Class galloper Levante once again showed just what a talent she is when she when she made it back-to-back victories in the Listed Haunui Farm Counties Bowl (1100m) on Saturday.
Last year the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained mare had set tongues wagging when she scorched home from last on the turn at Pukekohe to win the Listed race with ease carrying 53kgs.
Twelve months on and with two further black-type wins under her belt, along with a Group One placing in the Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie, the daughter of Proisir carried 59.5kgs to claim a second edition of the race, this time conducted at Te Rapa due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Matamata-trained mare had prepared for her season opener with a winning trial over 1000m on her home track, along with two exhibition gallops on raceday, and connections were confident of a forward showing.
Crucially the five-year-old mare cleared the gates well and was given a perfect ride by Ryan Elliot settling midfield behind a hot tempo.
Levante levelled up to race favourite Babylon Berlin with a furlong to run and despite being challenged by Roch ‘N’ Horse in the closing stages, she cruised to the line to win with ears pricked by just on a length in a slick 1.02.07 for the 1100m journey.
“I was very pleased to see her jump and put herself there as it has been a problem for her when she gets back,” Ken Kelso said.
“She jumped away cleanly and got forward which was a big help.
“She’s very bright and very well, so you have to be happy with that.
“I’m not sure what we will do with her now. She will either go straight to the Railway (Gr.1, 1200m) or maybe give her another one before that.
“We’ll take her home and have a think about it as last year she had a trial before the Railway, so we may elect to do that again.”
Elliot was having his first ride on the mare since finishing an unlucky second aboard her in the 2020 Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) following four consecutive victories.
With the mare carrying light weights over the past twelve months, Samantha Collet took the ride with Elliot unable to make those weights and he was delighted to reunite with one of New Zealand’s most exciting gallopers.
“The way she has come back this season is unbelievable,” Elliot said.
“She jumped so well that I was actually in front of the leaders for the first few strides and I was wondering what I should do.
“I elected to drop in behind and give her a breather on the hot pace and that really helped after making that fast start.
“She is a dream to ride as she does everything right and is just a pleasure to do anything with.”
Levante has now won eight of her 12 starts for her owners that include Ancroft Stud’s Phillip Brown and his wife Catherine, former Waikato Racing Club Chief Executive Tony Enting and his wife Mary, along with former touring golf professional Mark Tapper. – NZ Racing Desk