Embellish Excellent in Grp 1 Guineas
11 Nov 2017
Te Akau principal David Ellis had a smile on his face a mile wide. Why? He had just come within a nose of a trifecta in one of the greatest races in New Zealand: the $500,000 Al Basti Equiworld NZ 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m).
The prestigious mile race for three-year-olds was run on perfect Good3 footing, under clear skies, on Saturday 11 November at Riccarton racecourse in Christchurch.
For the self made man, who has built a 4000-acre farm, bought and syndicated horses for 35 years, and become a recognized name in racing circles worldwide, seeing Embellish (3 c Savabeel – Bling, by O’Reilly) win the race from stable-mate Age of Fire (Fastnet Rock), with Te Akau Shark (Rip Van Winkle) a nose away from third, was pure theatre and as close to perfection as you would get.
Embellish is not just any colt. He is an absolutely outstanding specimen and brother to Group One winning mare Diademe, who subsequently sold for $740,000.
Not only had Ellis purchased and syndicated all three horses, buying the winner for $775,000 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale, from the draft of Waikato Stud, for owners in the Te Akau 2016 Breeding Syndicate, been a massive influence in the training lives of senior trainer Stephen Autridge and his younger partner Jamie Richards, but he has also apprenticed the genius in the saddle Opie Bosson.
While many people make a living in the industries they are most passionate about, there are few that reach the heights that Ellis has attained. Hard work, perseverance, and professionalism, are all aspects of business that Ellis has undertaken to the nth degree.
“This is one of the iconic races in New Zealand, and to have three runners in the race was a big thrill,” Ellis said.
“To see all three run as they did was an amazing result for the staff that has been down here, in some cases for nearly three months. And I’m just so proud of the whole team, here and at home in Matamata.
“It can’t get better than winning the 2000 Guineas for the sixth time, that’s a huge thrill.”
Previously, Xtravagant (Pentire) ran a staggering 1:33.59, last 600m in 33.04, to establish a new race record and win by eight and a half lengths in 2015, Rock ‘n’ Pop (Fastnet Rock) gave jockey Jamie Bullard an armchair ride to win in 2011, Tell A Tale (Tale of the Cat) flew home to win the $1m version in 2008, Darci Brahma (Danehill) won by four lengths in 2005, and King’s Chapel (King of Kings) scored easily by a couple of lengths in 2003, while few could argue that the most recent rendition lacked for Te Akau dominance as the tangerine colours flooded the finish.
In addition, Embellish gave Bosson his seventh 2000 Guineas success after first winning aboard Danske (Danehill) in 1998.
“We had the programme set of Embellish month by month and it’s gone to plan and to witness it unfold is a big thrill,” Ellis said.
“It is terrific to see Al Basti Equiworld sponsor the race for the stake of $500,000 and the real heroes are our owners in the Te Akau breeding syndicate. Embellish is one of five horses I bought that year at the sale to try and make into a stallion and these are best lot of owners you could ever have in the world. If they have a bad day, they take it on the chin and if they have good day you’ll really see them celebrating as they will do tonight.
“This colt has been looked after down here by Dan Miller and his team, and you’ll hear a lot more of him in the future. He’s just a champion bloke.
“And the man leading Embellish around, Teina Walters, has been with me for a long time and he does a magnificent job and he was just so confident of the win today.”
In the race itself, Embellish began well from barrier five to secure a perfect trailing position behind the leader. Bosson had him into the clear on straightening with 500 metres to run, levelled with the leader, Ever Loyal (Sebring) at the 400m, quickened to the front when asked to extend at the 200m and he had the situation sewn up in what was a very professional display.
Embellish ran the mile in 1:34.8, winning by one and a quarter lengths, and returned $3.70 & $1.60 on the NZ TAB tote.
Age of Fire settled last and charged home for second, in an eye-catching performance, and Te Akau Shark also came from back in the field for fourth at the line – and third a stride later.
“Steve Autridge and Jamie Richards have done a great job training the colt,” Ellis said. “Jamie has been down here every week for the past two and a half months, overseeing the training, which is an unbelievable commitment to our stable and I’m thrilled for Jamie to have won this race for the second time in three years.
“I’ve got a lot of my owners here in Age of Fire, and also those in Te Akau Shark. You’ll see a lot more of both them in the autumn and leading up to the (NZ) Derby.
“It was a beautiful ride by Opie and you’d never see a better ride in a Group One race than what he did today. He said Embellish was a 2000 Guineas colt and as usual his judgment was spot on.
“I’d also like to thank Hamish (Hayes) and Julia-Rose (Ellis) who are both very important to the team and it’s great to have them both here.”
Waikato Stud proprietor Mark Chittick, who bred Embellish with his Hall of Fame father Garry (Chittick) and stands champion sire Savabeel at stud, described the win as “very emotional”.
“It’s a very, very emotional win for us,” Chittick said. “To be honest, I sat there for an hour afterwards not knowing whether to talk, cry, cheer, whatever?
“It all started 30 or 35 years when Garry bought his third dam Star of the Knight, by Sir Tristram, for $250,000, in foal to Danzatore. Which was a big, big deal for us and I remember when I was about 15 years old having to cut the foal out of her bit by bit because it was a dog-sitter (foal positioned similar to how a dog would sit).
“The next foal, we donated to Massey University because it was such a spastic. So, when you take all that into consideration, and more recently, his dam Bling is unfortunately no longer with us. We all worked very hard, especially Kerrie Cox, the bloodstock manager, and our vet Chris Phillips, to save that mare over a period of 12 months but we lost the battle and that colt (Embellish) in particular was Kerrie’s favourite yearling.
“Kerrie has probably been involved in selling a thousand yearlings for us, but he was the first yearling, that when he sold, she actually cried.
“It’s a big operation that we run and it’s an incredible operation, but we have to have people like Kerrie and Chris and our whole team that are out working so hard to make it all happen.
“He’s the highest priced yearling we’ve ever sold and obviously there are expectations for a horse like that and for Te Akau to buy him, David (Ellis) and all his team that do such an incredible job, it’s fantastic.
“You know, Savabeel is important for New Zealand, Waikato Stud is important for New Zealand, but David and Te Akau are so important for New Zealand, and to get results like that is what it’s all about.
“It’s why we get up in the middle of the night and foal these mares, work very hard and get all these people involved, for thrills like that. As I say, it’s an emotional win for us because so much has gone into it and so many people have been involved in all aspects of it.
“It doesn’t come easy and when you get them you’ve got to enjoy them and we will.”
Ellis has been the leading buyer at the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales for the past 12 years, and in that time bought some high quality horses from Waikato Stud, the leading vendor for the last four years at Karaka.
“David is a supreme judge,” Chittick said. “At the end of the day, his whole life is about judging livestock, whether it be cattle or horses, and whatever livestock he’s involved with he wants the best and he wants the best results.
“And he works so, so hard to achieve those results and winning a race like that today, that’s been the highest priced yearling we’ve ever sold, he and we have achieved it together.
“Honestly, it’s a great game. When you’ve got great people like David at Te Akau, and us trying to breed the best racehorses we possibly can, and when it all comes together like that it just can’t get any better.
“And New Zealand should be very proud of ourselves, because we breed great racehorses and we’ve got terrific horsemanship, it’s unbelievable.”
Embellish was strapped by Teina Walters.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz