Group One mare Belclare (Per Incanto) returned to the peak of her powers on New Zealand racing’s biggest stage on Saturday, scoring a dominant victory in the $500,000 Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie.
The Per Incanto mare was a triple black-type winner last season, capturing the Gr.3 Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) and Listed Wairarapa Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) before landing a Group One triumph with a three-length victory over subsequent elite performer Skew Wiff in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe.
After resuming with an eye-catching third in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) in August, Belclare struggled for form with four unplaced finishes between September and early December. But she showed signs of a turnaround with a last-start second in the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m), beaten by half a length by the subsequent Group One winner Puntura.
Largely overlooked in Saturday’s fillies and mares’ feature at odds of $21.90, Belclare was driven forward from her wide gate by jockey Sam Spratt. By the time the field climbed the rise at the 900m mark, she was ideally placed on the outside of the front-running Express Yourself.
Belclare took command at the home turn and burst clear, opening up a big margin that the late-finishing Faraglioni and Maria Farina were unable to claw back. She scored by a length and a half, stopping the clock at 1:22.28.
“I got a phone call yesterday saying one of the owners had passed away, so it was really good to get this result, and he might have given me a bit of help,” Spratt said.
“We push forward from our wide draw, and in the end it was pretty similar to the Group One she won around this time last year. She hadn’t done that much in between times, but it was good that she really showed the ability that she’s got today.”
Belclare has now had 34 starts for 10 wins and six seconds, earning $744,275 in stakes.
Trainer Lisa Latta was represented at Ellerslie on Saturday by her son Josh Herd.
“She’s looking after the team at Trentham today – it’s a bit unfortunate that the meeting got abandoned there,” he said. “But it’s so great to get a win on Karaka Millions night. This is the pinnacle of New Zealand racing and we couldn’t be happier.
“We had a look and there didn’t seem to be too much speed in the race. We were drawn wide, so we planned to go forward from there, and it was a great ride by Sam.
“She’s a very good horse. She ran good sectionals last start, where she was beaten by Puntura, who franked that form in the Thorndon Mile (1600m) last week. We’re pretty happy.”