Strike rate second to none
There’s no stopping Matamata trainer Peter McKay, who continued his fantastic run of early summer form with another two wins on the first day of the New Zealand Cup carnival at Riccarton last Saturday.
Two weeks earlier at the same venue McKay had saddled up his second four-win bag in a day and this time it was the turn of another two members of the Montego Lodge team, Vincent Mangano and Marcello, to chip in with winning performances. The double took his tally for the season thus far to 17, placing him second equal on the trainers’ premiership and out on his own on the strike-rate table.
Remarkably, those 17 wins have come from just 52 starters, which translates to one win in just over three starts. McKay is also the equal best in the country with three black-type feature wins.
The most pleasing aspect of McKay’s weekend brace was the return to form by Vincent Mangano, who had thrown out a pointer when second at Hastings in a previous start and on Saturday turned in a massive home-straight burst to come from last and win the 1000m Pegasus Stakes. The five-year-old son of No Excuse Needed was one of the very best of his age at two when his wins included the country’s richest juvenile race, the Karaka Million.
He went winless the following season but bounced back to form as a four-year-old, when his wins included one at last year’s New Zealand Cup carnival. Given his impressive weekend performance he was a major fancy to repeat the does today in the feature sprint, the $100,000 Stewards’ Stakes.
Marcello, who like Vincent Mangano is owned as well by McKay in partnership with his wife Kim, completed a double when he won a progressive-grade 1200m event at Riccarton, backing up from a three-year-old sprint win at Rotorua last month.
Another in-form local trainer to carry on his winning run on Saturday was Graham Richardson, who struck with fresh-up runner Italian Princess at Te Rapa. The four-year-old mare was having her first raceday start since finishing third in stakes company at the Auckland Cup carnival in March, having been sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee chip.
‘‘It wasn’t a major issue but it had to be dealt with,’’ said Richardson, who also bred the Bertolini mare in partnership with current part-owner Graeme and Linda McInteer. ‘‘I had been happy with the way she had been coming up at the trials and it didn’t surprise me to see what she did on Saturday – she’s pretty smart.’’
Ridden confidently by Michael Coleman, Italian Princess bounced and crossed the field from a wide draw before giving her rivals a galloping lesson and hitting the line well clear and in a tick under 1:10. To put that into context, it was a better time than that returned by Sandblaster in his previous race win in the day’s feature sprint.
That’s not taking anything from that versatile galloper, who is raced by his Wardville breeder Peter Setchell and trained in Te Aroha by Keith and Gavin Opie. Sandblaster was backing up from a third placing at Te Awamutu a week earlier and on Saturday took his record to six wins from 26 starts.
Italian Princess will be given her chance for a black-type win in the Counties Bowl at Pukekohe on Saturday week, when she will come up with her equally fleetfooted stablemate Show Up.
‘‘I don’t really want to run them against each other but they both deserve their chance at a decent race,’’ said their trainer.
Graham’s attention this weekend will hopefully be centred on Riccarton, where he has Dadzadreamer on the borderline for a start in the New Zealand Cup.
‘‘He’s 24th on the list so he should at least be in the ballot. Hopefully enough drop out above him to let him scrape into the field. I’ve always thought two miles (3200m) would suit, so I’m hoping he gets his chance.’’
The last charter flight from Auckland to Christchurch will take two very sound prospects south for the day’s classic feature, the Gr 1 New Zealand Bloodstock. The Andrew Scott-trained Sworn To Secrecy and Ken and Bev Kelso’s Magic Briar both looked ready for big efforts in the $300,000 feature when they completed their training at home on Tuesday morning.
The Moroney stable has already notched a three-year-old classic win for the season, with Brazilian Pulse outclassing her rivals in the Victoria Oaks at Flemington last Thursday. The Captain Rio filly is the standout amongst Australian staying fillies, having preceded her big success with a brave win in the Wakeful Stakes at Flemington five days earlier.
As well as providing Mike Moroney with another major to go with his wins in the Melbourne Cup with Brew and the Victoria Derby with Second Coming, Brazilian Pulse is also the latest sale-ring master-stroke by Mike’s brother Paul. He bought her for her Australian owners for just $26,000 at last year’s National Yearling Sale and she now ranks as the 29th group winner he has selected.