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London Express looks headed in the right direction 7 Jun 2018

Feature three-year-old classic races in the spring now beckon for talented filly London Express, who made it two wins in a row with an outstanding performance in last Saturday’s Listed $50,000 Turkington Forestry Castletown Stakes.

   The Shamexpress two-year-old, part-owned by Havelock North’s Tess Castles, was having her fourth start after two third placings and a last start victory over 1200m at New Plymouth.

   New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock has always had a high opinion of London Express and the filly certainly had to be good to win last Saturday’s 120m event.

   She was outpaced and under a ride at the tail of the field in the early stages of the race and looked a forlorn hope when still several lengths off the leaders rounding the home turn.

   But once rider Johnathan Parkes angled the filly to the outside in the home straight she started to pick up and powered home to win by half a length, going away.

    “There looked a lot of speed on paper and it ran accordingly, they went hard early,” Parkes said.

   “Once I got out to the better part of the track she let down with a mighty run.”

   It was a performance that suggested London Express can only get better with time and she is sure to be a potent force in some of the early three-year-old races next season.

   Tess Castles is the wife of Hawke’s Bay Racing chief executive Andrew Castles and her and three close friends, Emma Davies, Anna McKenzie and Anna Milne, lease a 50 per cent racing share in London Express and they race her in partnership with the Taranaki-based Brophy family, who bred the filly.

   Andrew Castles and the husbands of the other three women have raced horses successfully for 25 years and they thought it was time to give the wives a chance.

   The result of last Saturday’s Castletown Stakes at Wanganui was a triumph for new Windsor Park Stud stallion Shamexpress, who provided the quinella on the race with Qiji Express finishing a game second.

   The New Zealand-bred son of O’Reilly was a top class sprinter in Australia when winning seven of his 19 starts for Melbourne trainer Danny O’Brien. He won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington as a three-year-old and was also twice Group 1 placed. His dam Volkrose is a Volksraad mare and a half-sister to O’Reilly Rose, who was a Group and Listed stakes winner of nine races.

    Windsor Park’s principal Rodney Schick was overjoyed by last Saturday’s result, which vindicated the faith the stud has had in Shamexpress.

   “For him to have now had five winners and a stakes quinella is fantastic,” Schick said.


Kotahi has the family ability

   Napier couple Buddy and Elizabeth Beachen have raced several successful horses in the past and they are now shareholders in another promising one in Kotahi.

   The Alamosa three-year-old colt broke through for an impressive maiden win over 1200m at Awapuni on Thursday of last week and looks capable of going on to much bigger things in the future.

   The Beachens are part of a large group of people that race Kotahi from the Awapuni stable of Lisa Latta. They are good friends of Hori Gardiner, who bred the horse in partnership with his wife.

   The Gardiners raced Kotahi’s dam Sacha from the Latta stable and she was a tremendous performer on the racetrack, recording 14 wins, nine seconds and eight thirds. Four of her victories were in listed black type races, the Tauranga Classic, Rangitikei Gold Cup, Opunake Cup and Wanganui Cup.

   Kotahi is the only foal Sacha produced before her untimely death in 2015.

   He was having his second race start when he lined up at Awapuni last week, the first resulting in an eighth on a heavy track at Woodville in October last year.

   “He raced once in the mud back then but was a bit weak and struggled,” Buddy Beachen recalled this week.

   “So he was turned out on the hills and he has now grown into a very nice horse who will hopefully go on with it now. His mother was pretty good.”

   The Beachens shared in the ownership of Nanjara, who was the winner of five races including the 2007 Manawatu Cup while Captain Calico was another promising horse they raced, with his eight starts resulting in three wins, a second and a third. They were also former shareholders in the well performed Saint Kitt.


HB racing stalwart dies

   Dick Lee, a former successful thoroughbred owner and one of the real characters in Hawke’s Bay racing circles, died last Saturday aged 92.

   Lee had a life-long interest in racing and was a regular attendee at Hastings race meetings. He raced two top class horses over the years in Pennevari and Hassendean.

   Pennevari was trained in Hastings by the late Alan Pringle and included the Listed Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie in December 1978 among her six wins.

   Hassendean was prepared by Bruce Marsh, when he was based in Woodville, and had 66 starts for 16 wins, 12 seconds and six thirds. The Sharivari gelding never won a stakes race but took Dick to most parts of New Zealand and on two trips to the Queensland winter carnival.

   The horse finished a close second, beaten half a head, in the 2015 Prime Ministers Cup over 2015m and also finished third in the Chairman’s Handicap (2020m) at Doomben.

   Hassendean was such a versatile performer that, following that Doomben placing, the horse returned to New Zealand for a spell and then resumed with a second behind Our Buddy in an open 1200m sprint at Wairoa.

   Lee also shared in the ownership of Three Heads, who he raced in partnership with John Trumper. That horse was also trained by Alan Pringle and won a 1600m maiden at Gisborne.

   In more recent years Lee was a devoted partner of Ann Bary and a keen supporter of her son John’s Hastings training operation.


Megablast on target for cup

   A gritty run for third in last Saturday’s Group 2 PJ O’Shea Stakes (2200m) behind talented mare Egg Tart has convinced New Zealand trainer Nigel Tiley that stable staying star Megablast is on target to contest tomorrow’s Group 2 Brisbane Cup.

   The free-going grey battled on strongly in the run home after setting a solid pace throughout although Tiley believes he could have finished closer if circumstances had played slightly more in his favour.

   There wasn’t any real speed in the race so we went forward to try and dictate to them,” he said.

   “They came up and had a look at him at the 1000m mark which probably was his undoing a little as I think if he could have got a cheap sectional there then he would have definitely run second.”

    Tiley was also pleased with how the Shinko King six-year-old came through the race as he looks forward to the major assignment of his Brisbane campaign.

   “He ate everything we put in front of him overnight and drank plenty of water so I’m very pleased with how he has come through the run,” he said.


Prizemoney boost a positive for NZ

   Victorian racing’s Big Three Group 1 events - the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) and the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) – will all carry record prize money this spring after hefty increases were announced by Racing Victoria last week.

   The Melbourne Cup received an A$1 million lift to A$7.3 million while the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate become A$5 million races after 40 per cent increases on the existing levels of A$3 million.

   A total of A$12.4 million will be poured into prizemoney across the state from the beginning of the new season in August. As well as addressing levels at the top end, Racing Victoria has also moved to bolster 67 country cups and other minor races across the state.

   The investment will see a record A$228.5 million in prizemoney and bonuses on offer in Victoria next season, representing a 32 per cent increase since 2015 and leading to a nation high average of A$52,057 in prizemoney and bonuses on offer per race.

   As a major racing destination and trading partner for New Zealand-trained and New Zealand-bred horses, the prizemoney boost will be a significant shot in the arm for those involved in the New Zealand thoroughbred industry.

   “We already export the best part of a third of our foal crop to Australia and across the board prizemoney increases in Victoria are a positive for our industry,” New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing chief executive Andrew Birch said.

   “We are fortunate to have a strong racing jurisdiction like Australia on our doorstep. The Victorian focus on bolstering middle distance and staying races is a positive for the New Zealand-bred horse.

   “If we can work towards a more efficient domestic racing industry, then we have the perfect platform for the breeding and racing industry to flourish.”

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