Matamata well recognised at awards
For the third year running the supreme award went to Cambridge, but Matamata participants were still well recognised when the 2017 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year awards were announced in Auckland on Sunday night.
The big talking point ahead of the annual function was which way the voting panel would judge between the country’s two dominant three-year-olds from last season – Bonneval or Gingernuts. Both were classic winners in New Zealand and Australia, and the end it was the Murray Baker/ Andrew Forsman-trained Bonneval who came out on top over the Stephen Autridge/Jamie Richards-trained Gingernuts.
In the three-year-old category Bonneval took 30 of the 57 votes and Gingernuts 24, while Bonneval also took the stayers’ trophy and the supreme Horse of the Year award, by 27 votes to Gingernuts’ 15.
It was a comprehensive victory for the Cambridge mare, whose Melbourne spring campaign began in superb style on the weekend when she won the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley.
I have to admit to some sympathy for no trophy finding its way to Gingernuts, who in just about any other year would have gained due recognition for winning the New Zealand Derby and the Rosehill Guineas, but the outcome underlines the strength of the three-year-old crop.
Team Te Akau didn’t go home empty-handed, taking the twoyear-old award with the Fortuna Syndications-owned Melody Belle, winner of the Gr. 1 Mana- watu Sires’ Produce Stakes, Gr. 2 BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Karaka Million.
As well as that, David Ellis, the principal of New Zealand’s dominant racehorse syndication model, was recognised for his input to ownership, administration, breeding and overall industry matters with the award for Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand Racing.
From small beginnings as he dabbled in ownership in his 20s, for the last decade or more David has been the leading buyer at the National Yearling Sales and heads one of the country’s biggest racing operations, with around 100 horses in training in Matamata complemented by another premiership-winning stable in Singapore.
Apprentice Sam Weatherley was recognised for his achievements last season with the champion apprentice trophy, while Waikato Stud stallion Savabeel again scooped the pool in the breeding categories by claiming all three trophies as the champion sire on the domestic, Australasian and global premierships.
The big wet continues to disrupt racing. In the 2016-17 season no less than 13 race meetings and 133 races were abandoned due to weather or track related issues.
Six weeks into the new season and there’s been no improvement, with the Matamata race meeting on August 30 conducted on a saturated Heavy11 track, and the prospect of the same for this week’s scheduled meeting drawing a meagre 35 nominations and therefore being scrapped.
Star filly Melody Belle was voted champion two-year-old in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.