Lady offers hope of local win
trained Bayremah (1995) and Maxamore (1997), while Mark Walker scored back-to-back victories with Te Akau Coup and Te Akau Rose in 2008 and 2009.
Now under the management of Jason Bridgman, Te Akau will again be vying to have its tangerine and blue colours taking pride of place on the birdcage jockey mannequin when the highly regarded filly Special Memories lines up on Saturday.
Two starts for a debut second and a win have been a very good introduction for the daughter of champion stallion Fastnet Rock, which cost her owners Carol Marshall and Nessie Paykel $400,000 at last year’s Karaka sales. Having been set for her home track feature, she is now poised to live up to her rating.
‘‘We decided against running her in the Karaka Million as we felt she was a filly who just needed that extra bit of time, but I’m very happy with her going into the weekend,’’ says the filly’s trainer. ‘‘She will have learnt a lot from her two starts to date and her work last Saturday morning was excellent.’’ Bridgman has an understandable desire to add his own name to the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes roll of honour, having saddled up just one starter to date, last year’s unplaced runner Flaming.
‘‘The Breeders’ Stakes is a race every Matamata trainer wants to win, so yes, that would be special for me personally,’’ he says. Rival trainer Andrew Scott has tasted Breeders’ Stakes success twice, the first in 2003 with Katana when in partnership with Mike Moroney and three years later with Satinka following his move to Wexford Stables. Eight years, he figures, is long enough to wait for his next and believes that in Strata Lady, he and Lance O’Sullivan have the right horse.
‘‘She’s a smart filly as she showed when she won on debut and we’re very happy with her going into the race,’’ he says. ’
The visiting contingent is expected to be strong again, with last season’s champion trainer Lisa Latta sending Platinum Witness north from Awapuni and Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh planning to back up last Friday’s Te Aroha winner Nahema, while from South Auckland Stephen McKee will have recent Te Rapa winner Dazzling Lady and last year’s winning trainer Richard Collett will try for a repeat with his best juvenile filly Untamed Diamond. She is part-owned by nonagenarian Arthur Avis, who was such a popular winner of last year’s Matamata Breeders’ Stakes with Lady Royale and is also expected to have his Karaka Million runner-up Selfie lining up in Saturday’s $50,000 Reid & Harrison Slipper.
Matamata’s big raceday of the year will draw the local community, but two who will be sorely missed are former vet Rob Moorhead, whose sudden death was reported on this page last week, and popular horseman Hayden Allen, who also died suddenly early last week, just days after his 40th birthday.
Over a decade Allen was foreman for John Sargent before becoming his training partner in 2013 and managing the local stable while sargent relocated to Sydney.
During that period Allen was able to take much of the credit for the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks win at Trentham last March by Miss Mossman. Following the closure of the Sargent stable, he joined the rapidly developing local nursery Valachi Downs and was part of the team whenthe stud’s Karaka draft was sold.
WELL FANCIED: Strata Lady and Craig Grylls combined for a debut win at Awapuni in December and will be well fancied for a repeat in Saturday’s J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.