Matamata-trained mare Levante (Proisir x Island Doy) added a fourth Group One victory to her résumé when she defeated another class performer in La Crique to take out the Gr.1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki.
The two quality mares had been expected to fight out the finish of the feature, with punters unable to separate then in betting as they each started at a $2.80 quote.
The Ken and Bev Kelso-trained Levante, who had been finishing resolutely in her runs over shorter distances, had given the impression that the mile would be right up her alley.
That scenario went to script, with Levante making a fast beginning for regular rider Ryan Elliot, so much so that she could have even led the contest had Elliot so desired.
Instead, he opted to settle in behind La Crique and bide his time for a home straight assault, which came as Elliot angled the daughter of Proisir to better going in the middle of the track, after persistent rain had seen the surface downgraded from a Good4 to a Soft6.
Levante quickly claimed La Crique and despite some resistance from the runner-up, went on to score by three-quarters of a length from La Crique with Chase battling on gamely for third.
Part-owner Phillip Brown was on hand to lead the mare back at the head of affairs as she claimed her 12th victory from just 21 starts.
“That is really special and I have been keen to see her get over 1600m as I felt that could be one of her best distances,” Brown said.
“Generally, she doesn’t like the rain but as she has got a bit older her joints aren’t as flash as they used to be, so I didn’t mind it when it set in.
“She is just so well within herself and she was here to fight today.
“Ken was expecting a big run and he and Bev are just a fantastic team.
“This mare has given us so many memories and I will never forget her.”
Elliot was also delighted with result, especially as it came in the area where he was born and raised.
“It’s just really nice to get one (a Group One win) where I was brought up,” he said.
“She is just such a lovely mare and the rain brought her more into it.
“She surprised me how well she jumped, but it was good to see her put it all together and do everything right.
“I just let her slide around them on the home corner as I wanted to get going a little earlier because of the wet track and she has just thrived at the mile.
“She actually pricked her ears halfway down the straight so I had to give her a little reminder as La Crique was putting up a real fight.”
Brown and his fellow owners will now sit down with the Kelsos to discuss the immediate plans for Levante, which could include a trip to Australia to contest some of the autumn features.
It was Brown who put the ownership syndicate together for Levante after he had foaled her down at his Ancroft Stud in Matamata for her breeder Scott Williams, who was not keen on retaining the daughter of Proisir and the older Doyoun mare Island Doy. – NZ Racing Desk