Avantage Aiming for Group 1 No.9
8 Apr 2021
The best racing publication in New Zealand – Raceform – reports:
Star mare signs off on stellar season
As trainer Jamie Richards rapidly closes in on an all-time New Zealand record, one of his standout performers will make her final appearance of a sensational season in Saturday’s Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha.
Richards and the Te Akau Racing team have won 139 races in New Zealand this season, and they are now only four behind the all-time record of 143 set by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman in 2017-18.
“That record is something that we’ve been focussed on for a large part of this season, and now it’s looking like it hopefully might happen over the next week or two,” Richards said. “That would be a big achievement for the whole team, and something we can all be very proud of. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going for a little bit longer yet.”
The headline act of Richards’ team this weekend is the astonishing Avantage, who is now an eight-time Group One winner and $2 million earner. She was bought by Te Akau’s David Ellis for $210,000 at Karaka four years ago.
The Fastnet Rock mare has collected four Group One victories this season alone, stringing together the Railway, Telegraph, BCD Group Sprint and WFA Classic through the first two months of 2021.
Her campaign could have been even more colossal, with her last three defeats all being second placings behind stablemate Melody Belle in the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate, Livamol Classic and last month’s Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes.
“Avantage is a fantastic mare,” Richards said. “If it hadn’t been for Melody Belle, she’d be going into this weekend with Group One wins in all of her last seven starts.
“She’s going extremely well this season, and we’re really pleased with her. She’s freshened up very nicely since the Bonecrusher at Ellerslie last month, and she did a good bit of work on the plough this (Tuesday) morning. Opie (Bosson) was thrilled with how she felt, and she seems to be right where we want her to be heading into this weekend.”
Saturday marks Avantage’s third clash with super-talented fellow Matamata mare Levante, and Avantage has won both of their previous meetings – the Railway at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day, and the BCD Group Sprint at Te Rapa in early February.
Whatever the result on Saturday, it will be the last time Avantage is seen on a racetrack until the spring.
“This is going to be the last start of an outstanding preparation,” Richards said. “After this, she’ll head off to the spelling paddock for a well-deserved holiday.”
Richards will also saddle Feelin’ Fancy in Saturday’s Te Aroha Plumbing & Drainage Ltd 1600. Bred and raced by Windsor Park Stud, the four-year-old Rip Van Winkle mare was an impressive two-length maiden winner over 1400 metres at this course in February.
She then ventured south to Otaki on March 10, finishing second in a Rating 65 over the same 1600-metre distance she will tackle this weekend.
“We’ve had our eye on this particular race for a few weeks for this mare,” Richards said. “She won a maiden race very well at this track two starts back, and I think getting her back right-handed will be a big help for her.
“She’s been going well leading into this, but we are keeping an eye on the weather. There’s a bit of rain in the forecast, and she’s probably one that wouldn’t want the ground to be too rain-affected.”
Bonita Aurelia will either line up in the Pyramid Trucking 1400 at Te Aroha on Saturday, or at Awapuni the previous day.
The Sweynesse filly was bought for only $500 as a weanling at Karaka by co-owner Greg Trestrail, and she won last season’s Gr. 3 Woburn Farm 2YO Classic from the Cambridge stable of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
Bonita Aurelia’s first start for Richards came at Tauranga on March 20, where she finished a close third over 1200 metres.
“I thought she was quite good in her first run for us the other day,” Richards said.
“Having Joe Kamaruddin’s claim helped, and it was a nice performance. She could go to either Awapuni or Te Aroha this weekend, and we’d expect her to be a nice chance wherever we choose to line her up.” – Richard Edmunds