Final Race of the Season - Hero Worship

Date: 30 Jul 2023

Final Race of the Season - Hero Worship


In a fitting end to a record-breaking season, Hero Worship (4 g Xtravagant – Idol, by Fastnet Rock) won the $30,000 Woods Contracting Rating 65 1300 metres on Saturday at Te Rapa.


Trainer Mark Walker capped a phenomenal season of highlights and records when Angels Wings (Heroic Valour) became his 200th winner on 27 July at Awapuni, a day he recorded four wins and took his tally to 202, and closed on 203 after Hero Worship won the last race of the 2022/23 calendar.

Resuming as Te Akau trainer in April 2022, Walker set a national record for wins in a season when Fellini (Belardo) won in April at Pukekohe, to surpass the domestic record (160) set previously by Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards in 2020/21, achieved his 100th domestic stakes success when Aromatic (Sacred Falls) won the Counties Cup (Gr. 2, 2100m) last November, notched the fastest 100 when Pure Imagination (Darci Brahma) won on 13 January at Tauranga, and numbered 34 stakes wins among the 203.

It would be hard to find a more appropriate winner than Hero Worship for the finale. A trial winner last August at Avondale, Hero Worship remained in work throughout the season, winning four of his 19 starts, placing four times, never once failed to deliver bold performances and a horse that epitomized the efforts of those who worked around him.

“Hero Worship, it was such a good win in the last (race for the season),” Walker said. “He’s such a competitive horse that has been in work all season, but it just shows that the systems we have in place are working.

“I think a big help this season was to get in the Dunstan Feeds nutritionist and working out the feeding regimes and nutritional intake for all the horses. 

“It’s meant we’ve been able to give horses more runs than we have in the past because they’ve held their condition and kept performing at a level that enabled them to stay in work longer.”

Settling back and second last approaching the 600 metres, Hero Worship travelled up with plenty to offer under jockey Warren Kennedy and after saving ground he burst clear a furlong out to power home for a huge victory.

“He’s normally a bit slowly away and he had 60kg on his back so I let him get back where was comfortable,” Kennedy said.

“I cut the corner heading into the straight, he got a couple of lengths there and he built up really well. The more I held him up the stronger he got beneath me. I bided my time for the burst, so waited as long as I could and he quickened really well, looking for the line and he got there.”

On good winter going that remained Heavy8, Hero Worship ran 1300 metres in 1:21.4, last 600m in 36.8, and drifted in betting to pay $8.30 & $2.30 on the NZ TAB tote.

“It was a good ride,” said assistant trainer Sam Bergerson. “I can’t think of the last time he’s been out of work, but he’s still in good nick and god he can eat. He looks great and he was kicking out in the birdcage, loves it.”

Owned by Te Akau Hero Worship Racing Partnership (Mgr: Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM), he was purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $220,000 at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, from the draft of Newhaven Park, NSW.

Ellis also purchased his sire as a yearling at Karaka. Xtravagant (Pentire) became a breathtaking winner of the 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m), included the NRM Sprint (Gr. 1, 1400m), and stands alongside Cool Aza Beel (Savabeel), another Group One winner bought by Ellis, at Newhaven Park, NSW. 

“He’s kept developing in work throughout the season, Hero Worship, stayed strong and been an exciting horse for his owners,” Ellis said.

“It was interesting that the sire of our 200th winner was by Heroic Valour and the final winner was by Xtravagant, both Group One winners that we bought and trained and now stand in Australia. 

“Xtravagant stands at one of the best studs in the world at Newhaven Park, run by John Kelly and his family. It’s one of the most beautiful properties you’d ever see, 10,000 acres about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, and both he and Heroic Valour are proving successful at stud. 

“We’ve bred to these stallions and bought their progeny at sales, so to have them in the pedigree of these two winners of milestone races is quite significant and a big thrill.

“It’s an incredible way to finish the season. The horses were looked after today by Ashley Handley and Sam Bergerson, two of the very best in the business and the next runner Te Akau has in the new season will have Sam’s name in the book as training partner.

“I’m so proud of the entire staff, at the farm and at the stables. It’s a dream come true. When I first started Te Akau Racing, if somebody had said we’d finish up having 203 wins in a season you just wouldn’t have dreamt it was possible. 

“It’s been a brilliant day and great way to end the season, and we look forward to keeping it going.”

Hero Worship was strapped Kohen Collett. 


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