Opulent steps up impressively
New training partners Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards sent only two horses north to Saturday’s Ruakaka race meeting but came away with plenty of reasons to be keen on the pair’s future prospects.
Previous start maiden winner Opulent made the step up in grade look easy when she strolled to victory, while stablemate Stella Di Paco, although not a winner, did more than enough to make the exercise worthwhile.
The two-year-old filly had been the Autridge-Richards partnership’s first winner when she upset her more fancied rivals in the Listed Castletown Stakes at Wanganui on Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Stella Di Paco was
freshened following that race and was on trial for late winter-early spring assignments when she reappeared on the weekend with a late closing fourth.
‘‘There were a couple of reasons that we decided to send her north,’’ Autridge said.
‘‘From the time she won the Castletown Stakes we’ve had her aimed at the Ryder Stakes at the end of this season, so she needed to have another run beforehand.
‘‘The other thing was we wanted to see how she would manage the better track at Ruakaka. She didn’t win but I was absolutely rapt with what she did.
‘‘First she showed she doesn’t need heavy ground and the way she hit the line she looks like she’s going to run a bit of a trip. Also she’ll be a lot fitter for the run, so it all added up to a good result.
‘‘We can go to Otaki for the Ryder Stakes with confidence and also start thinking about those better races in the spring with her.’’
The year older Opulent has also provided food for thought after hitting her straps with impressive wins at her last two starts. Late last month she broke through for her maiden win over 1600 metres at Ruakaka and returned to the Marsden Point racetrack for her next start.
Two factors might have proven challenging – the step up in grade and the drop back in distance to 1400 metres – but she took both in her stride with a consummate performance.
‘‘The way she put four or five lengths on them without being put under any sort of pressure looked pretty good to me,’’ Opulent’s senior trainer said.
‘‘ We’ve thought she’s pretty smart and after winning two Saturday races you’d have to think she is.’’
Opulent cost Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis $ 205,000 from the Cambridge Stud draft at the 2013 Karaka yearling sales, a value that reflects her bloodlines – by Keeper from a star-studded family that includes champion Australian stallion Redoute’s Choice.
Her value will be enhanced should new further season plans come to fruition.
‘‘She can go back up to Ruakaka on August 1, then we’ll give her a short break and all going to plan look at the Valachi Downs Stakes at the New Zealand Cup meeting in November,’’ Autridge said.
Spring plans are also coming together for the bulk of the Te Akau team as they steadily come to hand. Among them are the older proven horses Wolfwhistle, Silverdale and Ekraarstatic, a strong group of rising three and four- year- olds and new season juveniles going through the rudimentary early work before firmer plans come together.
‘‘A lot of the team – something like 35 – will be going to the Te Teko trials, either the first set in early August or the second set later that month,’’ Autridge added.
Spring racing also beckons Matamata’s other weekend winner, Amarula, who followed the same pattern as Opulent with back-to-back Ruakaka wins.
The Peter and Jacob McKaytrained two-year-old had scored over 1000 metres on June 27 and once again combined with stable apprentice Shaun McKay for another brave win over 1200 metres.
Peter and Kim McKay paid $80,000 for Amarula at last year’s Karaka sales and now have a likely prospect for spring threeyear-old features.
The formula has been a successful one over the past several years and there’s more than familiar ring to the McKay’s latest budding star.
Amarula’s dam Shortblackmini is a half- sister to the McKay stable’s big winner Puccini. Other notables in the immediate family are Puccini’s half-brother, ironhorse Sir Slick, and Amarula’s half-brother, the smart sprinter Little Wonder.
De Niro almost made it a McKay stable double in the second two- year- old race at Ruakaka, going down narrowly in just his second start.
This O’Reilly colt, whose dam is the 2006 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Shikoba, shouldn’t be in maiden grade for much longer.
Opulent has her rivals well covered as Matt Cameron lets her stride clear at Ruakaka last Saturday.