Te Akau 2YOs Take Centre Stage

Date: 22 Feb 2023

Te Akau 2YOs Take Centre Stage


NZ Racing News reports:


Mark Walker would love nothing more than to see the jockey statue in the Matamata racecourse birdcage painted in the colours of a Te Akau Racing-trained winner.

That's one of the spinoffs for connections of the winner of Saturday's Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders' Stakes (1200m), providing the winning trainer a bit of one upmanship on his colleagues.

“Te Akau has a good record in the race and we won it a few times before I left to train in Singapore,” Walker said.

“A big part is that the winning colours get painted on the statue and everyone has to walk past that statue to time their horses on gallops mornings so that's where there's a bit of rivalry. But apart from that, it's always a good race to win.”

Walker will saddle a trio of runners in the two-year-old fillies race: Sky On Fire (winner - main picture), Rubicon Crossing (runner up main picture) and Zourion (debut winner below).



The premiership-leading trainer has a good opinion of all three but was wary that a deluge of forecast rain for Friday could disadvantage the trio.

“A lot depends on what the weather does. There's 48mm of rain forecast to fall on Friday, which won't be ideal,” Walker said.

“If it does come, it's hard to know what to expect, though the track is back to good and should be able to cope with a bit of rain.”

TAB bookmakers have installed the Stephen Marsh-trained Ulanova as a $1.85 favourite for the Breeders' Stakes ahead of Zourion at $3 with Sky On Fire and Rubicon Crossing sharing the sixth line of betting at $16.

“Zourian is a really nice filly, more of a three-year-old type doing it on natural ability,” Walker said.

“She's raced by Brendan and Jo (Lindsay) at Cambridge Stud and she won really nicely in her first race at Taupo in what we think will be a nice, strong form race. She's got the fresh set of legs and she's going really well.

“Sky On Fire probably has to step up from her run at Taupo but she wears blinkers for the first time and we're hoping that will make a big difference. Rubicon Crossing has been in consistent form all season but again this is another step up.”

Walker will saddle last-start Karaka Million winner Tokyo Tycoon and Karaka Million-placed Trobriand in the Gr.3 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m) for two-year-old colts and geldings.



The pair worked together at Matamata on Tuesday, rounding out their preparations to Walker's satisfaction.

“They worked as a pair and they worked nicely. They are both pretty laidback customers and save their best for raceday, which is a good trait to have,” he said.

“They've had a freshen-up and been to the water treadmill. They've been back in the stable and had a jumpout here on Friday and they're both going well.”

Walker will assess how his two-year-olds perform on Saturday before deciding on his hand for the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe on March 11 and the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on April 1.

“It depends how they perform on Saturday and how they pull up. It's quite a quick turnaround so some of them might go straight to Palmerston North for the Sires' there.”

Walker will also bid to add to his Group One tally on Saturday when he sends Wild Night to Otaki for the El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m), aiming to improve on his last-start placing in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa.

Also there will be Perfect Scenario, a last-start winner of the Gr.3 White Robe Lodge (1600m) at Wingatui, and Group One winner Prise De Fer, who was unplaced in the same Otago race.

“We're happy with Wild Night. Michael (McNab) gave him a lovely ride at Te Rapa but probably the last 100m he was running on empty so we've brought him back to the mile and he'll wear blinkers,” Walker said.



“Michael came over to ride him on Tuesday in the blinkers. He's a pretty laidback customer and that's the way he worked. This race has come up a bit stronger than everyone expected but he'll make his presence felt.

“Perfect Scenario was brilliant at Wingatui. The old boy's loving it down there. It was a great ride by Joe Kamaruddin. Everyone scouted wide and he stuck to the paint but he's got to really step up again on Saturday to measure up to these.

“Prise De Fer didn't really fire up at Wingatui and we didn't find anything amiss with him, perhaps the heat and the travel just got to him.”


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