Avantage Out to Extend Richards' Golden Run

Date: 18 Sep 2020

Avantage Out to Extend Richards' Golden Run

Raceform's Richard Edmunds reports: (you should subscribe to this excellent NZ racing weekly) ...

Te Akau's Jamie Richards has won five of the last six Group One races at Hastings, and Avantage is the $1.70 favourite to make it six out of seven.

The 2020 Hawke's Bay spring carnival will burst to life on Saturday with the Tarzino Trophy, which Richards won with megastar Melody Belle in both 2018 and 2019.

Melody Belle has also won the last two editions of the Windsor Park Plate, and last year she added the Livamol Classic to complete an unprecedented clean sweep of the Hawke's Bay spring triple crown.

It remains to be seen whether Avantage will attempt to emulate that feat in 2020, but she heads to Hastings on Saturday as a clear headline act for New Zealand's first Group One race of the 2020-21 racing season.

A triple Group One winner of the Telegraph, Haunui Farm WFA and New Zealand Stakes earlier this year, the top-class daughter of Fastnet Rock resumed with a smooth victory in the Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa two weeks ago.

She has now won 11 of her 18 starts and almost $1.5 million in stakes - more than seven times what Te Akau principal David Ellis paid to buy her as a yearling at Karaka.

“Her performance in the Foxbridge was everything we were hoping to see from her first-up,” Richards told RaceForm on Tuesday. 

“She drew a nice gate and received a lovely ride from Danielle Johnson. She got a nice passage into the race at the right time, and she duly obliged.

“Everything's gone according to plan with her since then. I've possibly seen her work a touch better than she did this morning, but we've been happy with the way she's been eating, her bloods and how she's looking. She seems to be going into the race in nice order.”

With Te Akau's number-one jockey Opie Bosson unable to make the weight, Johnson will retain the prized mount for Saturday's $200,000 weight-for-age feature.

From five previous rides on Avantage, Johnson has won four races - the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes, Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes, Gr. 1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic and this month's Foxbridge Plate.

“She knows the mare well and has a great record on her,” Richards said. “It's a shame that Opie isn't able to take the ride this weekend, but Danielle and Avantage are a proven Group One combination.”

Richards, who topped last season's premiership standings with 101 wins, also has a hand in Saturday's supporting features.

In the Gr. 3 Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes, he will saddle Miss Aotearoa for owner-breeder Tony Rider. The Per Incanto filly was a last-start winner at Taupo, with runner-up Atishu subsequently a placegetter in the Listed Wanganui Guineas.

“I really like this filly,” Richards said. “That race at Taupo is usually a pretty good form guide for the spring. It had mostly maiden fillies in it this year, but already there's been some black type out of it.

“Miss Aotearoa's work has been very good leading into the Gold Trail Stakes. She went particularly nicely in her gallop with Avantage this morning.”

Yourpoint made a big impression with a dominant debut win last season, beating the highly rated Escudo and subsequent Group One performer Vernazza. He was a disappointing seventh in the Gr. 3 Northland Breeders' Stakes two weeks ago and will be out for redemption in Saturday's Listed El Roca - Sir Colin Meads Trophy.

“He was disappointing at Te Rapa, I'm not sure he put in 100% that day,” Richards said. “We've just been playing around with him since then to try to turn things around. I liked his work this morning, so we're hoping for an improved performance on Saturday.”

Over in Sydney, Richards will be represented by Group One winner Probabeel in the Gr. 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap. The daughter of Savabeel flew home late for an eye-catching second when she resumed in the Gr. 3 Show County Quality on August 22.

“We've been very happy with Probabeel's progress,” Richards said. “She had a trial last Tuesday and has really bounced through that, then did some great work on Saturday morning. She'll go around in the Bill Ritchie on Saturday, and we're delighted with the build-up that she's had.”


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