Entriviere electrifying in Railway
Te Akau Racing, trainer Jamie Richards and jockey Opie Bosson have gone back-to-back in the world’s first Group One race of the year, stealing the show with a scintillating performance by Entriviere in the Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
Last year’s Railway was the fifth of nine career Group One victories for Avantage, but Entriviere is just getting started. The Ellerslie sprint showpiece was the first taste of Group One racing for the super-talented daughter of Tavistock, and only her 11th start overall in a career that began in September of 2020.
She has wasted no time since then in making her presence felt on both sides of the Tasman, shining brightly in the Gr.2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) in Sydney as well as Ellerslie’s Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m) and King’s Plate (1200m).
Saturday’s Railway brought a new challenge against a quality sprint field headed by the proven Levante, but Entriviere produced something special.
It was billed as a two-horse race, with Entriviere ($1.90) and Levante ($2.50) the only two in single figures in the betting market, and the pair had their own race within a race after jumping from neighbouring gates.
They sat side by side towards the back of the field, and coming up to the final turn, they came wide together to launch their runs.
Levante briefly appeared to be travelling the better of the two, but Entriviere responded to Bosson’s urgings and changed gears in the straight. She shot clear with a brilliant burst of speed, launching herself a length and a half clear of a gallant Levante, who placed in the Railway for the second year in a row.
“She’s come back so well this time in,” Richards said. “Opie was confident that there would be a genuine tempo up front today, so he was keen to ride her back. That’s probably the best way to ride her, because she can tend to overdo things a little bit when she’s left exposed too early.
“When Opie asked her to quicken in the straight, she really exploded and won like the quality horse we know she is.
“It was a little bit tricky to get a saddle on her out the back before the race, so I was briefly a bit worried that I’d left her a run short for this. But it’s a big thrill to see her produce a performance like that – especially with Dad (Paul Richards) and the whole team here together today, after having to spend an extended period over in Australia through the spring. This is very special.”
Bred by iconic central districts trainer Kevin Gray in partnership with his wife Kathleen, Entriviere is out of the three-race-winning Golan mare Marcey’s Belt, who has a filly by Burgundy in Prima Park’s draft for Book 1 of Karaka 2022.
A half-sister to the Karaka Million (1200m) winner Xiong Feng, Marcey’s Belt is the dam of five winners from five foals to race, including the Listed-placed Satin Belt.
But Entriviere is now the clear headline act of the family, with seven wins, more than $550,000 in stakes and the promise of much more still to come.
“She’ll head to the Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham on January 15, and then the Waikato Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa,” Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis said. “We could look at getting her back over to Australia in the latter part of the Sydney autumn, but there’s too many good races in New Zealand to think about first.
“I never get tired of winning these big races at Ellerslie. I had my first one back in 1978, and I thought that would be my biggest win ever. This is a wonderful result again this year with a mare that’s been brilliantly trained by Jamie Richards and was given such a great ride by Opie. The staff had her in outstanding shape for this, and she’s delivered a terrific performance.”
Richards is now moving into his final few months at Matamata before relocating to Hong Kong, and he will be replaced by Mark Walker at the helm of Te Akau’s all-conquering New Zealand operation.
“Jamie’s certainly going to be a big loss to New Zealand racing, but at the same time it’s very exciting to welcome Mark Walker back from Singapore,” Ellis said. – NZ Racing Desk
Mali Ston strikes in incident packed Rich Hill Mile
Lightweight runner Mali Ston produced a performance that had to be seen to be believed when he weaved through traffic to take out the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie.
In a race that was marred by the breakdown and fall of race favourite Gold Watch, Mali Ston defied a chequered passage early in the home straight to collar Mai Tai in the shadows of the post for trainer Darryn Weatherley and his son Sam, who was aboard the El Roca four-year-old.
Just as father and son were celebrating the victory the siren sounded with a protest lodged alleging interference to the runner-up in the final 100m. After lengthy deliberations the placings stood, setting off jubilant scenes amongst the ownership group, the Matijasevich family, who bred and race Mali Ston under their Markwood Lodge banner.
For Darryn Weatherley it was a dream come true as he sang the praises of his stable champ, who has now provided him with his first stakes winner as a trainer after he rode six during an 18-year career in the saddle.
“That was a super result, but he is a very good horse,” Weatherley said.
“He’s probably better than what I thought actually.
“I saw him rolling into it across the top and I know he has an electrifying sprint and knows where the winning post is, so I thought if he could just get a split.
“I would have been happy with running fifth to be fair, but there were a few tears and plenty of yelling in the stand, so I think there will be a few in Matamata kicking up their heels tonight.”
Sam Weatherley was holding back the tears as he explained just what the win meant to him and his family.
“This is my biggest thrill in racing and I’m just so pleased for the family and the owners who have entrusted Dad with the horse,” he said.
“What a little ripper he is and when he got to the front, he pricked his ears and tried to throw it away.
“I really think he could be a top liner in New Zealand going forward.
“I’m absolutely over the moon and might be rocking up to Tauranga (racemeeting) tomorrow with a bit of a headache.”
Mali Ston, who is out of the Black Minnaloushe mare Loviste and a younger half-brother to six race winner Nasha Riva, has now won six of his eight starts and over $217,000 in prizemoney.
In a tragic aftermath to the race, Gold Watch, who is prepared by 90-year-old trainer Cliff Goss, was humanely euthanized after suffering a leg injury 300m from the finish.
Rider Danielle Johnson was thrown heavily to the track during the incident and was transported to hospital with a suspected broken lower leg. – NZ Racing Desk
Last-gasp Guineas win for Dark Destroyer
With back-to-back stakes wins including a last-gasp thriller in Saturday’s Gr.2 SKYCITY Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Ellerslie, Dark Destroyer is stepping up to fill a void for owners David Archer and Diane Wright.
The couple’s distinctive grey and blue colours have had a quiet few months following the retirements of quality trans-Tasman performers Bostonian and Charles Road during the winter. But it turned out that their next star galloper was just around the corner, as Dark Destroyer debuted with a third placing at Taupo in September.
The talented son of Proisir has now won three of his six starts including the Auckland Guineas and last month’s Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), and he also placed in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m). His only time outside the placings was a solid fifth in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
“This is a big thrill today and our hearts are pumping,” David Archer said. “It’s been quite a long time between drinks for us, but this is a brave little horse who’s very tough, very talented and really progressing well.
“We just had to find out today whether her could go on a dry track, and he did that. It’s been a great training feat by Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott, who are a lot of fun to race horses with, and it was just a magnificent ride by Sam Weatherley.”
For most of Saturday’s Guineas, second place seemed to be the best that Dark Destroyer could hope for. The 2000 Guineas placegetter Field Of Gold had enjoyed an easy time in front, and he threw down the gauntlet in the straight with a powerful kick.
Dark Destroyer was still more than a length adrift with 100m remaining, but he gradually clawed his way up alongside the leader and then collared him in the shadows of the post, winning by a long neck.
“That was a big win,” Weatherley said. “I’m really grateful to David and Diane for keeping me on this horse. He’s a pretty good galloper, and I’m over the moon with that.
“He wants to go even further than this – I couldn’t pull him up after the race and almost had to go up the Ellerslie hill to get him to stop, so it’s exciting.”
The TAB now rates Dark Destroyer a $10 favourite for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 5.
“Our Derby dream is still a little bit alive,” Archer said. “We’re actually quite lucky to own him. He was passed in at Karaka as a yearling, and I asked Paul Moroney which of the passed in lots he liked the best. He gave me a list of five to have a look at, and Dark Destroyer was one of those.”
It was the third consecutive Auckland Guineas win for O’Sullivan and Scott, who won it with Dragon Leap in 2020 and Rocket Spade in 2021.
“This horse has some incredibly loyal owners, who have been so patient with this horse all the way through,” Scott said. “They’re starting to be rewarded now, and hopefully that will continue.”
Dark Destroyer is out of the All American mare All Can Party and comes from a speed family that includes Group One winners Masked Party and Festal.
The three-year-old gelding was bred by Warwick Jeffries, a sheep and beef farmer based about 15 kilometres from Tauranga and a shareholder in exciting Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir. – NZ Racing Desk
Wolverine awarded Eclipse Stakes victory in enquiry room
The ominous sound of the protest siren sounding shortly after the runners crossed the line in the Gr.2 First Global Logistics Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie threw shudders through the supporters of first past the post Pacific Dragon.
The Tony Pike-trained daughter of Charm Spirit had shifted out significantly in the final 150m of the contest, hampering the finishing burst of the unbeaten Wolverine who had ranged up alongside Pacific Dragon for rider Danielle Johnson halfway down the straight.
The final margin to Pacific Dragon was a bare nose and after deliberations in the enquiry room, the judicial committee reversed the placings in favour of the Roydon Bergerson-trained Wolverine.
The victory made it three wins a row for Wolverine, who had started the $2.40 second favourite in the contest behind I Choose You ($2.20) and was having her first look around the Ellerslie track as she prepares for the $1million Doubletree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at the venue on January 22.
Bergerson was a happy man as he pumped his fist leaving the enquiry room before being greeted by the filly’s ecstatic connections.
“I was pretty certain when we saw the replay that the decision would go our way,” he said.
“Danielle said the way she was finishing it probably cost her a length in the end as she was closing very strongly.
“It’s great to have the decision go our way as today was an important race for her breeding career further down the track, while it also gave her a really good look around Ellerslie before the Karaka Million in three weeks.”
Bergerson will now take the daughter of Tivaci home for an easy time before returning to Ellerslie for the Karaka Million.
“We haven’t really wound her up yet, so she should be spot on for the big one later in the month,” he said.
“She has been staying with Richard Collett up here and has really enjoyed it there, so she can go home for a few easy days now.
“The good thing about her is that her shins are like concrete so hopefully that takes some of the worries away about getting her ready for the Karaka Million.”
Purchased by Bergerson and Chris Rutten for $50,000 out of the Waikato Stud draft during the Book 1 sale at Karaka earlier this year, Wolverine had a 50 percent holding in her sold to Australian Bloodstock following her winning debut performance, with Bergerson and Rutten remaining involved in her.
Out of the O’Reilly mare Knew It, Wolverine descends from a female line that includes multiple Group One winner Ocean Park, who also stands at Waikato Stud along with her sire Tivaci.
TAB Bookmakers confirmed Wolverine at the head of the Karaka Million 2YO market at $3 with Pacific Dragon now sitting equal second favourite with Grace ‘N’ Grey at $6. – NZ Racing Desk
Self Obsession takes Royal Stakes in desperate finish
In a thrilling finish to the Gr.2 Valachi Downs Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie, it was the Jamie Richards-trained Self Obsession who got in the deciding stride to claim victory by a nose over Princess Lowry.
Ridden by Michael McNab, who had lost a previous race in the enquiry room in a similarly close finish, the daughter of Shocking had sat outside pacemaker Set In Stone before moving to the front on the home turn, as a wall of horses loomed into contention.
One of those protagonists was Princess Lowry, who had run a game race for third in the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day and she claimed the lead with 300m to run.
McNab and Self Obsession fought back gamely and the pair went to the line locked together, with the photo finish revealing the narrowest of margins to Self Obsession.
“It was very tight and that other one had us beat everywhere but the line,” Richards said.
“Full credit to our filly though as she is a big, staying type that toughed it out.
“I thought she was a filly who would appreciate the step up to 2000m as she is bred to get that sort of trip.
“She has a big, loping action that allows her to roll along on the speed.
“It wasn’t easy as she got attacked a fair way out, but she was tough and got it done.”
Richards advised they would take a look at the options available to the filly now as she makes her way to the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m) in March.
McNab was confident he would get in the winning stride but shortly before the post began to have some doubts.
“Just before the post I was confident, but I had my head down and was pushing so I didn’t know when they got to the line,” he said.
“It was a good effort as they started pressuring me before I wanted them to and then she (Princess Lowry) put half a length on me.
“To her (Self Obsession) credit she fought back and it was a really tough win.”
Self Obsession is owned by David Price, a noted form analyst and bloodstock trader based in Hong Kong, who also bred the filly by Rich Hill Stud stallion Shocking.
She is out of the O’Reilly mare Mawaakib, who won on debut as a juvenile for David Hayes at Sandown and is in turn out of the Group Three placed mare My Hangover.
The win provided Self Obsession with eight points in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year title race, where she is now placed third behind stablemates Belle En Rouge (19) and The Perfect Pink (12) with five races left in the 11-race series that culminates with the New Zealand Oaks on 19 March. – NZ Racing Desk
Concert Hall delivers tonic for Egan
A recent injury prevented popular owner-breeder Joan Egan from attending the New Year’s Day races at Ellerslie on Saturday, but her pride and joy Concert Hall gave her a timely boost with a masterful performance in the Gr.3 Skycity City of Auckland Cup (2400m).
The high-class daughter of Savabeel was backing up from the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) on Boxing Day, where she made up good late ground from the back of the field in a race dominated by all-the-way winner Tiptronic.
Concert Hall stepped up in distance and down in class on Saturday, albeit with 57.5kgs on her back while most of her rivals were on the 53kg minimum. She was sent out as a $3 second favourite behind her stablemate, the last-start Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) winner Cheaperthandivorce.
But in a quinella for Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, and also for Waikato Stud sire Savabeel, it was Concert Hall who took top billing.
Ridden by Ryan Elliot, the seven-year-old sat in a handier position this time and swooped out of midfield to take the lead with more than 600m still to run.
Cheaperthandivorce loomed on her outside and gave her all down the straight, but Concert Hall kept her stablemate at arm’s length. She was too tough and too classy, scoring by three-quarters of a length.
“She jumped and settled well,” Elliot said. “We put the pressure on from the 700m mark, and she was too good for them.”
Concert Hall has now won 11 of her 31 starts and banked over $615,000 in stakes. The headline to date was a Group One triumph in the Zabeel Classic in December of 2020, followed a year later by the Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa last month.
“This will be a massive thrill for Joan, who’s at home at the moment nursing a broken ankle,” Wellwood said.
“Concert Hall is a good, tough mare, and she’s a very big and strong mare now. She was the class horse of the field today, and she wasn’t badly off at the weights. She won really well.”
James and Wellwood were also delighted with runner-up Cheaperthandivorce, who has won three out of five this season including the Gr.3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) and Waikato Cup, along with another two placings at Group Three level.
“She’ll go to the paddock now, and I would think you’d see her in a two-mile race at some point in the future,” James said.
“It’s a pleasure to win this race on a day like today. The Auckland and Counties clubs have done a wonderful job with their amalgamation, they’re taking racing to the next level. I felt so sorry for them on Boxing Day, and it’s great to see a good crowd on course here at Ellerslie today.”
Concert Hall is out of the Carnegie mare Classic Legacy, who was bred by Egan from the Sound Reason mare Super Sound.
Concert Hall is the first named foal of her dam, who was raced on lease by Ian and Shelley Wright and won four races from 1600 to 3000m, the furthest of those over hurdles.
James and Wellwood also prepare Concert Hall’s three-year-old half-sister Avalene, with the daughter of Vadamos a debut winner and set to compete in Rating 65 grade at Te Aroha on Monday. – NZ Racing Desk