Burgundy overcomes thumps
Poetry in motion came to Te Rapa last Saturday in the form of New Zealand’s best three-year-old sprinter Burgundy as he romped away with the $70,000 Windsor Park Stud Breeders’ Stakes.
Burgundy, a three-quarterbrother to former class galloper Darci Brahma and likewise a $1 million-plus Karaka yearling purchase by Te Akau boss David Ellis, has since his earliest days under saddle shown immense ability. There was no great surprise, therefore, when he won twice at the trials and then won his first three races, which resulted in him starting as favourite in the first classic of the season, the Gr 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton in November.
Out of the blue, however, Burgundy was hit with a case of the condition known as the thumps and could finish only sixth behind his stablemate Rock ’n’ Pop. Extensive tests cleared him of any long-term effects and after a brief let up, Burgundy was set a summer programme to assess his Derby prospects.
Third placings in the 1600-metre Great Northern Guineas and Wellington Stakes were on the surface handy efforts but not true indicators of Burgundy’s ability or potential, so it was back to the drawing board. The main challenge for trainer Jason Bridgman was to harness the zippy colt’s strengths, which meant taking him back to square one and retuning him with a view to ending his season with two feature age-group sprints.
Te Akau Stables employee, young Englishman Michael Thompson, played a key role in Burgundy’s daily routine as he put intensive slow work into him and kept him in a positive frame of mind.
One of the last things that he needed was galloping, something that his handlers were well aware of as they mapped his progress to a return to racing at the Auckland Cup carnival in early March.
Fast work still had to play some part in his preparation and every time he was asked to run at speed it simply served to underline what a gifted galloper he is.
A further reminder was his fresh-up performance in the 1200-metre Mr Tiz Trophy at Ellerslie, when a wide draw and a tough run were not enough to stop him.
Saturday’s final assignment for the season at Te Rapa, also over 1200 metres, allowed Burgundy the opportunity to properly display his talents. He had an ideal draw to take a handy position and obliged by leading out then dropping into a trail when his rider Matt Cameron asked him to ease.
‘‘I knew as soon as he dropped the bit and agreed to just cruise along that they wouldn’t beat him,’’ said Matt. ‘‘He had things under control a long way out and he showed them what he’s made of.’’
Although fellow Matamatatrained three-year-old Whosyourmaster tried bravely to come off his heels and make a race of it in the straight, he was no match and had to settle for second more than two lengths adrift.
For not the first time, Jason Bridgman was glowing in his assessment of Burgundy.
‘‘It’s an absolute privilege to train a horse like this. He’s the best I’ve ever had anything to do with and it’s very satisfying to prepare him for a performance such as we’ve just seen.’’
If Burgundy’s closest connections are right, what we’re seeing now is only a taste of what’s to come.
‘‘You wait till the spring once he’s had a decent holiday,’’ predicted David Ellis. ‘‘He’s got so much developing to do and I would just love to see him in Melbourne in the spring competing in their big 1200 and 1400-metre races.’’ Jason is of a similar mind. While acknowledging that the 1600-metre stakes event that Burgundy won in his third win of the spring might not have been the ultimate test at that distance, he remains positive about the prospects of harnessing his ability to win a major race over 1600 metres.
‘‘The improvement he’s shown in his work, his behaviour and the way he’s handled life in general since we changed things around makes me very optimistic for the future,’’ his trainer explained. ‘‘Now that we know what suits him we’ll be able to build on that when he comes back into work for his four-year-old season.’’
Burgundy was one of four Matamata-trained winners at Te Rapa on Saturday, beginning with the two-year-old About Square who made a perfect debut from the Moroney-clarken stable. The day before at their home track meeting the Ballymore Stable duo had won two races with Short Tale and Revelator, while across in Melbourne Mike Moroney produced a winning double on Saturday’s Caulfield programme.
This weekend marks the end of the Moroney-clarken training partnership, with Andrew set to relocate to Pukekohe where he will go into partnership with Gareth Mcrae. His place will be taken by recently retired jockey Chad Ormsby, the partner of Mike’s daughter Aliesha.
The remaining Matamatatrained winners at Te Rapa were the Graham Richardson-trained, Waikato Stud-owned Sequin, scoring her fourth win from just 10 starts, and the Paul Jenkinstrained Putyourfaithinme.
That three-year-old filly looked a stayer of some potential given the manner of her win over 2000 metres and it wouldn’t surprise to see her become an early star for her trainer when he makes his move shortly to Queensland.
Putyourfaithinme races in the same colours as former Jenkins stable headliners Bazelle, the winner of the Auckland Cup and the Zabeel Classic, and Marton Cup winner Heat Haze. Like those two very good gallopers, she is raced by her breeders, former Australian-based couple Gary and Lorna Moore, with their Matamata farm manager Allan Wright also having a racing interest.
Local gallopers got their share of the action when they won five of the nine races on last Friday’s Matamata card. Besides the aforementioned Ballymore Stables pair, Alan Tait produced Overthrow to break his duck at his twentieth start, the Karen Fursdon and Gemma Sliz-trained Agent Ziva followed her previous start Rotorua maiden win with another performance that stamped her as a horse with a future, and Andrew Scott’s Imaran delivered on his potential with an impressive fresh-up performance.
One further winner from the centre worthy of mention is A Touch Of Ruby, a two-year-old filly by Pins who won the $30,000 feature at last Wednesday’s Pukekohe meeting.
She had met all sorts of bad luck in her only previous start but put that behind her with a strong win over a smart field of juvenile fillies.
A job well done: Burgundy and his strapper Michael Thompson parade following an impressive Windsor Park Breeders’ Stakes performance at Te Rapa on Saturday.