Season Review: Big, Bold Brando

Date: 10 Aug 2023

Season Review: Big, Bold Brando


With the stellar 2022/23 season now complete, we continue our review of our black type stand-out stars!  In New Zealand, of our 203 season wins, 33 came at Group/Listed level - with big, bold Brando, the good-looking boy contributing not one, but two Group victories ...


Already Group One placed twice over 1600 metres, Brando (5 g Savabeel – Saoirse, by Iffraaj) took another step in the right direction when winning the $120,000 Ultimate Mazda Japan Trophy (Gr. 2, 1600m) on 25 March at Tauranga.

After coming from last when running home well for fourth in the Open Handicap 1600 metres on 11 March at Trentham, following back-to-back wins prior over 1200 metres, including at Tauranga, Brando had trainer Mark Walker pull the right rein when stretching him out again.

Given a corker ride by former Te Akau apprentice Wiremu Pinn, Brando camped behind the leaders and once sighting daylight in the straight was able to again show the brilliance that has earned him eight wins.

It was a performance of reckoning by Brando, who had previously placed in the Levin Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m) and Otaki WFA Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m), winning with real authority by two lengths in a manner that suggested not only could a Group One win be within his grasp but also that he may even get over more ground. 

“It was a really good win and great to see him back in such great form,” Walker said. 

“He’s really put it all together heading into the autumn this year and I give plenty of credit to everyone that has played a part in trying to rejuvenate him and keep him interested in racing. 

“We’ve done a lot of dressage and show jumping with him away from the stables and tried any number of different things just to keep his mind on the job – water treadmills etc, you name it, we’ve tried it.”



Brando became the fourth Japan Trophy winner for Te Akau, following Society Beau (Bigstone) and Integrate (Integra), and most recently Scott Base (Dalghar) in 2020.  

A beautiful looking horse, purchased by David Ellis CNZM at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run sale, Brando was bred at Fairdale Stud, from whom Ellis also purchased $1 million Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m) and Sistema Stakes (Gr. 1, 1200m) winner, now standing at Newhaven Stud in Australia, Cool Aza  Beel (Savabeel).

Brando did indeed step up in distance successfully when winning his next start in the Awapuni Gold Cup (Gr. 2, 2000m).


Te Akau previous wins in the Japan Trophy (Gr. 2, 1600m):

2020 – Scott Base (Dalgar) 

2002 – Society Beau (Bigstone)

1999 – Integrate (Integra)




Winning four of his last five starts, Brando rose in distance to win the $140,000 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup (Gr. 2, 2000m) on 1 April at Awapuni.

Having shown the brilliance that had earned him eight victories when winning the Japan Trophy (Gr. 2, 1600m) a week earlier at Tauranga, Brando stepped to a middle distance for first time, and on quick back up, and was equal to the task courtesy of an economical ride by Opie Bosson.

Drawn wide (13), Brando was steadied to the rail with a lap to run, remaining rear inner before saving ground inside the 600m and he proved too strong in the finish for recent Taranaki Cup (Gr. 3, 1800m) and Kaimai Stakes (Listed, 2000m) winner Colorado Star (Alamosa).



“I rode him back to run the distance out and, gee, he just kept coming up underneath me at business end,” said Bosson, on dismounting. 

“He’s one of my favourite horses at the stable, so I’m just so happy to get a big win on him.

“He’s in form now and Mark (Walker) is doing an amazing job with him. We weren’t sure whether he was going to run 2000 metres, but he did it pretty easily. I had a lap full of horse and he let down beautifully.”

Te Akau last won the Awapuni Gold Cup in 2018 with Our Abbadean (Lookin’ At Lucky), who at the time set a new benchmark (16) of stakes' wins in a season for the stable, and which the stable has since eclipsed four times.

Walker said: “It was a terrific win and outstanding ride by Opie.

“He’s always shown us that he’s got the ability, but he’s really put it altogether this campaign and now that he can get 2000 metres it opens up more opportunities for next season.

“We’re quite thrilled with his win today and he’s rewarding the owners with some great experiences.”

Winning the Japan Trophy (Gr. 2, 1600m) by two lengths appeared a performance of reckoning for Brando, who had previously placed in the Levin Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m) and Otaki WFA Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m), and to step up a week later with such a resounding effort was testament to both horse and trainer.

“He’s won two Group Two races in a week, so very good effort by the horse, Mark (Walker), and the Colt Barn team,” Ellis said.

“The way he won over a mile last Saturday at Tauranga, and ran on so strongly after the line, it looked like he might be okay stepping up and the Awapuni Gold Cup was a perfect race to try him.

“It’s a thrill to see him in such good form. John and Denise Elstob are shareholders in Brando and we’re celebrating their wedding today, so they couldn’t get a better present.”

By season end, Brando had taken his record to nine wins and eight placings from 25 starts, earning $413,050 in his career to date. 


Te Akau previously won the Awapuni Gold Cup (Gr. 2, 2000m):

2018 – Our Abbadean (Lookin’ At Lucky)

2013 - Betterthanever (French Deputy)

2005 - Distinctly Secret (Distinctly North)

2004 - Distinctly Secret (Distinctly North)


Sign up to our newsletter