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Richards Whets His Appetite For What’s Ahead

13 Sep 2020

Richards Whets His Appetite For What’s Ahead

Dennis Ryan reports for New Zealand’s premier racing weekly Raceform:

In a standout 2019-20 season, champion trainer Jamie Richards set a benchmark that he or anyone else would be hard pressed to better.

The follow-up could hardly have been better than what Richards achieved on northern racing’s first big day of the season at Te Rapa last Saturday – a feature double with Avantage (main picture) in the Gr. 2 Valachi Downs Foxbridge Plate and Need I Say More in the Gr. 3 WRC Northland Breeders’ Stakes. Now the Matamata conditioner is ready for what’s around the corner.

On next Saturday’s opening day of the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival Richards will saddle up Avantage as the red hot favourite for the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy, who will set out to emulate her stablemate Melody Belle.

This time last year Melody Belle had already dispatched her Tarzino Trophy rivals before making history as the first horse to add the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate and Livamol Classic. Whether Avantage can go the whole way as well only time will tell, but there’s no doubting her trainer’s satisfaction with her current condition.

“It’s been a long winter with lockdown and wet tracks, so to get out on a decent surface at Te Rapa with some of our top performers and come away with two feature wins was just the start we wanted to make,” Richards told RaceForm. 

Richards has quickly learnt to soak up pressure and comes across as very relaxed in assessing Avantage’s prospects in the first Group One race of the domestic season.

“She’s a gross-doing mare and has plenty of improvement in her. She had a decent blow afterwards and we saw her change legs at the 50 metres when she ran out of petrol. So yes, I’m looking forward to next week.”

Avantage had a midweek TAB quote of $1.80 alone at the top of the Tarzino Trophy market. Next at $6.50 was last season’s star filly Jennifer Eccles ahead of brave Foxbridge Plate runner-up Tavi Mac at $8 and the Richards-trained Foxbridge Plate third Prise de Fer at $10. 

“Prise de Fer won’t be going to the first day, he’s a bit of a fussy eater and is better off waiting for the 1600 metres (Windsor Park Plate) on the second day down there and then the Livamol (2040m) on the last day.”

Whether Avantage is allowed the chance to follow in the footsteps of Melody Belle is a decision for later. “All going to plan she’ll go to the Windsor Park, but we’ll leave a decision on the third leg until later as we might opt to send her to Australia.”

Richards has allowed his unbeaten three-year-old Need I Say More an easy week with a view to the Hawke’s Bay Guineas on September 29 as his next step to the New Zealand 2000 Guineas.

He also reports that stable star Melody Belle has arrived back at the Matamata stable following the decision to abandon her quizzical Sydney spring campaign.

“It’s good to see her back in her box next to Avantage. She arrived home on Monday and I’m pleased to say looks very well, but we’ll take a few days to make up our minds on a plan for her.”

Everyone watching last week’s Te Rapa action could not help but be impressed by Avantage’s impressive performance, including Shaune Ritchie, the trainer of Tarzino second favourite Jennifer Eccles.

“No doubt Avantage is the benchmark, she’s clearly got the drum on the Foxbridge Plate horses and who knows about the rest? Jennifer Eccles is the new kid on the block heading to Hastings, and as an Oaks winner she’s having to come back to 1400 metres.”

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