Awards put spotlight on two-year-olds

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - DEN­NIS RYAN

Last week’s re­lease of the short list for var­i­ous cat­e­gories of the 2016-17 New Zealand Thor­ough­bred Horse of the Year Awards has put the spotlight on two-yearolds trained at Mata­mata.

In what must be a first for this train­ing cen­tre at least, the three­strong two-year-old cat­e­gory is uniquely Mata­mata, com­pris­ing in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der Gold Fever, Melody Belle and Sum­mer Pas­sage. Be­tween them the trio won nine of their 17 starts to stand head and shoul­ders above their con­tem­po­raries.

Gold Fever, trained by Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards, won three from six headed by her home track fea­ture, the Gr. 2 J Swap Mata­mata Breed­ers’ Stakes as well as plac­ing third in the first leg of the au­tumn ju­ve­nile cham­pi­onships, the Gr. 1 Sis­tema Stakes.

Her sta­ble­mate Melody Belle won four of her seven starts topped by the Karaka Mil­lion, Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires Pro­duce Stakes and Gr. 2 Queens­land Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes. That record also made her the high­est stake-earner of her age group with a bankroll of $865,000.

Sum­mer Pas­sage, from the sta­ble of Lance O’Sul­li­van and An­drew Scott, had the least num­ber of starts with just four and ended the sea­son as the win­ner of two along with two sec­ond plac­ings. Af­ter be­ing run­ner-up on de­but he won the Listed Reid & Har­ri­son Slip­per on Mata­mata Breed­ers’ Stakes day, fol­lowed by his vic­tory in the Gr. 1 Sis­tema Stakes at Eller­slie.

In his one re­main­ing start Sum­mer Pas­sage put up a big ef­fort for sec­ond in the Gr. 1 ATC Sires’ Pro­duce Stakes at the Syd­ney au­tumn car­ni­val.

With all re­spect to Gold Fever, the con­test for the cham­pion twoyear-old tro­phy will be be­tween Melody Belle and Sum­mer Pas­sage. One ar­gu­ment will be that as the win­ner of the coun­try’s rich­est two-year-old race as well as a do­mes­tic Group One and a Group Two in Aus­tralia, Melody Belle should pre­vail. The coun­ter­ar­gu­ment is that Sum­mer Pass- age’s near fault­less form­line that in­cludes a do­mes­tic Group One and a Group One sec­ond strength­ens his cre­den­tials.

But like all award di­vi­sions, the fi­nal de­ci­sion be­longs to the 50-odd vot­ing panel, which will also grap­ple with the most in­ter- es­t­ing cat­e­gory, the tal­ent-packed group of three-year-olds. The short list of five is headed by Mata­mata’s Ginger­nuts and Cam­bridge’s Bon­neval, the only two New Zealand-trained horses to win Group One races this sea­son on both sides of the Tas­man.

SUP­PLIED

Melody Belle is one of three Mata­mata-trained two-year-olds short-listed in their age-group cat­e­gory for the na­tional thor­ough­bred awards.

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