200m, while her half-brother Sangster won a Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) and Victoria Derby (2500m).

Sharrock’s other runner at Hastings on Saturday is Fleming in the Three Wise Birds Handicap (1200m). The six-year-old has had just five starts in his stop-start career, but has won twice including a jaw-dropping romp by 13 lengths on debut in 2022.

This will be Fleming’s first start since last September, but he finished second in a trial at Waverley last month.

“I think we’ve got enough work into him,” Sharrock said. “The track conditions on Saturday will suit him. He’s got a terrible draw (11), which is against him, but he’s working well enough to suggest he can be competitive.”

Sharrock also has three runners at Te Rapa on Saturday and gave a particular push for Bella Timing in the Jack & June Stewart Memorial (1200m). The daughter of Time Test is a half-sister to Sharrock’s Group Two winners Tavi Mac and Darci La Bella. Bella Timing has won once in her five-start career and was a last-start second placegetter at Trentham.

“I really like Bella Timing, who I’d say would be my best chance there this weekend,” Sharrock said. “She’s absolutely thrived since her last run.” 

Phelan to feature prominently at Te Rapa and Hastings

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Shaun Phelan is set to be represented by leading contenders at both New Zealand race meetings on Saturday, despite the likely scratching of his six-race winner Enchanted Elle.

The daughter of Jakkalberry is entered for the Beard Brothers Handicap (2200m) at Hastings, where the 4kg claim of apprentice jockey Rihaan Goyaram would reduce her impost to just 50kg.

“Unfortunately, she’s got a bit of a sore foot, so it’s looking like she might have to be scratched from that race on Saturday,” Phelan said. “But we’re still hoping to get her back to something like the Taumarunui Cup (2200m) later in the month, which she won last year, and she could have a hurdle career ahead of her yet as well.”

Enchanted Elle’s defection would leave Phelan with two runners at Hastings – Perfectmanz in the Tipsy Towbar Handicap (2100m) and Danzino in the Happy Hire Handicap (2100m) – while promising hurdler Pacheco headlines the Cambridge trainer’s two-strong team at Te Rapa.

Pacheco is rated a $3.80 favourite for the TAB Hurdle (2800m), having made a big impression with his maiden hurdle victory over the same course and distance on June 15. The six-year-old son of Makfi has also been racing well on the flat, including a second placing behind subsequent black-type winner Casino Princess at Rotorua in May, along with a close fourth at Ruakaka last Saturday.

“His maiden hurdle win was a pretty promising performance,” Phelan said. “There’s been a bit of form out of that race as well, with Mont Ventoux winning his next start by a big margin.

“I thought his run on the flat the other day was really good too, so he’s going pretty well at the moment. I couldn’t be any happier with him.”

Hastings candidate Perfectmanz contested the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in March, finishing 12th. His first appearance since then came at Tauranga on June 22, where he finished at the tail of a seven-horse field over an unsuitable 1300m distance.

“Perfectmanz is coming up really well,” Phelan said. “He obviously ran in the Derby last prep. This is a big step up in distance for his second run of the campaign, going straight from 1300m to 2100m. But we did something similar last time too, where he ran fifth over 1400m on debut and then won a 2040m maiden in his second start. So I’d expect the big increase in distance to suit him, and he seems to handle wet tracks well.”

Danzino is taking a similar step up in distance for his second-up assignment on Saturday, having made up good ground for fourth over 1400m in his resuming run at Tauranga late last month. The Tarzino gelding was a maiden winner over 2200m earlier in the season.

“I thought it was a massive run over 1400m fresh up,” Phelan said. “It’s a big jump in distance for him too, but he’s a lovely big 17-hands Tarzino. Getting up over ground should be absolutely ideal. We’re lucky to have Johnathan Parkes booked to ride him too, because I think he needs a strong rider.” 

Livamol a long-range target for Solidify

By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Solidify has been finding his feet over middle-distances this autumn and winter, and another bold performance in Saturday’s John Young Family (2200m) at Te Rapa could be a stepping stone towards a Group One target in the spring.

The son of Redwood was a stakes-winning autumn two-year-old in last year’s Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa, and a placing in Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) last September was the highlight of an inconsistent spring and summer.

But Team Rogerson has lifted the gelding to a new level since the beginning of April, placing over 1600m at Pukekohe before stepping up in distance with a gallant second behind Moonlight Magic in the Gr.3 Championship Stakes (2100m).

Another two placings followed at Te Rapa over 1600m and 2100m, and then Solidify ventured down to Otaki on June 8 and scored a convincing win in a 2100m Rating 75.

He stays in the same grade for Saturday’s $35,000 race, in which the TAB rates him a $3.70 favourite despite his weight rising to 61.5kg.

“I hope the market has got it right,” Rogerson said. “He looks good and has got a lot going for him.

“He’s still a bit of a work in progress. We’ve had to teach him to be a stayer and really make him as a staying horse, but I think he’s getting there now.

“He’s certainly weighted up to his best on Saturday with 61.5kg, but Bailey Rogerson knows him well, has ridden him on raceday before and will take 2kg off.”

Solidify is nominated for next month’s Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations 127th Winter Cup (1600m) and is prominent in that market at $16, but Rogerson would prefer to continue racing him over longer distances.

“I think he’s on the cusp of being a really nice staying horse,” he said. “His performance this weekend will tell us where he should head. If he runs well again, he may go to the Taumarunui Gold Cup (2200m) at Te Rapa later in the month (July 27). The Livamol Classic (Gr.1, 2040m) could be a nice target to work towards with him if we continue to be happy with his progress.”

Rogerson will also keep a close eye on his stable’s two-pronged representation in Saturday’s Sign Central 2YO (1100m) at Hastings. He has plenty of time for Grove Street, who finished fifth against talented line-ups in his first two starts earlier in the season.

Grove Street is a son of Rogerson’s multiple Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) placegetter Ferrando, whose first-crop juveniles are showing surprisingly different attributes to those of their sire.

“Grove Street’s got some good ability and is learning all the time,” Rogerson said. “He’s a typical Ferrando. They’re not really two-year-old types, and they’re looking more like stayers than sprinters, which I’ve found hard to believe.

“I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to with his progeny next season. We’ve got half a dozen of them that look really good. Zorro’s Revenge placed in the Champagne Stakes (Listed, 1600m) in the autumn, and he came back into the stable this week. We’re going to aim him at the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m), and then I think he’s a lovely prospect for the Derby (Gr.1, 2400m).

“Skymax is another one, she got home really well for fourth at Ruakaka the other day. She’ll go out for a spell now and will come back better at three.”

Rogerson also gave a favourable report on a number of his stable stars as they build fitness ahead of their spring campaigns.

“Sharp ‘N’ Smart, Just As Sharp and Domain Ace are all coming up beautifully,” he said. “I’ve been very happy with them and I think they’re all on target for the spring at this stage.” 

Caitlyns Wish aiming for sprint hattrick at Te Rapa

By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Quality mare Caitlyns Wish has fashioned an enviable record through the past two winters for Stephen Autridge, and she will chase a winning hattrick at Te Rapa on Saturday.

The daughter of in-form sire Belardo has recorded six wins and five minor placings over 15 starts, consistently performing in the favoured heavy conditions that she struck at Wanganui and Te Rapa at her two latest appearances.  

“She was really courageous last-start and things did go our way including the weight she carried (51kg),” Autridge said.

“She’s come through it well, on a sticky heavy track we aren’t sure, but she loves Te Rapa anyway.”

Caitlyns Wish has been ridden in all but three of her races by Autridge’s apprentice Maria Sanson, but with the three-kilogram claimer out with a suspension, the mare will be partnered by Bailey Rogerson in the Group One Turf Bar Sprint (1200m).

“We’ve had to have a change of rider but that shouldn’t matter, having the apprentice claim certainly helps and she’s quite easy to ride,” Autridge said.

“She’s always had a female rider and she always goes well for them, so we aren’t going to change that in a hurry.”

Enjoying rain-affected tracks allows for plenty of options for the four-year-old, and Autridge is happy to let her guide their path forward this campaign.

“She’s good to have around, she’ll eat anything you give her and loves her work,” he said.

“Wherever she goes, she’ll go at a hundred miles an hour, just like in a race. She jig-jogs going out to the track, she’ll try to trot into the swimming pool, she jumps onto the truck and is just loving everything she does.

“She loves the wet tracks, so while they are around and she’s going well, we’ll carry on. Last year we turned her out a bit before the winter was over, but when she has too long of a spell she gets too fat on us.”

Autridge will also be represented at Hastings on Saturday by Loch Katrine, the Ardrossan filly contesting the Book Your Function @ Hawke’s Bay Racing Handicap (1650m).

Loch Katrine has also shown plenty of consistency throughout her preparation and will reunite with local hoop Kate Hercock in the Rating 65 contest.

“She’s as good as she’s ever been, but she’s drawn 10 of 10 which is the worst place to be at the mile start at Hastings,” Autridge said.

“There’s always something that seems to be against her, if she’d drawn nicely I would’ve said I believe she’d be winning, but from there we’ll need some luck. She will run a good race.” 

Latta dominates local synthetic meeting

By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Local trainer Lisa Latta was a dominant force at Awapuni’s Synthetic meeting on Friday, winning four races, including the Carters Ashurst-Pohangina Cup (2140m) with Sir Mikki.

It was the second consecutive win on the surface for the son of Mikki Isle, who was once again piloted by Chris Dell.

Dell settled the four-year-old midfield and enjoyed an economical passage throughout before he was asked to improve with 500m to go and quickly found the lead at the top of the straight and held off the challenge of Just Charlie to win by a neck.

“It was really good to take out the Cup with Sir Mikkie. He has had to lug the 60 kilos, but he is tough,” stable representative Josh Herd said.

“He came through his last start win really well and it was another great ride by Chris today.”

Sir Mikki will now head north next month to tackle a lucrative Cambridge Synthetic target.

“We will look to head to that $100,000 Cambridge Synthetic race over 2000m (on August 8),” Herd said.

The stable also tasted success on Friday with Final Chapter in the Chris Gommans & Sons Contracting 2140, Bee Enchanted in the Murray Free Contracting LTD 1200, and Lincoln Towers in The Pavemasters 1400.

“Final Chapter improved a tonne today on the synthetic,” Herd said. “That was a great ride by Chris (Dell), he got back and weaved a passage through them. He was impressive and strong through the line.

Be Enchanted is a really handy horse on the synthetic. That was his fourth win on the synthetic and we will target one of the $100,000 races with him now.

Lincoln Towers galloped up on Saturday in the blinkers and we were pretty confident heading into today. Ace Lawson-Carroll (jockey) jumped off last start and said to put the blinkers on and he will improve six lengths, and he did that.”

Herd is hoping the stable can continue their winning momentum into Saturday where they will have six representatives at Hastings, with Herd labelling Lurid in the Happy Hire Handicap (2100m) as their best chance.

“It will be interesting to see how the track plays,” he said. “I think Lurid in the last is probably a good eachway bet, he handles the heavy tracks quite well.”