Matamata horses rule at Pukekohe
The hot run of form by horses trained by Graham Richardson and the Mike Moroney-Andrew Clarken partnership continued when they dominated black-type racing at Pukekohe on Saturday.
The Moroney-Clarken-trained Tinseltown added to his cups collection with victory in the $ 100,000 DHL Counties Cup, while Richardson claimed a stakes double with his rapidly emerging star Italian Princess and twoyear-old filly Miss Upstart in the $45,000 Counties Bowl and the $45,000 Murdoch Newell Stakes.
Tinseltown has been a star performer for Ballymore Stables over the past two years, beginning with the Avondale Gold Cup in late 2008, followed by the Rotorua Cup in May last year and the Te Aroha Cup last autumn. Along the way he has also finished third in the Brisbane Cup, second in the Rotorua Cup and most recently second in the Caloundra Cup during this year’s Queensland winter carnival.
The seven-year-old Pentire gelding, whose 40-start career has gathered stake-earnings now verging on $500,000, had hinted at a return to form during the early stages of his current campaign and started favourite on Saturday. Given a cosy trip by Ballymore’s No. 1 rider Craig Grylls, Tinseltown came through to challenge with 300m to run and in a blink had put his rivals away.
His victory was so comprehensive that Grylls was allowed the luxury of easing him down over the last 50m, yet the margin over runner-up Six O’Clock News was still a length-and-a-half.
‘‘He’s apparently had his issues over the years but right now he’s humming,’’ said Andrew Clarken, who took over as Tinseltown’s cotrainer at the beginning of the season.
‘‘His work last Tuesday was all we needed to know that he was right on target for the race we had set him for.’’
This was the second big win this month for Ballymore Stables Matamata, on top of Altered Image’s equally easy victory in the $ 250,000 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile at Riccarton. Both horses are part-owned by their former cotrainer Paul Moroney, who handed his duties over to Clarken as part of the plan to return to his former role as stable manager and bloodstock consultant.
Across the Tasman, Ballymore principal Mike Moroney has been making his considerable contribution to the stable’s fortunes mainly through the top staying filly Brazilian Pulse, who completed the Wakeful Stakes-VRC Oaks double at the Melbourne Cup carnival.
Whether Tinseltown remains in New Zealand for summer racing or joins Moroney’s Flemington stable will be decided after connections discuss his options in relation to his position in local handicaps.
Saturday’s win took Tinseltown to a rating of 106, which is just two rating points below Sir Slick, the highest rated member of current middle-distance ranks.
On Saturday he carried topweight of 57kg off a rating of 103 so without a higher rated horse entered for races like next month’s Waikato Times Gold Cup he will inevitably be lumped with even more weight.
‘‘That’s the price you pay but he’s not a big horse and we have to take everything said Clarken.
‘‘We’ll be talking to Mike about it and go from there.
‘‘Naturally I’d love him to stay but I can understand if that’s not going to be the case. As far as how things are going here I couldn’t be happier. Our season was a bit slow to begin with but the wins are coming regularly now; it’s all good.’’
As well as his stable staff, Andrew also had a complimentary word for Craig Grylls, who made the decision earlier this year to make Matamata his permanent base.
‘‘Craig’s on a roll and he’s doing the job for us. He’s got a good work ethic and his raceday results speak for themselves.’’
Ironically Tinseltown’s rider in his defining Tuesday gallop was his former regular jockey Michael Coleman whose ties to Ballymore are not as strong as previously but do still exist as attested to by his Coupland’s win on Altered Image.
‘‘ Mickey already knew that Craig was booked for the Counties
account,’’ Cup but it’s a mark of his professionalism that he was happy to do the job the other morning,’’ Clarken explained.
Michael got his reward on Saturday when he partnered the Graham Richardson-trained pair Italian Princess and Miss Upstart in their Pukekohe wins. In common with the Ballymore run of form the Richardson team has also been on a roll lately. That goes back in fact to a memorable home track performance on Team Wealleans Matamata Cup day early last month when Atom Cat won the day’s feature and Show Up was the appropriate winner of the Richardson Racing Stablessponsored event.
‘‘That was a fantastic day and things have carried on the same way since,’’ said Richardson.
Richardson can also take the credit as co-breeder and remains a part-owner of Italian Princess, who is now well positioned to contest the country’s prestigious sprint double of the Railway Stakes, worth $200,000 at Ellerslie on New year’s Day and the $1 million Telegraph Handicap later in January at Trentham.
‘‘I can now do what I want leading up to the Railway but at this stage I’m not sure what that will be, maybe just one run beforehand.’’
Richardson had a special word for Michael Coleman and his effort to ride Italian Princess on Saturday at her book weight of 52kg.
‘‘It’s the first time I’ve trained two stakes winners in a day and having Mickey on both them was a bonus,’’ he said.
‘‘He did it the hard way to make the weight and we got a result.’’
Italian Princess’s stablemate Show Up kept her name in the frame for the big summer sprints by hitting the line late for third in the same race.
Whereas Italian Princess was favourite at Pukekohe, feature two-year-old winner Miss Upstart was let go by punters despite having won one of her two previous starts.
‘‘Things didn’t go her way when I sent her down to Trentham but she bounced back from that and despite the odds ($ 22) I was expecting a big run on Saturday,’’ said her trainer.
‘‘She’s been a little professional from the time she arrived at the stable.
‘‘She turned up here after being broken in, walked into her box as if she had been there 10 years and has been an out-and-out professional ever since.’’
Richardson now intends setting the Sydney-owned filly for the race every Matamata trainer wants to win, the $100,000 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.
‘‘Time is on our side now that she’s already won a stakes race. She might race at Ellerslie over Christmas but the Breeders’ is the race I’d love to win and I think she’s the filly that can do it.’’
Tinseltown: and Craig Grylls have the $100,000 Counties Cup wrapped up as they coast to the finish at Pukekohe on Saturday.