SsangYong Counties Cup Day Racing Follow Up
Local salutes in two-year-old feature
Locally trained two-year-old Melt produced an irresistible finishing burst that carried her to an impressive victory in Saturday’s Listed Ashford Lodge 2YO Stakes (1100m) at Pukekohe Park.
The Nigel Tiley prepared Iffraaj filly had impressed when winning a trial at Avondale earlier in the month but had not figured prominently in pre-race discussions due to the focus on debut winner Pinot Grey and expensive yearling purchase, Autumn Wild.
Tiley had expressed some confidence in his charge’s chances prior to the race however when Autumn Wild and Pinot Grey jumped to the front to control the early speed it looked as though the race could turn into a battle between the heavily favoured pair.
Rounding the home bend there was nothing between the two favourites however rider Michael McNab had Melt idling nicely just behind them before angling into the clear at the 300-metre mark. A quick flick with the whip from McNab saw Melt hit overdrive as she put the contest beyond doubt with a devastating turn of foot that saw her clear out by three and a quarter lengths from the fast finishing Bit Lippy with Flaunt It Girl snatching third from Pinot Grey.
Tiley, who produced Oscar Eight to finish second in the 2016 edition of the race, was delighted with the result.
"Her work on Thursday morning was as good as I’ve ever had a two-year-old work,” he said.
"I said to Andrew (Fowler) who owns her that I won’t run her unless I think she can win.
"This filly is very good.”
McNab was also taken with turn of foot shown by the filly despite having some concerns early in the race.
"I thought there would be good pressure early on, but they eased up a little,” he said.
"They did quicken up enough to let me roll into the race and when I let her go there was something special about her.
"I ride a lot of good two-year-olds at Te Akau (Racing) and this one’s given me as good a feeling as any of them.”
Tiley will now plot a path for the filly through some of the feature two-year-old events available later in the summer.
"She’s not a Karaka Million horse so we don’t have to put any pressure on her to go anywhere,” he said.
"She’s got black type now so the pressure’s off. We will be looking at some of those good races over Christmas for her.”
Melt is the daughter of speedy eight-race winner Ticklish who was successful twice in Listed company during her career. – NZ Racing Desk
Sensible surprise at Pukekohe Park
Central Districts visitor Sensible Princess sprang an upset when she downed a quality line-up of fillies and mares in the Gr. 2 NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe.
Despite boasting an impeccable formline of four wins from her last five starts, the daughter of Street Sense and capable race-mare Cape Princess was making her first attempt at the elite level, a challenge that she took comfortably in her stride.
Handled perfectly by leading rider Chris Johnson, Sensible Princess tracked nicely into the race to issue her challenge early in the home straight. Leading fancy Francaletta had assumed control at this point and looked set for victory, however, in his usual imperturbable fashion, Johnson urged his mount for a supreme effort which saw her drive to the lead as the pair hit the finish line.
"She travelled nicely in the run and about halfway I came out three wide,” said Johnson.
"I didn’t know if she had quite got up, but she obviously got her nose in front at the right time.”
Trainer Fraser Auret was quick to pay tribute to Allpress who had ridden the mare in all bar one of her runs in her current campaign before suffering a nasty injury back in October.
"I owe a massive plug to Lisa Allpress as she has really developed this mare for me,” he said.
"It’s easy for me to sit here and take all the credit but a lot of work goes in behind the scenes, I’ve got a great staff around me and everyone plays their part.”
Auret admitted he wasn’t sure if Sensible Princess had even got the victory until he heard the official judges call.
"I didn’t have any idea to be honest,” he said.
"It’s her first start this way around and she had better bearings than me. She had been working well and I felt last start she just may have sat a little handy as she is better when ridden off the pace.
"As a young horse she used to jar up on the firm tracks, but she’s always had the class.
"We’re not going to get too carried away with things for her but there is a nice weight-for-age mile back at Trentham in two weeks that the stable has won the last two years, so that’s where she might be headed.”
Auret was referring to the Gr. 1 Rydges Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on 9 December, a race he won with Aide Memoire in 2016 and Julinsky Prince in 2015.
The victory was also a further boost for owner John Bromley who sold a half-brother by Snitzel from Cape Princess to Hong Kong interests for $250,000 on the first day of the NZB Ready To Run Sale held earlier this week. – NZ Racing Desk
Fully Funded too slick in fresh-up effort
Less than fourty minutes after Maygrove had lumped the topweight of 60 kilograms to victory in the Gr. 3 Ssangyong Counties Cup (2100m), rejuvenated sprinter Fully Funded matched that feat in the day’s feature sprint, the Haunui Farm Counties Bowl (1100m).
The nuggety six-year-old was having his first run in a new preparation, having been off the scene since securing a victory at Ruakaka back in June. Trainer Joanne Surgenor, who registered her first stakes success with the win, had fitted her charge with three trials leading into the event as she prepared to have him at peak for his campaign opener.
"It was a huge run as he was three wide, he has got a heart this horse, he just tries so hard,” said an emotional Surgenor as she brushed away tears of joy.
"I’m just so proud of him.”
Surgenor revealed the race plan had been to put pressure on the leaders approaching the home bend given the tenacious nature of her charge. Despite being posted wide in the early running, rider Sam Spratt followed instructions to the letter as she made a sharp forward move to join issue as the leaders turned for home.
In a furious four-way battle Fully Funded refused to be denied as he clung to a narrow margin to down Go Nicholas and Heroic Valour with Ferrando close up in fourth.
Spratt echoed Surgenor’s thoughts when questioned about the run.
"Gosh he’s tough carrying that weight, she said.
"I was a bit worried about the weight, that it might pull him down, but when they came up to him he just dug in. It was a tough effort.
"He just keeps stepping up and every time they come up to him he gives you a little bit more.”
Surgenor will now sit down to plot a path to the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway (1200m) on 1 January for the Fully Fledged gelding who has taken his career record to eight wins from 25 starts. - NZ Racing Desk
Patient approach the key to Symphonic
The connections of promising galloper Symphonic made up for an aborted trip to Te Aroha earlier in the month as she opened a new campaign with a decisive win at Pukekohe Park.
The O’Reilly mare’s southern based owners had been on-course at Te Aroha to watch her kick off her season that day but missed out when the meeting was abandoned after five races. Any frustration they felt would have melted away quickly on Saturday however, after witnessing their charge down a handy line-up of intermediate gallopers in the rating 75 Lone Star Pukekohe event (1600m).
Settled towards the rear, off the back of a moderate pace set by local Swissta, Symphonic and rider Mark Du Plessis bided their time until well into the home straight before angling into the clear to make their challenge. Symphonic quickly hit top gear as she produced a driving finish to nab Swissta on the line with race favourite Shadows close up in third.
Co-trainer Peter Williams was philosophical about the mare’s late start to her campaign as he reflected on an interrupted preparation in general for the mare.
"We’ve just been held-up by the wet tracks and things like that,” he said.
"We had the owners all at Te Aroha the other day to watch her go and they called them off. We’re like most of the trainers in the area, we’re all behind due to the weather but with some sun on their backs in the last ten days the horses have improved out of sight.”
Williams is keen to retain a patient approach with the mare who be believes is ready to show her best during this campaign.
"She’s a lot stronger this year,” he said.
"I think you will see her in a nice cup race one day over a bit of ground as she’s just improving all the time. She did a good job last year, but she was a wee bit weak.
"She will go to the Auckland races over the Cup carnival where she is still eligible for the Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship which is worth $100,000.”
Bred by Waikato Stud, Symphonic is from the unraced Danasinga mare Chorus and features multiple Group One winner Daffodil amongst her extended pedigree. She was a $330,000 purchase from the Stud’s Premier draft at the 2014 NZB National Yearling Sale at Karaka. – NZ Racing Desk
Love Affair ready for next challenge
A conservative approach to what looms as a career defining campaign looks set to pay dividends for progressive mare Love Affair.
The highly regarded Savabeel four-year-old stepped out for the first time this season at Pukekohe Park on Saturday and put up one of the performances of the day as she raced to victory against some tough opposition in a rating 85 1400m contest.
Unsighted since completing a three-year-old campaign that yielded three wins from just 4 starts, the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman trained mare had been idling around their Cambridge yard waiting for the improved tracks to take hold.
Saturday’s Dead4 rated surface was perfect for the mare’s resumption although Forsman admitted the stable were a little concerned she may have been found wanting with only one trial under her belt.
"We’ve always held her in very high regard and we believe she has what it takes to get to the top,” he said.
"She was given a decent spell through the winter as we thought as a four-year-old she would really start to shine so we weren’t too concerned about getting her up for some of the earlier spring races as the tracks wouldn’t have been in her favour.
"In saying that we did need to get a run into her if we are going to tackle some of the better races coming up, so Saturday was an important day for her.
"I did think she may have been a run short, but she showed what she is capable of with that performance.”
After settling well off the pace in the early stages rider Matthew Cameron had Love Affair trucking along nicely just beyond midfield for the majority of the race. With the field stretched across the track at the 250m mark, Cameron angled her into a gap and set out strongly after pacemaker The Justice League.
Love Affair quickly joined issue before racing away in the closing stages to win easing down by two and a quarter lengths in a sharp 1.22.7 for the 1400m journey.
"With that run under her belt I think she is ready to step up to stakes company next,” said Forsman.
"She probably would have been pretty competitive against the fillies and mares in the Group Two on Saturday but that was never a consideration without a run under her belt.
"As long as she pulls up well her next assignment will be the Gr. 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa next month and then we will look at where she can go after that.” – NZ Racing Desk
The Kipling Girl upsets at Pukekohe Park
Underrated Te Aroha galloper The Kipling Girl sprang an early upset at Pukekohe Park on Saturday when she stormed home out wide to snatch victory in the H.R. Fisken & Sons Ltd. event (1600m).
Despite proving a model of consistency during a solid winter campaign on wetter tracks, most pundits overlooked the five-year-old High Chaparral mare’s credentials on the improved surface for Saturday’s meeting. Trainer Scott Wenn was one who didn’t share those sentiments as he quickly explained when questioned after the race.
"When she was going so well earlier in the winter we kept her going but the heavy 11 tracks are far too heavy for her,” he said.
"She does like the sting out of the ground and won’t go on a rock hard track so we will keep her going if there is a little rain around.”
Both Wenn and rider Sam Collett had envisaged the mare would race in a handy position during the contest however a tardy jump and hot early pace put paid to that plan.
"When I did the form, I mapped myself to be in the one-one but when she didn’t jump well I said okay it’s Plan B, just let the speed go,” said Collett.
"I rode my own race and when they put the brakes on at the 1000m I managed to stay wide with some cover and rode her where she was comfortable.
"She did the rest.
"She was so unlucky at her last start and if I’d sat and waited I might not have got the run so there was no point in being unlucky again.”
The victory made it win number three in a 19-start career to date for The Kipling Girl. – NZ Racing Desk