Te Akau Shark Simply Sublime
15 Nov 2018
Looking every bit a Group One contender, here and in Australia, Te Akau Shark (4 g Rip Van Winkle – Bak da Chief, by Chief Bearhart) was in a league of his own when crossing the line six lengths clear in the $230,000 Coupland’s Bakeries 1600 metres on the middle day of Cup Week at Riccarton.
“He has to have been the most impressive winner of the race,” said sponsor Ray Coupland. “He’s a very classy horse, that will have to go to Australia, and I think he’ll give them a bit of a shake up too.”
Loving the expansive surrounds and galloping track at Riccarton, Te Akau Shark got into a nice rhythm for rider Opie Bosson, settling ninth on the outer, tracked up three wide and seven to eight lengths off the leader at the 600m, and once presented on straightening he breezed on by untouched in what could be described as a breathtaking performance.
“The slow speed early was a little bit of a worry, but we were in a position where he could get to the outside, and as soon as I let the handbrake off, it was like, Wow,” Bosson said. “He came back to me nicely and was pretty relaxed in the run. He could be a very exciting horse to take to Australia. He has all the talents of a Group One horse, and more.”
At his only previous course attempt, Te Akau Shark almost provided a stable trifecta when finishing fourth to stable-mates Embellish (Savabeel) and subsequent Group One winner Age of Fire (Fastnet Rock) in the 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) during Cup Week last year.
The obvious favourite for the Coupland’s since his phenomenal three-length win in Red Badge Spring Sprint (Gr. 3, 1400m) on Saturday 6 October at Hastings, Te Akau Shark ran the 1600 metres in 1:36.3, and a scintillating last 600m estimated to be around 32 seconds.
Time Keeper Nigel Marks said in his lengthy tenure he had only clocked a handful of horses running 32 seconds for the last 600 metres and that was generally down the chute from the 1000 or 1200-metre marks, and with a wind behind him.
Purchased by David Ellis for $230,000 at the New Zealand Bloodstock 2016 Ready to Run Sale, from the draft of Lyndhurst Farm, Te Akau Shark is from Waikato Cup (Gr. 2, 2400m) winner Bak da Chief, and recorded his fifth win from six starts for owners Steve Mace, David Ellis, Paul Gallen, Greg Taylor, Chris Russell, Matt Allenby, Wayne Knight, Ruth Redwood, William Thrupp, Jim & Pauline Hepburn, and Donna & Robert Rudd.
“He’s a really exciting horse and Jamie (Richards) has done an absolutely incredible job in managing and training him, and I’m so thrilled for the owners who are having the thrill of a lifetime with this horse,” Ellis said.
“He went up five and half kilos off his last win, so to win like he did by six lengths, carrying 58.5 kilos is a pretty big performance.”
Raced at five week intervals this season, having resumed with a win over 1200 metres on 1 September at Hastings, Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards had been pleased with a solo exhibition gallop on 27 October at Ellerslie, and even more so with his training since.
“He’s the sort of horse that gets us all out of bed in the mornings and I’d like to give thanks to the staff at home. Chelsea (Burdan) who rides him every day, Scott Lucock and Mette Mosebo, looking after him in the colt barn.
“It’s a massive team effort; to the team that’s down here in the South Island, Mason (Stevens), Dad (Paul Richards) and Libby (Richards, Jamie’s sister).
“And I’d like to give Dave (Ellis) big thanks, because he bought him and syndicated amongst these boys and a great group of owners. He met Steve Mace beside the pool in Hawaii, so it’s quite an incredible story and amazing to be a part of it.
“He got back in the field on a slow speed, but we know what he’s capable of doing. He’s a very exciting horse and we can’t wait to take him to Australia in the autumn.”
Through that poolside meeting, and a as friend of Mace, Cronulla Sharks’ rugby league legend Paul Gallen also joined the ownership and the former N.S.W. State of Origin captain was on hand to see the victory.
“Hopefully, he’ll be running around in Sydney, so I won’t have to travel so far,” Gallen said. “He’s the first horse I’ve been involved in and to actually come and watch the race live, and meet the horse, was real highlight of mine. I can’t wait until he comes to Sydney, and fingers crossed the result’s the same.”
A strong chestnut, Te Akau Shark appears to have inherited the colouring and markings in keeping with progeny by his dam-sire Chief Bearhart (Chief’s Crown), a Canadian stallion that won 12 of his 26 starts. One of his best racing progeny was 2006 New Zealand Filly of the Year Shikoba, trained at Te Akau by Mark Walker.
Te Akau principal David Ellis said: “It’s an absolute thrill to be here winning this race, in which there are legends involved. Firstly, a legend of the turf, sponsor Ray Coupland. He’s a great friend of mine and what he’s done for this club and racing is incredible. Thank you to his wife, Jill, and also son Lance.
“Another legend, jockey Opie Bosson, what a beautiful ride and he’s in great form for the summer ahead.
“And to the owners, they’re all legends for investing in this horse with Te Akau, so congratulations to you all.
“Jamie Richards, not a legend yet, but wait 20 years, because he is a very talented young trainer. He’s doing an unbelievable job with the staff and the horses and he had Te Akau Shark present in tremendous condition and peaking on the day. It was a wonderful training performance.”
Ellis also served warning of his upcoming attendance at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale on 21 & 22 November at Karaka. “I’ll be there and I’ll be trying to buy the next Te Akau Shark, so keep an eye on our website to get involved or phone Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) or myself,” he said.
Jamie Richards said: “He’s the best horse we’ve had in our care for quite some time and it’s a real privilege to have him in the stable. I’d like to thank Dave (Ellis) for putting me into this position. Thankfully, it’s all gone pretty well so far and it’s a massive team effort. From the farriers, dentists, vets, physiotherapists, chiropractors, no stone is left unturned in the kind of care that these horses get.”
Opie Bosson said: “I’d like to make a special thanks to Dave and Karyn. I wouldn’t be standing here today without their hard work getting the weight off me and getting me back in the saddle. And I’d like to thank my wife, Emily, who has had to put up with a lot.”
Australian based owner Chris Russell, son of a U.K. bookmaker said: “It was a phenomenal run. I think we were confident going in, but just before he jumped out of the barriers you get butterflies because you realise you’ve got such a short priced favourite.
“The way he let down, as he always does, when he comes wide and circles them, and Opie hardly touched him, just a gentle nudge and he just went. Bring on Sydney, I guess, is where we’d like to see him have a go.
“It’s a real credit to the Te Akau team: Dave and Jamie, for spacing his runs. When we heard he was only having three runs, it seemed like big breaks, but they had him in perfect order. He looked magnificent in the mounting yard and he ran to suit.
“It’s such a massive thrill and you could tell the crowd was enjoying him, too. It was nice to hear the roar and it’s great to see good horses, but to have a share in one is especially nice and makes the beer taste sweet. It’s the first time we’ve had all the boys together from Australia that are in the horse, so that’s made it really cool, obviously.
“The size of the horse, I wasn’t too worried about the weight. He looks like he can carry weight and the acceleration he showed at Hastings, with 60-kilos in his first start, I don’t think any of us were too nervous about the weight, but to see him let down and win by that sort of distance just shows he’s revelling in it.”
Russell also flew his father, Geoff, over for the race and he thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
Te Akau Shark was strapped by Mason Stevens.