Strong Te Akau Team Takes on Legends' Day

Date: 9 Feb 2024

Strong Te Akau Team Takes on Legends' Day

NZ Racing News reports:

Te Akau Racing has landed at least one of Legends Day’s major prizes in each of the last five editions of the showpiece Te Rapa meeting, and trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson have assembled another formidable contingent for Saturday’s 2024 version.

Te Akau has a particularly stellar record in the weight-for-age Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m), winning it in four of the last five years with Melody Belle (2019), Te Akau Shark (2020), Avantage (2021) and Imperatriz (2023).

Their only BCD Group Sprint defeat during that period came when Levante won it in 2022, edging out Te Akau mare Entriviere by three-quarters of a length. But the Te Akau stable still collected a Group prize during the 2022 edition of the meeting with Self Obsession taking out the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) – a race they also won in 2021 with Amarelinha.

High-quality fields throughout Saturday’s card will ensure the Legends Day spoils are as hard to win in 2024 as they have ever been, but the country’s leading stable will be out in force.

Te Akau’s hopes of adding another BCD Group Sprint to their collection rest with three-year-old filly Quintessa (main picture).

The daughter of Shamus Award has had six starts for four wins and two placings, headed by a last-start victory in last month’s Gr.1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham. Bought by David Ellis for $170,000 from Wentwood Grange’s draft at Karaka 2022, she has earned $444,650.

Quintessa will attempt to become only the sixth three-year-old to win this sprint feature, and the first since Te Akau’s Xtravagant in 2016. The others were Western Red (1994), Abit Leica (1984), Pinson (1983) and the only three-year-old filly to win the race so far, Mop (1976).

“We’ve had a bit of luck in this race in the last few years, but on paper it looks like it’s going to be a pretty tough one to win this year,” Bergerson said. “We’re going to need the right run and a bit of luck.

“But one thing we can say about Quintessa is that she’s a winner. She doesn’t win by massive margins, but she knows how to win and does everything she can every time she races.

“She was there to be beaten in the Levin Classic, but she kept kicking and was so tough to the line. She’s pretty lazy at home, but once she gets to the races, she knows her role.

“She’s a three-year-old filly up against some seasoned Group One horses, as well as the new star in Crocetti, so it’s going to be tough. But we just hope that she runs another good race. It’s a nice stepping stone towards the Australian Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) in three weeks’ time.”

Campionessa is Te Akau’s runner in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m). The daughter of Contributer ran second behind Sharp ‘N’ Smart in last year’s edition of this race, then chased home Prowess in the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m).

A deserved Group One victory finally went Campionessa’s way in the Zabeel Classic (2050m) on Boxing Day. In her only appearance since then, the six-year-old finished ninth on a deteriorating track in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham.

“The wet ground tripped her up that day, and she was drawn one,” Bergerson said. “They were scouting wide all day, and Matt (Cameron, jockey) said she just never got going in that ground.

“She’s back at Te Rapa on Saturday, where she’s got a fantastic record. It’s another strong race with some top-quality gallopers, obviously Legarto is going to be the one to beat, but she’s going into the race in good order.

“We gave her a quiet week after the Thorndon. She galloped in between races at Matamata on Wednesday, which was her one hit-out for the week, and she went really well. Niranjan Parmar rides a lot of her work, and he said she felt spot on.”

The Fillies’ Classic is sponsored in perpetuity by Te Akau’s David Ellis and Karyn Fenton-Ellis. The stable’s representative in this year’s edition of the $175,000 feature is the promising Inspired By Art.

This week marks a step up in class, taking on the likes of Group One winner Molly Bloom and eight other Group performers. But the daughter of So You Think has made a favourable impression on Walker and Bergerson, placing in both of her first two starts before stepping up to 1600m and scoring a strong last-start maiden win on January 24.

“I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but it’s a very good field on Saturday,” Bergerson said. “A lot of different form lines are coming together for what’s going to be a fantastic race. But we’re confident the step up to 2000m will suit our filly, whereas it might be a query for a few of the others. We think Inspired By Art is looking for that distance and potentially further.

“It was a really good effort to win her maiden last time. She found a bit of trouble, but managed to get herself out of it and was strong through the line. We think the key is to ride her cold.

“She’s worked well this week. She has to improve, stepping up against some of these quality fillies, but we do have a good opinion of her. She’s a promising staying filly.”

Te Akau also holds a strong undercard hand – most notably the Allied Security (1200m), in which Certainly is rated a $1.60 favourite.

The Waikato Stud homebred ran second on debut behind the quality three-year-old Pendragon, then won impressively in her second start. In her only other race, the Savabeel filly flew home from last for a close sixth in the Levin Classic.

“She’s definitely one that a lot of people are going to be watching early in the day on Saturday, and the TAB market reflects that,” Bergerson said.

“She has so much upside. She was pretty unlucky in the Levin Classic. Warren (Kennedy, jockey) said she got on the wrong leg around that home bend and ended up getting wider than we would have liked, but her sectional times were fantastic. She was a close sixth in a real blanket finish, and we wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d won the race with a better draw and some luck in the running.

“We’re excited to see her step out on Saturday. Our only worry would be going from the mile back down to 1200m, but we’ve deliberately kept her on the fresh side.

“She had a hit-out on the course proper at Matamata before the races on Wednesday and went really well.

“If she performs up to expectations on Saturday, she could head over to Australia and take on some good three-year-old racing over there. But she’d probably have to win to justify that.”


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