Fillies bid for summer juvenile features
Prestige two-year-old races have become the target of a pair of talented local fillies after both made impressive debuts on the weekend.
On Friday Princess Rihanna made the trip south to Otaki worthwhile with a first-up win in the $20,000 juvenile contest, earning sufficient stake-money to just about guarantee her place in the $1 million Karaka Million at Ellerslie in late January.
That race is open to graduates of the National Yearling Sales, where last January Princess Rihanna was a $24,000 purchase by trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott on behalf of a group of Hong Kong-based clients.
With a win and a second in two trials, Princess Rihanna was well fancied for her raceday debut and in the hands of in-form jockey Craig Grylls she produced a professional performance to win by nearly two lengths.
‘‘She’s a natural racehorse, which is half the battle with twoyear-olds,’’ said co-trainer Lance O’Sullivan.
‘‘The trip and the raceday experience will have done her a lot of good and at this stage the plan is to give her one more start in the Eclipse Stakes at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and then head straight to the Karaka Million.’’
Whether Princess Rihanna then proceeds to the local feature, the $100,000 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes on February 25 will be a decision for later, but another filly with exceptional credentials for that race put her hand up at Te Rapa on Sunday.
The Stephen Autridge-Jamie Richards-trained Gold Fever is none other than a half-sister to last season’s Matamata Breeders’ Stakes winner Gold Rush and appears to have what it takes to emulate her older sibling.
Stepping out for her first race on the weekend, Gold Fever overcame a difficult barrier draw and subsequent wide trip to race away for an easy win.
Two quiet trials were enough to prepare the Savabeel filly for her raceday debut and there’s a lot of improvement in her.
Although bred and reared at Waikato Stud, Gold Fever was sold as a yearling in Australia, where she was purchased by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis for $110,000.
She is therefore ineligible for the Karaka Million, which makes the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes a natural target.
Sassy ‘N’ Smart was an unlucky runner-up in the same race last season, but Gold Fever has the credentials to add yet another win in Matamata’s flagship race to Te Akau’s tally.
Gold Fever’s win kept the Autridge-Richards tally ticking over nicely as they bid to defend their 2015-16 trainers’ title.
With a third of the season now behind us, the partners are positioned in equal third position with 20 wins.
Graham Richardson’s good season continued last week with a brace of wins that have him in fifth equal place on 17 wins, while the O’Sullivan-Scott stable is also in top-10 reckoning with 15 wins and equal ninth spot.
Gold Rush (red cap) won the 2016 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes and now her half-sister Gold Fever has lodged her bid for a repeat in February.