New Zealand bred mares have had a sensational season, both here and in Australia.
In November Verry Elleegant (Zed – Opulent) took out the ultimate Australasian Group One - the Melbourne Cup bringing her elite win total to 10.
Sierra Sue (Darci Brahma – Centree), Tofane (Ocean Park – Baggy Green [AUS]), Roch’N’Horse (Per Incanto [USA]-Rochfort), Probabeel (Savabeel [AUS]-Far Fetched), and Never Been Kissed (Tivaci [AUS]-Movie) also achieved Group One success in Australia while Icebath (Sacred Falls -Fabulist) was Group One placed twice and also won the A$1,000,000 The Invitation at Randwick.
In New Zealand Levante (Proisir [AUS]- Island Doy), Coventina Bay(Shamexpress-Coventina) and Two Illicit (Jimmy Choux – Gemini) proved they could foot it with best winning at Group One level against the boys.
This Saturday sees the running of the Gr.1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes, the pinnacle for any NZTBA member and the last Group One race of the season.
It’s an interesting field headed by Coventina Bay and Two Illicit, with all but one of the eight runners a stakes performer this season.
Starting at the top with Coventina Bay - she is a six-year-old mare who has won 11 races from 22 starts including the Waikato RC Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes and the Gr.1 ATC Bonecrusher Stakes at her last start. Although both her Group One wins have been over 2000 metres this season, it is a month since her last start so a mile will be right up her alley.
Coventina Bay was bred by Taranaki based Wayne Darling’s EVB Ltd, and is raced by him and a group of his friends. She is the second foal of the High Chaparral (IRE) mare Coventina who is a granddaughter of the former champion filly Nimue (Star Way (GB)-Eustaci).
Two Illicit is a five-year-old mare by Jimmy Choux, who was bred by Faith, Cherry, Brent and Jane Taylor and is raced by them and Jane’s partner Scott Malcom. She is the winner of seven races from 19 starts, and this season has won the Gr.1 WRC Captain Cook Stakes over the same distance as the Breeders' Stakes. At her last start she ran third carrying a big weight of 62kgs on a very wet track over 1400 metres, so should be nice and fit for this race.
She is the third foal of the winning Tale Of The Cat (USA) mare Gemini and her second winner.
Also taking her place in this race is Zola Express (Shamexpress- Zolana) the last start winner of the Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup over 2000 metres. She has won five races from 17 starts and also won the listed Whanganui Cup earlier this season.
She is another from Taranaki who is raced by a large syndicate of owners, who purchased her from her breeders Windsor Park Stud and Steve Till’s Alchemy Family Trust. She is a descendant of another former great race mare in Bellotta (Oakville [GB]-Radiant Ann).
The Hawkins family of Llanhennock Trust and Wentwood Grange fame race and bred Mai Tai (Atlante – Tropical Punch) who takes her place in the field on Saturday. A winner of five races from 17 starts she goes into this race on the back of a second placing over 1600 metres in the Gr.3 WRC Cuddle Stakes, while earlier in the season she was placed in the Gr.2 ATC Rich Hill Mile.
She is out of the stakes placed winning Faltaat (USA) mare Tropical Punch who has also left a winner in Singapore.
The last of the five-year-old mares to line up on Saturday is Dragon Queen (Sweynesse [AUS] – Happy Endings), she is a winner of only two races but her last win came in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic over the Auckland Cup Carnival. She will be well suited to the mile at this stage of her campaign.
Dragon Queen was bred by the Dowager Duchess of Bedford and the Estate of the late Duke of Bedford. Her dam Happy Endings is the last foal of the Champion filly Snap that was raced by the Duchess.
The only four-year-old in the field is Isla Jay (Burgundy- Matabelle), bred by Sandy Schlaepfer and Julie Young. She is sure to be the outsider of the field with her second win coming three starts back in a rating 65 1200 at Matamata in late February.
Her dam Matabelle by Volksraad (IRE) was the winner of two races and is a descendant of the fabulous VRC and Queensland Oaks winner Denise’s Joy.
Group One winning filly Imperatriz (I Am Invincible (AUS)-Berimbau) is one of two three-year-olds in the field. She has won six races and been placed three times from nine starts. Her last start win in the Gr.1 WRC Levin Classic puts her right in contention in this race.
Earlier in the season she won the Gr.3 Soliloquy Stakes and the Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes for the Te Akau Invincible Empress Racing Partnership, and as a two-year-old she won the Gr.2 ARC Eclipse Stakes. She was bred by Raffles Dancers (NZ) Pty Limited and is out of the winning Shamardal (USA) mare Berimbau(AUS).
The final contender for the race is One Dream One Soul (Ekraar [USA]-Sheza Kinda Magic). From 13 starts she has won twice, with her best performance being a second in the Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes behind Self Obsession. She was bred by Calvin and Shirin and the Estate of the late Kevin Wood and descends from the stakes winning mare Wake Up Suzie, who left the multiple Group One placed stakes winning mare Kay’s Awake.
Due to the renovations of the Te Aroha track the race will be held at Te Rapa this year, and although traditionally a big day for NZTBA members to socialise, Covid-19 restrictions have prevented the usual get together.
However, the Waikato Racing Club who are hosting this year’s race, do have hospitality options available for those wanting to attend, and under the Orange traffic light setting general public can also attend. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA