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Shikoba triumphs again for owner-breeder

The Royal Stakes start before a festive crowd at Ellerslie yesterday

The Royal Stakes start before a festive crowd at Ellerslie yesterday
It was hardly surprising that the first four placegetters in yesterday ARC Royal S. 2000m G2 at Ellerslie are raced by their breeders. That's because, of the 14 starters, only five aren't raced by the people who bred them.

The winner, Shikoba (Chief Bearhart-Summary by Tierce) is owned by The Micaela Murray Trust, which bred the petite chestnut filly in partnership with Micaela's parents Stuart and Suzanne Murray. Shikoba, named for the Native American Choctaw tribe's word for feather, also took over the lead in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series with 16 points.

Yesterday's runner-up Pulcinella (Stravinsky), bred and raced by Martin & Priscilla Liao, now has eight points, which puts her third in the series, behind NZ One Thousand Guineas G1 winner Seachange (Cape Cross) (12 points).

The rivalry of these three wonderfully competitive fillies is proving to be one of the season's best spectacles, and it's likely to continue through the remainder of the Filly of the Year series, which concludes with the New Zealand Oaks G1 on 18 March. However, the third and fourth placegetters in yesterday's race will give Shikoba, Pulcinella and Seachange more serious opposition if they continue to improve over the next three months.

Twinkling (Star Way) looked typical of her sire's neat, muscular daughters when she defeated Captain Kurt on a heavy track in the ARC Great Northern Foal S. LR in May. She now looks more like the progeny of her damsire Sir Tristram, with plenty of size and scope about her. According to co-trainer Linda Laing, Twinkling, who is raced by Ross Ancell, son of her breeder the late Una Ancell, had improved markedly after failing in the Ladies Mile G2 on Boxing Day and she ran home gamely, just over two lengths from Shikoba, on ground that was firmer than she likes. Plans for her are not yet finalised, although fixed odds punters should remember that Twinkling's brother SW Zero Limit won up to 2400 metres in Australia, and their dam Limitless won the Brisbane Cup over 3200 metres.

A length further back was Miss Trinidaad (Istidaad), who had comfortably won a 2200m maiden at Avondale on 21 December and stepped up immediately against the best fillies. There's not much of Miss Trinidaad to look at, and she still gallops a little greenly, but there's plenty to like about the way she put herself into yesterday's race and sustained her run on the chopped up ground near the rail in the home straight. Trainer Rudy Liefting says she'll have a brief spell before tackling other races in the Filly of the Year series, with the Oaks her ultimate target. She's from a Balmerino mare and, like Twinkling, her second dam is by Zamazaan, so she shouldn't lack the stamina required for that task.

Of the other runners Sabayon (Pins), a big, powerful type of filly, seemed unlucky not to get a clear run and is capable of better than yesterday's eighth placing. Her part-owner, ARC director Doug Alderslade, indicated that the Oaks remains her principal target.

The declaration of Promethean (Grand Lodge) as a non-runner seemed unnecessary in light of video replays of the race start which showed the filly rearing up as the gates opened. The stipendiary stewards' report is awaited with interest.

Thanks to Arion Pedigrees for pedigree, performance and statistical data.

- Susan Archer


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