Rain on the day at last week’s Wanganui meeting was made to order for Hastings mare Estefania, who returned to winning form with a decisive victory in a Rating 65 race over 1600m.
The Darci Brahma seven-year-old has rarely run a bad race but hadn’t graced the winner’s stall since she took out a Rating 65 race over 1600m at Otaki in July 2019.
Two of Estefania’s three wins have been on heavy-11 tracks while her maiden victory was on a slow-7 surface at Rotorua.
She obviously appreciates rain affected footing but seems to excel when conditions become wet and slushy, as was the case at Wanganui last week after steady rain fell during the day.
Ridden by apprentice Bailey Rogerson, Estefania wasn’t that fast to begin from the barrier but was able to improve quickly on the inside to be fourth at the 1200m.
The mare had the drop on the leaders coming to the home turn as Rogerson looked to go around them to lodge a challenge. But the leaders headed to the outside fence so she decided to change tact and angled back inside them.
Estefania showed great acceleration in the conditions to scoot to the front and kept up a strong run to the line to win by 2-1/4 lengths from Fiddyafortnight, with 4 lengths back to third placed The Seagull.
Estefania is owned and trained by her Hastings breeder Richard McKenzie and is out of the Success Express mare Zino Belle, who he paid $14,000 for at a 2014 mixed bloodstock sale after she was offered for sale by the Vela brothers.
The mare is now deceased but also produced the good stakes performer Silver Eclipse, winner of the Listed Pegasus Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton.
A veterinary surgeon by profession, McKenzie has been involved in the educating of thoroughbreds for many years, preparing yearlings for the sales from his property before taking out an owner/trainer’s license.
He is unsure where Estefania will start next, saying this week that she will probably head to wherever it is wet.
“There is another Rating 65 race over 1600 for her at Tauherenikau next week and there is also one over about the same distance at Awapuni a week later so we will just see what happens with the weather,” he said.
Estefania has had 32 starts for three wins, three seconds and two thirds and has always been ridden in her races by female jockeys.
McKenzie’s partner Jordan Bassett was aboard the mare in her first two wins while Danielle Hirini has also been the rider for a couple of her minor placings.
Livamol Classic start confirmed
Underrated mare House Of Cartier earned a start in the Group 1 $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 16 with an emphatic return to winning form in the Group 3 $80,000 Boehringer Inglelheim Metric Mile at Awapuni last Saturday.
The Peter Didham-trained six-year-old has always promised to win a good race having finished runner-up to Pinmedown in the 2018 Group 2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie as a three-year-old before finishing third in the Group 1 Schweppes Oaks (2000m) at Morphettville later that season after transferring to the Sydney stable of ex-pat Kiwi John Sargent.
Returned to Didham’s Awapuni operation in December last year, the daughter of Alamosa and multiple Group 1 winner Shez Sinsational had been close-up in five starts before being put aside for a winter break after finishing fourth at Listed level over 1600m at Wanganui back in June.
A trial win over 1000m at Foxton a few weeks ago fitted her for the Metric Mile assignment and she was dominant in the finish, sweeping past race favourite Beauden in the final stages to score by 2-1/4 lengths.
In-form jockey Sarah Macnab elected to go back in the early stages from an outside draw on House Of Cartier, with the mare giving the leaders a big head-start coming to the hone turn. However once she got balanced up in the home straight she produced a whirl-wind finish.
Didham was keen to get a run into his mare before she tackles her main goal, the Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings next month and settled on the local feature as his best option.
“It was a bit of a risk going fresh-up into a mile at this level, but she is just so well in herself for this campaign,” he said.
“It’s the best I’ve had her since she got back from Australia and her trial win was very impressive.
“We needed to get the win today if we were even going to qualify for the Livamol and she did the job in fine fashion.”
Didham will now decide whether the mare has another run before the Hastings feature, being mindful of her workload as she is also likely to be mated with a stallion this season.
Didham said he was also delighted for Sarah Macnab, a young jockey who has certainly been making a name for herself in recent weeks.
“She drives for over an hour to come and ride trackwork for me during the week, so she deserves every success she gets,” Didham said.
Macnab claimed a winning double at Awapuni last Saturday after taking out the opening event aboard the Trudy Keegan-trained Thomas Aquinas. She also rode a wining double at Wanganui on Thursday of last week and picked up a Group 3 success aboard Bellaconte in the Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trial Stakes (1200m) on the first day of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke’s Bay spring carnival.
TAB Bookmakers have reacted to House Of Cartier’s win by tightening the mare from $26 to $14 on the Fixed Odds market for the Livamol Classic.
House Of Cartier (white blinkers) sweeps past race-favourite Beauden to take out last Saturday’s Metric Mile at Awapuni, earning herself a start in the Group 1 Livamol Classic at Hastings in two weeks.
Waller to prepare Ocean Billy
Rotorua trainer Bill Pomare has waited his entire life to have a horse good enough to compete in a Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), and now that he has, COVID-19 has denied him the chance to be there in person.
Pomare is targeting the Group 1 Caulfield (2400m) and Melbourne Cups with Ocean Billy, who booked his ticket across the Tasman when he won the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) in March.
“It would have been completely out of our reach had he not won the Auckland Cup. It was a blessing that we won that and we could afford to send him over to Melbourne,” Pomare said.
“Just having him in those races is going to be pretty special. I think he is a better than average two-miler so it gives him a good shot at the Melbourne Cup.”
With the trans-Tasman travel bubble still intact at the time of winning the Auckland Cup, Pomare was excited to be able to join his charge on a trip of a lifetime over to Melbourne in the spring.
However, with the Delta variant of COVID-19 causing lockdowns on both sides of the Tasman, the bubble has been popped and with minimal chance of attaining an MIQ spot on either side of the Tasman, Pomare has elected to stay home and transfer Ocean Billy to expat New Zealand trainer Chris Waller.
While disappointed he won’t be able to be present for the big occasion, Pomare said the opportunity to have a horse compete in two of Australasia’s most revered races was too good of an opportunity to turn down.
“He is booked to fly out next Wednesday and will join Chris Waller’s barn in Melbourne and race in the Caulfield Cup on October 16,” Pomare said.
“I have waited a long time but I never thought I would have a horse racing in Australia, let alone compete in races like the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
“We are a bit gutted that we can’t be there. Both Suzie (wife) and I had big plans of being there and enjoying the atmosphere.
“But he is going to be in good hands and will be given every opportunity and we will just try and enjoy it.”
Ocean Billy last raced in the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings two weeks ago, where he finished 11th, and was to have one final run at Te Rapa yesterday before he transfers to Waller’s Melbourne satellite stable.
Richards happy with results
Although they failed to bring up a victory in either Melbourne or Sydney last Saturday, horses prepared by New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards all performed with credit.
First cab off the rank was last season’s Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) winner Sword Of State who made his Australian debut in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) at Randwick, finishing in midfield after a torrid passage in the running under his 60kg topweight.
“I thought he got a pass mark in the end as he was caught three and four wide carrying 60kgs on a track that favoured the on-pace runners all day,” Richards said.
“I wasn’t disappointed with him, given the circumstances and there is plenty of improvement left in him.
“He pulled up well and will go to the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) back at Randwick in a fortnight.”
Richards was also delighted with class mare Entriviere who came from well off the pace to finish third in the Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m) after a tardy get away saw her settle well back in the early running for rider James McDonald.
“She (Entriviere) was just a touch in season travelling to the track, so we notified the stewards of that, but I don’t really think that affected her in the wash-up of the run,” Richards said.
“James was quite bitter about the way the track played with such a bias for the front runners and when the leader got a soft sectional it basically put paid to our chances.
“She is going to have some time off now, before a quiet trial leading into The Invitation (A$2million, 1400m) on October 23, provided we do receive an invitation to the race.”
Despite facing just four rivals in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown, Probabeel ran into emerging star Zaaki and went down fighting in finishing a gutsy second to the raging Cox Plate (2040m) favourite.
“The winner looks to be a superstar, so I don’t think she (Probabeel) lost any admirers with that run,” Richards said.
“She will tackle the Group 1 Might And Power Stakes (2000m) next, where she will meet Zaaki again, and then we can decide if we press on to the Cox Plate or maybe head to the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington as another option.”