Meeting a local and national highlight
With a history dating back almost half a century, the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes has long been a highlight on the local racing calendar as well as gaining national significance.
First run in 1969, it is now established with a Group Two rating as New Zealand’s most prestigious race for two-year-old fillies. The $100,000 J.Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes invariably attracts the cream of the two-yearold filly crop and the 47th edition to be run this Saturday afternoon should be no exception.
The likely favourite is the unbeaten filly Sassy ‘N’ Smart, who will bid to become the sixth Breeders’ Stakes winner prepared at Te Akau Stables. The first of those was Super Natural in 1991, prepared by the operation’s first resident trainer, Roger James.
Bayremah four years later was the next, by which time Stephen Autridge had taken the helm, and he saddled up the longshot Maxamore to repeat in 1997. Stephen was training independently when he produced Catamarca to win the 1999 Breeders’ Stakes, and Mark Walker was the incumbent when Te Akau Coup and Te Akau Rose scored back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009.
Matamata has won just one other Breeders’ Stakes since, Banchee doing the honours for John Sargent in 2010, and now six years later Stephen Autridge, his training partner Jamie Richards and Te Akau are back in the spotlight with Sassy ‘N’ Smart.
After a spring trial win, the Australian-bred filly was sent to the South Island, where she won on debut and followed up with a black-type win in the Welcome Stakes at the New Zealand Cup carnival.
That confirmed her major summer target, but things went awry when, lining up as a hot favourite on her home track on January 30, she was scratched at the barrier after becoming fractious and rearing over backwards. Sent back to the trials two weeks ago, she gave a faultless display both before and during to retain her unbeaten record and get the Breeders’ Stakes green light.
Sassy ‘N’ Smart won’t be the only local lining up, with the Lance Noble-trained Tesia, the winner of one of her three starts, and the Lance O’Sullivan-Andrew Scott-trained duo of Feisty Jane and Gold Rush also well in the mix.
Feisty Jane, runner-up in her only two starts, will be out to give Michael Coleman his fourth winning ride in the Breeders’ Stakes, while along with Gold Rush she can take Wexford Stables’ overall tally to seven.
With 17 locally trained winners dating back to the first in 1981 and a six-year gap since the most recent, it’s obvious that the home track contingent can’t take the visitors lightly. Prominent amongst them will be O’Rachael, trained at Ardmore by Stephen McKee, and What Choux Want, who will bid for the first Matamata Breeders’ Stakes victory by a South Island-trained filly.
The Jimmy Choux filly is trained by Riccarton-based Andrew Carston and is the winner of one of three starts in Canterbury before coming north to finish fifth in last month’s Karaka Million.
Unbeaten local filly Sassy ‘N’ Smart (left) and South Island visitor What Choux Want will do battle again in Saturday’s J.Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.