Richards Returns for Carnival Spoils

Date: 31 Dec 2020

Richards Returns for Carnival Spoils

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 â€œShe (Avantage) can be a little vulnerable first-up, but she's a very good horse and they'll certainly know she's there.”

Six days on from an unprecedented Boxing Day bonanza, champion trainer Jamie Richards and the Te Akau Racing team will take another star-studded squad to Ellerslie on New Year's Day.

Richards won an astonishing six consecutive races at Ellerslie on Saturday - a feat never previously achieved at the time-honoured Boxing Day meeting. His wins included the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic (Amarelinha), Listed Hallmark Stud Handicap (Vamos Bebe), Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (Brando) and Stella Artois 1500 Championship Final (Mai Tai).

“It was a very special day for all of us, and a great reward for all involved,” Richards said.

Richards has runners in six feature races on New Year's Day, with top billing belonging to four-time Group One winner Avantage in the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway.

The winner of last season's 1200-metre Telegraph, 1600-metre Haunui Farm WFA Classic and 2000-metre New Zealand Stakes, Avantage began her 2020-21 campaign with a victory in the Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate. She then ran third in the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy before chasing home champion stablemate Melody Belle in the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate and Livamol Classic.

The Railway will be the Fastnet Rock mare's first start since then, but she won a trial at Avondale on December 8.

“We've been really pleased with her,” Richards said. “She's going well. I was very happy with her trial, and she's had a nice exhibition gallop since then. She's going into the race in good order.

“She can be a little vulnerable first-up, but she's a very good horse and they'll certainly know she's there.”

Richards will saddle three runners in the Gr. 3 SkyCity City of Auckland Cup, including In A Twinkling, who ran a big race for third in the Gr. 1 Zabeel Classic on Boxing Day. He finished only a long neck and a long head behind Concert Hall and Supera.


“He stepped up to weight-for-age and ran a super race in the Zabeel Classic,” Richards said. “He was just beaten by a couple of mares with a better turn of foot. Stepping up to 2400 metres will be ideal for him, and we've been very happy with him at home since Boxing Day.”

Savy Yong Blonk has been a perennial bridesmaid in this sort of company, finishing second in last season's edition of this race, plus last month's Gr. 3 Counties Cup and the Gr. 3 Waikato Cup on December 12.

“She keeps producing strong finishes for second in these races,” Richards said. “She's primed and ready to go again this week. She's had a very good preparation, and she just needs a little bit of luck for her to go one better.”


Richards' other runner is Te Akau Caliburn.

“He's going better than his form reads,” he said. “He had a couple of races over unsuitably short trips, then didn't like the rain at Pukekohe, and then his saddle slipped last start. I think he's a better chance than his form suggests, but you do need to take him on trust a little bit.”


Prise De Fer is back to defend his title in the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile, but his consistent performance in strong company means he will carry a lot more weight than the 53 kilograms he won with last season.

“He's going really well, but he's paid the penalty for his good performances,” Richards said. “He's got to carry 60 kilograms, which won't be easy in that field. But if he can carry the weight, he'll be a strong chance.”


One of the standout features of a remarkable season for Richards and Te Akau has been their eight individual two-year-old winners to date. Three of them will line up in Friday's Gr. 2 Barneswood Farm Eclipse Stakes - the Listed Welcome Stakes winner Avonallo, and impressive debut winners Sword Of State and Imperatriz.

“Avonallo won the Welcome Stakes very well, and an eye-catching performance by the runner-up Follow Your Dreams on Boxing Day has given us a bit of confidence,” Richards said.


“Avonallo has been up for a spin around Ellerslie, and he handled it well. He could be a little vulnerable first-up over 1200 metres. We wouldn't be surprised if he was very competitive, but he's mainly there to get him ready for the Karaka Million at the end of January. With this run under his belt, he should be spot-on for that.

“Sword Of State was very good at Te Rapa and has trained on well. Imperatriz is a fast filly who won nicely on debut and has gone the right way since then too.”



Illusion Of Paris goes into the Gr. 2 Valachi Downs Royal Stakes with two recent placings under her belt, while last-start winner You're Welcome will tackle the Dunstan Feeds Stayers' Championship Final.

“Illusion Of Paris has been going well enough and deserves her opportunity,” Richards said. “We'll take the hood off and ride her back. I thought she had a similar profile to Luminous, who was good enough to place in this race for us. We're after that valuable black-type, and she's a nice three-year-old staying prospect.

“You're Welcome did the job well last time. We've spaced his runs out a little bit, which he likes. He might be a little outclassed in this race, but he's won a qualifier, so you have to take a shot at the final.”



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