Tangerine Army on the March Again

Date: 11 Apr 2024

Tangerine Army on the March Again

Trevor Marshall ANZ Bloodstock News reports: 

 Te Akau fillies Campionessa and Quintessa all set for Group 1 tests at Randwick on Saturday

Looking to rebound from super sprinter Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) blotting her copybook last Saturday, Te Akau Racing is hopeful of sweeter fortune for two other mares seeking Group 1 glory at Randwick this weekend.

With her fourth in the TJ Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), Imperatriz recorded her first unplaced run in a dazzling 13-start stretch featuring eight top-tier victories, two at Group 2, and a rise to the top few rungs of various global thoroughbred rankings.

The tangerine and blue brigade came away beaten but unbowed, with trainer Mark Walker saying the five-year-old had turned in a good run hampered by a chequered passage in the straight, to finish just 0.6 lengths behind winner Chain Of Lightning (Fighting Sun).

Still, David Ellis’s operation will be hoping for better when two other Group 1 stars step out at Randwick on Saturday, with Campionessa (Contributer) tackling the Queen Of The Turf Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and Quintessa (Shamus Award) the Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

The pair – and their rider Opie Bosson – will have their work cut out.

Campionessa has gate 13 of 17 in a Queen Of The Turf of rare quality, also featuring Coolmore Classic (Gr 1, 1500m) winner Zougotcha (Zoustar), her fellow dual top-level victor – and winner of the corresponding race last year – Atishu (Savabeel), the resurgent Olentia (Zoustar), another two-time Group 1 winner Tropical Squall (Prized Icon), and more.

And Quintessa will have to topple a prospective champion and fellow Kiwi in Orchestral (Savabeel), the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) and Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) heroine who will be seeking her sixth straight victory.

And if she weren’t enough, Godolphin’s Zardozi (Kingman) is expected to relish the rise from her Vinery third to the 2400 metres, which more closely resembles the distance of her VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) triumph last spring.

The Queen Of The Turf field also features the Mick Kent-trained Eternal Flame (Sacred Falls), who beat Campionessa into third at their last start in Moonee Valley’s Sunline Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m).

But while Campionessa has been up for some time – this will be her tenth run of a campaign begun in September and broken only by an eight-week let-up in the spring – Walker feels the six-year-old is still performing at her peak.

Having won her first three starts in New Zealand following that mini-break, including her elite-level breakthrough in Pukekohe’s Zabeel Classic (Gr 1, 2050m), Campionessa crossed the Tasman in February to narrowly win Caulfield’s Peter Young Stakes (Gr 2, 1800m). Then came her luckless Sunline Stakes run, when agonisingly blocked for room in the eight-runner field and charging home once clear at the 100 metres to be beaten 1.5 lengths.

The memory of that run does, however, shine a more hopeful light on drawing wide this Saturday.

“At least we won’t get bad luck and get hemmed in like last time,” Walker told ANZ Bloodstock News. “She was desperately unlucky last start, but she should get a clear run down the outside this time.

“But she’s proven herself class-wise, and she’s been in terrific form. Plus, you never know by that time of the day [race 9], it might be better off being out on that section of the track anyway.

“We normally let her find her feet and ride her where she’s happy, and that’ll be the case again. She’s got a good turn of foot which brings her into her races.”

Campionessa – bought for $60,000 at the 2018 Magic Millions National Sale on the Gold Coast, having been passed in at Karaka – has won from the 1215 metres of her three-year-old maiden debut success to the 2500 metres of Riccarton’s Metropolitan Trophy (Listed) in November, 2022.

The daughter of Bella Carolina (O’Reilly), a three-time winner up to 1400 metres, became Contributer’s (High Chaparral) second Group 1 winner when successful over 2050 metres, yet Walker believes the Queen Of The Turf is right in her distance sweet-spot.

“I think 1600 to 1800 is her real good range,” he said of the mare who’s now won 11 of her 31 starts, and almost $1.2 million in prize-money.

The Chris Waller-trained Zougotcha, who won Rosehill’s Millie Fox Stakes (Gr 2, 1300m) first-up before her Coolmore Classic success, was scratched from last week’s rain-affected Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) early on race morning. While she has won two from four on heavy, including her first top-tier success in Randwick’s Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) on a Heavy 8, the track at the time of her scratching will have looked likely to be more in the 10 range.

In any case, Waller may have fancied her chances better against fillies and mares in this weekend’s $1 million event than if jumping from gate two in a larger Doncaster field, a case reflected in her ranking as $3.50 favourite for this Saturday’s race.

“Zougotcha’s there after being scratched from the Doncaster,” Walker said. “I’d say she’ll be the hardest to beat.”

Bookmakers last night had Atishu a $5 second-favourite after an Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) third which followed her victory in the Blamey Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m), also at Flemington.

The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained three-year-old Tropical Squall, whose first Group 1 win came over this course against her own age in September’s Flight Stakes, was at $7, the shortest of the four three-year-olds in receipt of 2.5 kilograms from the mares under the race’s weight-for-age conditions.

The Waller-trained four-year-old Olentia was at $9, after returning to form to easily win her first race in seven last start in Rosehill’s Emancipation Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m), the furthest distance she has raced over in her 13-start, six-win career. Campionessa appeared a touch over the odds at $17.

Quintessa will face fewer opponents in the ten-runner Oaks, but is also a $17 chance in a market dominated by Orchestral at $1.80, with Zardozi at $3.50.

A $170,000 Karaka purchase, Quintessa broke through at the top level with a neck win against males in the Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) for three-year-olds at Trentham in January.

She followed that effort up with two fourths in the BCD Group Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) at Te Rapa and the Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) at Flemington in her first start west of the Tasman. She then had her first run beyond a mile in Moonee Valley’s Alister Clark Stakes (Gr 2, 2040m), and only lost on the bob after a stirring battle down the straight with fellow Kiwi raider Antrim Coast (Roc De Cambes).

Walker acknowledges sizeable obstacles in Orchestral, Zardozi, and the rise to 2400 metres, but hopes Quintessa’s breeding will hold her in good stead.

Her sire Shamus Award has had five other Group 1 winners who’ve succeeded over distance: Incentivise, Duais, Media Award, Mr Quickie, and El Patroness – who took out the Australian Oaks in 2022.

And Quintessa’s dam Chaquinta (High Chaparral) was a three-time Sydney winner, at Warwick Farm over 2200 metres and 2400 metres, and at Canterbury over 2700 metres.

“Orchestral certainly looks very hard to beat. Zardozi is a VRC Oaks winner who’s a very good filly. But anything can happen in a horse race. We’re very happy with our filly,” Walker said of Quintessa, who’ll be floated to Sydney with Campionessa on Thursday night, from Te Akau’s Cranbourne base.

“There’s always a query first time at 2400 metres. You don’t really know till you try it. But she’s out of a High Chaparral mare who won to 2700 metres, so that gives you a bit of confidence.”

Walker wasn’t enticed by the possibility of a relaxed pace in the ten-runner field. “They either get the trip or they don’t. It doesn’t matter what size the field is,” he added.


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