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