Karaka Million Excitement Builds for Te Akau Team

Date: 21 Jan 2023

Karaka Million Excitement Builds for Te Akau Team


NZ Racing News reports:


Karyn Fenton-Ellis is ready to let her hair down on Karaka Million night at Pukekohe on Saturday, knowing the hard work is just around the corner.

Te Akau Racing's lead syndicator will soon have upwards of 40 yearlings to find owners for, judging by the past Karaka buying record of her husband, Te Akau principal David Ellis.

It's a role Fenton-Ellis has honed her skills in over recent years and she well knows the value of promotion in marketing as aids to her syndicating Te Akau's new youngsters.

Fenton-Ellis is acutely aware there's no greater marketing opportunity than the Karaka Million meeting, an event Te Akau horses have dominated in recent years, winning the million-dollar features on 10 occasions, including the past six runnings of the Doubletree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).

"People want to get involved and have fun and Karaka Million night showcases the very best of what New Zealand racing has to offer," Fenton-Ellis said.

"It's an incredibly exciting event with tremendous sponsorship but more than that, it brings together people from all walks of life to enjoy racing. It's such a good showcase for the industry and we're really proud because it reflects a whole lot of hard work by so many people.

"Owners love attending events like the Karaka Million with all the Group races and good stakes, so pre-sale it's a massively important event because David buys 99 per cent of our yearlings on spec and we take the risk at the sales because they are the horses we want to have in the stable to train.

"Of course we can't guarantee every one of them will be a superstar but we'll explore every avenue to try and make them as good as they can possibly be. Winning Karaka Million races has continued to promote how professional and organised a stable we are, based on teamwork and ownership."

Te Akau trainer Mark Walker will present seven of the 14 runners for Saturday's Karaka Million 2YO, including $3 favourite Trobriand, $6 third favourite Tokyo Tycoon and $7.50 fifth favourite Talisker.

"Having seven of the 14 starters in the two-year-old race is no mean feat and I think we bought 10 of the top 20 horses in the order of entry," Fenton-Ellis said.

"We go to the sales and we've got to buy the right horses and when we see that, we know everything is gelling.

"The selection process with David and the team, the training with Mark and the team, having a wonderful mix of long-term loyal owners and people brand new to racing, all beside themselves with excitement - we're getting so many texts and emails -  it takes on a life of its own.

"And it's not just about 'let's just get the horse there'. We don't push our two-year-olds and an example of that is Viva Vienna, who was a little shin-sore, so she's put out to spell. The horse always comes first and it's not about getting there at all cost."

Fenton-Ellis has special interest in the Karaka Million through She Turns Heads, a filly she syndicated to an all-women ownership group that has already enjoyed several social outings.

"We're going out for a big lunch today," Fenton-Ellis said on Friday, adding that another similar syndicate would be formed after this year's yearling sales.

"I had so many approaches last year from women just wanting to race a horse as a group of women, mainly for that social aspect.

"There's 18 of us and we've had lots of meetings with champagne to name the filly and this lunch was planned a long time ago, whether she made the field or not, so for her to sneak in as number 14, we're euphoric.

"We're very proud of her and she could be the sneaky. She's got a great draw and while, she might be a maiden, her form is behind very good horses. We've had a blast and the guys have had to accept they are the plus ones."

Pressed for a tip in the Karaka Million, Fenton-Ellis sides with Tokyo Tycoon despite his wide gate and she nominates Imperatriz, the $1.40 favourite for the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m) and a mare she shares in the ownership of, as the best of the stable's 19 runners on the meeting's six-race card.

"She was the last horse to sell of her year - and a funny story, the last two yearlings to sell last year were Trobriand and Tokyo Tycoon," Fenton-Ellis said.

"Avantage was the last to sell of her year and Cool Aza Beel wasn't easy to sell his year. There's no rhyme nor reason as to where that next good horse is coming from.

"Seeing the tangerine army out there with those horses all in different ownership and all those races, it's a huge source of pride.

"There's pockets of criticism of Te Akau saying it's just numbers but for us it's not just numbers. Every horse on the night is there on their merits. Every horse has been trained to the minute."



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