Race to Double Century Not A Priority

Date: 20 Jul 2023

Race to Double Century Not A Priority


NZ Herald's Michael Guerin reports:


The importance trainer Mark Walker places on reaching a historic 200 wins for the season can be judged by how many horses his stable will line up at Avondale (yesterday): none.

That is not to say Walker, the head trainer for Te Akau, wouldn't like to become the first New Zealand trainer to reach the double century, just he isn't willing to compromise any horse's next campaigns to get there.

Walker has trained 196 winners in New Zealand this season, so the 200 is still possible, but he is hardly throwing any new horse power at it.

He has truckloads (literally) of horses he could have sped up to be back at the races before season's end and some of them would have probably cleared maidens but Walker says the 200 is not a personal goal.

“If it happens, it happens, but I'm not chasing it,” Walker told the Herald.

“We've had a great season and one the whole stable can be proud of and the horses will go through their normal programmes and we won't do anything special. We have horses at Hastings on Thursday and some racing on Saturday, so we still might have a chance of getting to 200.”

Walker trialled 20 horses at Cambridge last week, and in a touch of irony, relaunches a huge swathe of the team for next season at the

Te Rapa trials on the first day of the new season, August 1, providing the weather plays its part. If he doesn't make it to 200 domestic wins, it may never happen, as from next season, Te Akau will expand into Australia, taking 20 boxes at the progressive Cranbourne training centre outside Melbourne.

That move will cut down on New Zealand-trained winners, so whatever number Walker ends up on this season could stand as the New Zealand record for training wins for some time.

There was some thought of horses heading to Victoria earlier and being stabled elsewhere to get the Australian team rolling, but Walker says that now won't be the case.

“Our 20 boxes at Cranbourne should be ready to go on September 1, so we will wait until then and we really didn't have anything we intended racing over there earlier than that anyway.”

Te Akau has appointed Victorian horseman Ben Glesson as their Australian assistant trainer, the highly-qualified trainer coming from a similar role at the Danny O'Brien stable, so he is no stranger to major race success, having been with O'Brien when he won the Melbourne Cup with Vow And Declare.

“He is a really smart young guy, so we are thrilled to have him coming on board,” says Walker.

The Cranbourne team will be headlined by Imperatriz, who is already a Group 1 winner in Victoria of the William Reid Stakes this season, and Walker says she will be aimed at Victoria's prime sprints again, even at the expense of a possible tilt at the A$20 million Everest.

“We haven't spoken much about The Everest and we are not really thinking about it with her,” Walker said. “We think she is better left-handed, so our plan is to keep her in Victoria and aim at the Manikato Stakes [October 27] and the Champions Sprint on the last day of the [Melbourne Cup] carnival.”

Walker confirmed the intention is for Imperatriz to head straight to Melbourne after trialling in New Zealand, so there is a giant warning sign flashing over her spot at the head of the TAB markets for the Foxbridge Plate, Tarzino and Windsor Park Plate, as she is almost certain to not start any of them.

Just who joins Imperatriz in Victoria and where the bigger Te Akau names go in the spring could be determined by how wet weather affects early preparations.

“Weather will be crucial for a lot of horses' campaigns, both here and who heads to Australia,” says Walker.

But in another crucial tip to future punters, Walker says $3.50 favourite for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton, Tokyo Tycoon, is unlikely to head south, with his major aim for the first half of the season more likely to be the Karaka Three-Year-Old Mile, hopefully back at Ellerslie in January.

No decision has been made on unbeaten filly Zourion's spring aims, as she is just back in work and Walker has yet to have talks with her owners.



** Trainer Mark Walker sits in a record 196 wins in NZ this season.

** He has a shot at a previously unthinkable 200 wins but will not directly chase the magical mark.

** Walker confirms stable star Imperatriz will head to Australia in September and miss NZ's major races for which she is the TAB favourite.

** He is not keen to chase a spot in the A$20million Everest with the glamour mare.


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