Salute – Te Akau Shark
21 Dec 2020
Dual Group 1 winner Te Akau Shark (6 g Rip Van Winkle – Bak da Chief, by Chief Bearhart) has unfortunately been retired from the racing.
The gifted chestnut, bred from a notable family, had shared ownership in New Zealand and Australia, gained a cult following early in his career, and won Group 1 races on both sides of the Tasman, while also finishing third in the Cox Plate (Gr. 1, 2040m).
Te Akau Shark looked every bit a potential Group 1 contender, both here and Australia, after winning the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (Gr. 2, 1600m) by six lengths, before finishing second in the Epsom Handicap (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Randwick, and a terrific third in the $5m Cox Plate (Gr. 1, 2040m) at Moonee Valley, during his 2019 spring campaign in Australia.
He was in another league and took his earnings over one-million dollars when produced a stunning performance to win the BCD Group Sprint (Gr. 1, 1400m) in February at Te Rapa, and ramped it up a notch to win his next start in the Chipping Norton Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Royal Randwick, Sydney, a race in which fellow ex-pat Verry Eleegant (Zed) finished second.
It was to be the third last race for the winner of seven from 14 and $1.5m in prize money. Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM purchased ‘The Shark’ for $230,000 at the New Zealand Bloodstock 2016 Ready to Run Sale, from the draft of Lyndhurst Farm, for his owners including Sydney based Steve Mace and good friend, league (and Cronulla Sharks’) star Paul Gallen.
After racing in April at Randwick, Te Akau Shark developed a rare eye condition while spelling and international equine eye surgeons undertook to perform optic implant surgery.
“It’s disappointing that he was unable to get over his eye complaints, but he’ll be remembered as one of the most naturally gifted horses we’ve had through our stable,” said trainer Jamie Richards.
“His Group 1 wins in the Chipping Norton and the weight-for-age at Te Rapa, right from when he won his Maiden on debut, and the 3YO race at Matamata, to running in the 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) at his third start, finishing fourth to stable-mates Embellish (Savabeel) and Age of Fire (Fastnet Rock), he’s always shown to possess natural talent and ability.
“But, ultimately, he had a weakness in his eyes that unfortunately caught up with him and stopped him getting back to the races.
“We just want to do the right thing by the horse and look after him. We tried our best to put implants in his eyes and then he contracted a bout of pneumonia which pretty much undid all the hard work by the surgeons in Sydney.
“We brought him home and gave him a good long spell and a chance to recuperate, but unfortunately he just hasn’t recovered well enough to be seen on a race track again.
“It’s a pity, because he was just starting to become a fully mature racehorse and had so much more left to give. His best could still have been in front of him and it’s heartbreaking for such a wonderful group of owners that were involved in him, as well as the stable and all the team who just love him.
“It’s also sad for the Hollinshead family that breed that line. They also got enormous satisfaction out of him and the way he raced. He was such an exciting and explosive galloper, and commentator Tony Lee once dubbed him an “excitement machine”.