Te Akau Chases Third Wellington Guineas

Date: 15 Mar 2024

Te Akau Chases Third Wellington Guineas

NZ Racing News reports:

After an up-and-down campaign ranging from 1200m all the way up to 2100m, Te Akau Racing is hoping to see Tokyo Tycoon back at his brilliant best in the Gr.2 Life Direct Wellington Guineas (1400m) at Trentham on Saturday.

The Te Akau team is shooting for a third Wellington Guineas victory in the last four years, having won it with Need I Say More in 2021 and Cognito in 2023.

Tokyo Tycoon was New Zealand’s champion two-year-old last season, with four sparkling wins including the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and a dominant performance in the Gr.3 Matamata Slipper (1200m). His two-year-old campaign alone netted almost $650,000 in stakes, far surpassing the $125,000 that David Ellis paid to buy him from Karaka 2022.

The son of Satono Aladdin kicked off his three-year-old season on a winning note in the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) at Hastings in September, then finished fifth in the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m), third behind Pendragon and Quintessa in a 1200m race at Te Rapa, and last in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1400m) with rider Opie Bosson reporting that he felt indifferent in his action.

Tokyo Tycoon ran a big race for fifth in the Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) in late January, then tested his Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) credentials in the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m), where he finished seventh.

“We had a crack at getting him to the Derby, but it just didn’t work out and the 2100m in the Avondale Guineas didn’t really suit him,” said Sam Bergerson, who trains in partnership with Mark Walker.

“We freshened him up after that and he’s come back really well. We’re very happy with how he’s looking.

“This is more than likely going to be his final run for this preparation. If he brings his A-game, we have no doubt that he’d be right in it. But it’s just a matter of whether or not he can recapture the very best form that we know he’s capable of.”

Tokyo Tycoon is joined in the Wellington Guineas field by My Lips Are Sealed, who burst on the scene with a dominant maiden victory at Avondale in the spring. Her best performance since then came in her only start at Trentham – a close second in the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m), where she was beaten by a nose by leading Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) contender Still Bangon.

The Ace High filly was freshened after finishing sixth in the Listed Oaks Prelude (1800m) at New Plymouth on February 3.

“She’s a little bit like Tokyo Tycoon, where the step up over a longer trip just didn’t quite work out,” Bergerson said. “She had an exhibition gallop between races at Matamata a couple of weeks ago, where her work was really good.

“Her only previous run at Trentham was a top run in the Eulogy, so we’re hoping for more of the same. We’re not quite sure what the weather is going to do, but if there is a bit of rain around, it might bring her into it and disadvantage a few of the others.”

Te Akau also has a proud recent record in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m), having won it with Amarelinha in 2021 and homebred filly Belle En Rouge a year later.

This year’s hopes rest with the promising Almanzor filly Qali Al Farrasha, who was also co-bred by Te Akau Stud. She was a four-length maiden winner at Matamata before being beaten by a neck by Positivity when second in the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m).

“That was a really good effort,” Bergerson said. “Stepping up in trip was a little bit of a query, and it was her first time in stakes company as well, but she really handled it well. She relaxed beautifully, which we weren’t sure she was going to do.

“She loomed up to win in the straight, but Opie (Bosson, jockey) thought she just had a bit of a look around in the last 100m or so. Hopefully she’ll take some good improvement from that experience.

“She’s trained on nicely since then. She worked with her talented stablemate Mehzebeen on the course proper on Tuesday morning and it was a very solid piece of work. Opie gave her the tick of approval after that.

“Going up to 2400m is a query, but that’s something they’ve all got to do. We think she’s had the right sort of build-up to put her best foot forward.”

Petrucci looms as a major lightweight threat in the Listed Lincoln Farms Lightning Handicap (1200m). Her last three appearances have produced a stylish win at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, a second to the exciting Master Fay in the Gr.3 Concorde Handicap (1200m), and a close last-start fourth in the Gr.3 King’s Plate (1200m).

“She’s been performing well in strong company,” Bergerson said. “We think this is a nice race for her, getting in on the minimum. Michael McNab knows her well and is going to ride her again.

“Our feeling is that she’s a bit better left-handed, so we’re looking forward to getting her to Trentham. Her work has been super leading into it.”

Two-year-old colt Altari will audition for next month’s Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) with a run in Saturday’s Jennian Homes Sires’ Prelude (1200m).

The Savabeel colt’s only previous start produced a smart win over 1200m at Matamata on February 29.

“That was a good, tough effort on debut,” Bergerson said. “He was three wide and had every reason to chuck it in, but he kept sticking his neck out and really wanted the win. He’s definitely going to benefit from that too.

“It’s not easy taking a two-year-old all the way down to Wellington, but we think he’ll take the travel in his stride.

“He’s a really nice horse. We’re hoping to see him run well again on Saturday, and then we can push on to the Sires’ in a few weeks.”


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