The high quality of New Zealand’s three-year-old crop last season is illustrated by the finalists for the Champion Three-Year-Old category at the NZ Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.
Eight horses, including five fillies, are finalists in the three-year-old division, which will provide the voting panel with plenty to mull over.
Seven of the eight contenders won a Group One race in the 2019-20 season and between them the finalists recorded 29 wins and 29 placings from 67 starts.
The Kiwi three-year-olds made a mark on both sides of the Tasman, with Probabeel and Quick Thinker winning Group One races at the Sydney autumn carnival. Quick Thinker became the fifth New Zealand-trained winner of the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) in the past eight years.
Two Illicit, who never finished further back than third, did not win a Group One race but still presented a compelling case to be a finalist. The filly won two Group Two races, including a runaway victory in the Waikato Guineas (2000m), and finished a brave second in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).
In a rare situation, Te Akau’s Jamie Richards is the sole nomination for Trainer of the Year, after experiencing an extraordinary season, that included 11 Group One wins and more than $7 million in stake earnings.
The Te Akau stable will be represented by five of the 20 individual horses who will be finalists in the flat racing categories. Cool Aza Beel, Probabeel, Avantage, Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark will fly the flag for Te Akau, with Melody Belle and Avantage nominated in two categories.
Two Cambridge stables will each provide three finalists. Tony Pike will be represented by (The) Bostonian, Loire and New Zealand Derby winner Sherwood Forest and the Baker-Forsman partnership by Quick Thinker, True Enough and The Chosen One.
The Horse of the Year Awards dinner will be staged at Claudelands, in Hamilton, on Sunday, October 11.
The finalists for the categories that will be decided by the voting panel are:
Champion Two-year-Old: Cool Aza Beel, Play That Song, Vernazza.
Champion Three-Year-Old: Catalyst, Jennifer Eccles, Loire, Probabeel, Quick Thinker, Sherwood Forest, Two Illicit, Travelling Light.
Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to 1600m): Avantage, Bostonian, Julius, Melody Belle, Te Akau Shark.
Champion Middle Distance (1601m-2200m): Avantage, Melody Belle, True Enough.
Champion Stayer (2201m and further): Platinum Invador, Roger That, The Chosen One.
Champion Jumper: Bad Boy Brown, It’s A Wonder, Wise Men Say.
Trainer of the Year: Jamie Richards.
Jockey of the Year: Opie Bosson, Lisa Allpress.
Jumps Jockey of the Year: Shaun Fannin, Aaron Kuru, Shaun Phelan.
Owner of the Year: Joan Egan, Hermitage Thoroughbreds, Kevin Hickman, JML Bloodstock, Dick Karreman, B J & J E Lindsay Partnership, NZ Thoroughbred Holdings, OTI Management Ltd, Trelawney Thoroughbred Ltd, Sir Peter Vela.
Andrew Bensley and Aidan Rodley give their thoughts on the finalists for this year's NZ Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.