Consistent filly Bellatrix Star (Star Witness) showed she will be a force to be reckoned with in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) later his month as she took out the first black-type event for the new year, the Gr.2 SKYCITY Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe on Monday.
Trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson took a powerful two-pronged attack into the race with Bellatrix Star ($10.70) and her stablemate Move To Strike (I Am Invincible) ($1.30) and the pair ended up fighting out a torrid three-way finish to the contest with second favourite Velocious (Written Tycoon) ($4.40).
It was a fitting win in the inaugural Gr.2 Sir Patrick Hogan Stakes (2050m), formerly known as the Royal Stakes, at Pukekohe on Monday, with the Cambridge Stud-bred and owned About Time (American Pharoah) taking out the fillies feature named after the farm’s founder.
Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay were trackside to welcome back their filly, and trainer Lance Noble said it was a sentimental win for the couple, who purchased Cambridge Stud off the legendary horseman.
Ex-pat Kiwi jockey Jason Collett well and truly paid for a flying visit home from his Sydney base when he guided promising stayer Trust In You (NZ) (Sweynesse) to a gritty victory in the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) on New Year’s Day.
On his old stomping ground at Pukekohe, Collett produced an inch perfect effort to bring the Bruce Wallace and Grant Cooksley-trained son of Sweynesse with a decisive late burst to reel in pacemaker Khan Hunter (NZ) (Mongolian Khan), who looked like he would steal the race after skipping clear on the home turn.
Former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan captured five Gr.1 Railway (1200m) successes in the saddle and on Monday he finally got his hands on the silverware as a trainer, courtesy of Waitak’s (NZ) (Proisir) explosive victory in the Sistema-sponsored feature.
As expected, Johny Johny (NZ) (Charm Spirit) set a breakneck speed upfront, while at the opposite end of the field, in-form hoop Warren Kennedy switched Waitak off at the back of the pack.
Warren Kennedy has stamped an indelible mark on New Zealand racing with the ex-pat South African jockey dominating proceedings at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day with seven wins, including four of the five feature events on the card.
Fresh off a suspension that cost him riding on Boxing Day, Kennedy made every post a winner and produced one of the rides of the day on the Lance Noble-trained Habana (Zoustar) in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m).
Exciting filly Orchestral (NZ) (Savabeel) was on song at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day when downing a quality line-up in the Barfoot & Thompson 1600, including last start vanquisher Lupo Solitario (NZ) (Satono Aladdin).
The Satono Aladdin gelding beat Orchestral by just a nose in the Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) last month, but she was able to reverse that result on Monday courtesy of a quality ride from Craig Grylls.
Stakes targets could be in the offing for promising filly Grande Gallo (NZ) (Belardo) following her eye-catching win in the Eagle Technology 1500 at Pukekohe on Monday.
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew-Scott trained three-year-old was having her first run since disappointing with her 14th placed run in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November and relished returning to the right-handed way of going at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day.
Boys Get Paid have become synonymous with the Karaka Millions meeting, and the punting club will have a million reasons to cheer even louder at the feature raceday at Ellerslie on January 27.
Their first bet for the meeting was a $50,000 outlay at $21 odds for Cool ‘N’ Fast, which looks to be an astute investment, with the Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson-trained colt shortening into $3.50 following his debut win in the New Zealand Bloodstock – Karaka 2024 (1100m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day.
Enigmatic three-year-old Pendragon demonstrated just how tough he is as he took out the Gr.2 Shaw’s Wire Ropes Auckland Guineas (1400m) at Pukekohe with a strong front-running performance.
The Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard-trained son of U S Navy Flag was ignored by punters to start at the juicy odds of $26 in the race, despite having beaten two of his more fancied rivals in Tokyo Tycoon ($3.60) and Quintessa ($4.80) by nearly two lengths at his previous start over 1200m at Te Rapa.
Visiting Australian rider Blake Shinn made good use of his trip across the Tasman to ride at Pukekohe on Boxing Day as he guided Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner Molly Bloom to a nail-biting victory in the Gr.2 Hallmark Stud Eight Carat Classic (1600m).
The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained daughter of Ace High had been unsighted since her victory at Riccarton last month and she gave her supporters, who backed her into a $1.60 favourite for the race, plenty of anxious moments before getting in the deciding stride to down her main rival, Mary Shan.
Campionessa shed her Group One bridesmaid’s tag at Pukekohe Park on Boxing Day when recording a well-deserved victory in the Cambridge Stud Zabeel Classic (2050m).
Previously runner-up in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m) earlier this year, Campionessa returned in the spring where she disappointed in her two outings at Hastings and the decision was made to put her aside for summer racing.
A resolute finishing burst carried promising stayer Trust In You (NZ) (Sweynesse) to his biggest career win when he took out the Dunstan Horsefeeds Stayers Championship Final (2400m) at Pukekohe on Tuesday.
A clear last after jumping slowly from a wide barrier (12), rider Michael McNab was happy to let the Bruce Wallace and Grant Cooksley-prepared runner find his feet as the pair cruised along with majority of the 14-horse field in front of them.
Promising galloper Snazzytavi (NZ)(Tavistock) outlined her credentials for higher honours when she defeated a quality line up of intermediate-graded gallopers to take out the Stella Artois Championship Final (1500m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day.
Sporting the familiar colours of Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay, the four-year-old daughter of Tavistock looked to be in for a profitable summer after kicking off a new campaign with a close second over 1400m at the venue last month before winning stylishly at Te Rapa earlier this month.
Trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson have been playing the catch-up game with Wild Night (NZ) (Vanbrugh) for next month’s $1 million Elsdon Park Aoteoroa Classic (1600m), and they seem to be winning.
The talented four-year-old placed first-up at Otaki last month over 1200m before trialling at Matamata over 1000m last week to ready him to tackle the Barfoot & Thompson 1400 at Pukekohe on Boxing Day.