Te Akau Stable Star Of The Month – Avantage
27 Aug 2021
Prior to racing, now six-year-old Avantage (Fastnet Rock – Asavant, by Zabeel) appeared a classy package at the trials before winning impressively on debut in the 2YO 800 metres at Riccarton in October 2017.
Fast forward, the filly purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM for $210,000 at the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale has recorded 16 wins from 27 starts and amassed $2.1 million prize money for Te Akau Avantage Syndicate (Mgr: Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM).
A given for the Champion Two-Year-Old title, after notching her fourth consecutive win in the $1m Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m), and finishing second to stable-mate Sword of Osman (Savabeel) in the Sistema Stakes (Gr. 1, 1200m), Avantage extended her fabulous record with a huge victory in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m).
A Group Three winner as a three-year-old in Australia, overcoming heavy ground with a hearty performance in the Birthday Card Stakes (Gr. 3, 1200m) on Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill, she has simply continued to improve since.
A powerhouse galloper, unique in her action at full flight, and the type to run through brick walls, Avantage is the ultimate warrior. No matter the distance, having won Group One races from 1200 metres to 2000 metres, she displays determination to win and once at peak is very hard to beat.
Her level of versatility is seldom seen.
Last season alone, she won five Group Ones, including four in a row, and lifted her number at elite level to nine.
In light of stable-mate Melody Belle (Commands), who during last season surpassed the Group One record of Sunline (Desert Sun) to establish 14 Group One victories, and had the measure of Avantage in the Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m), Livamol Classic (Gr. 1, 2040m), and Bonecrusher NZ Stakes (Gr. 1, 2000m), those five Group Ones could have become eight and now 12 in total.
“There were 21 Group Ones in New Zealand last season and Avantage won five of them, three seconds, and a third,” Ellis said. “I’d like to thank all our owners in this great mare and congratulate them on their incredible success.”
Avantage ended her previous campaign in April, winning the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Te Rapa, on a day that trainer Jamie Richards established a new national record (144) for wins in a season, while it was also fitting that she was able to notch her ninth Group One victory in the 50th running of such a prestigious event.
With nine Group One wins, Avantage is the record-holder for her champion Australian sire Fastnet Rock (Danehill). Next best, Atlantic Jewel, bred on the same Fastnet Rock/Zabeel cross, has four. While interestingly, of his 41 Group One winners, six of the eight multiple winners are fillies.
A South Island bred family, courtesy of Willie & Karen Calder, the dam of Avantage, Asavant (Zabeel), won the Warstep Stakes (Listed, 2000m) as a three-year-old at Riccarton, gaining a Group One placing when finishing third in the Darci Brahma International Stakes (2000m), and from the family of Hong Kong star D B Pin (Darci Brahma), a Group One winner of $24m.
While difficult to pinpoint her best win to date, victory by Avantage in the 2020 Telegraph (Gr. 1, 1200m) at Trentham, the first of a Telegraph double, deserves mention.
Avantage had all the right attributes to win the Telegraph, but drew the outside barrier (13) and it took both a courageous performance and brilliant ride by Opie Bosson to get the job done.
Bosson, who during the previous season surpassed Hall of Fame jockey Lance O’Sullivan for the record number of career Group One wins, notched his 69th at elite level and it was surely one of his very best. Driving the mare into midfield amidst potential carnage, Bosson was able to steady Avantage immediately and when he presented her in the straight she sprinted hard to win.
“I was worried about the wide draw, but you can’t take it away from her, she’s all class,” Bosson said. “She was just outstanding, today. I knew she was back in this campaign, through her trials and everything like that and we’ve been really happy with her. She improved so much with her first-up run for second in the Hallmark (Listed, 1200m), so we were quietly confident.
“Te Akau has been a huge supporter of mine and David (Ellis) buys amazing horses. It’s a pleasure to ride for him and hopefully I can keep riding for him.”
For champion trainer Jamie Richards, Avantage holds a special place in his heart. Rightfully so, after providing nine of his 46 Group Ones and he had this to say: “Avantage is built very strongly. She is small to medium-sized, but almost built like a colt. She has great strength, a very good middle, and a big hind end. She has great bone, walks well, and the best eater of all-time. She has a wonderful attitude and great approach to life. She is really quiet around the stables, good to do anything with: good to ride, but on race day when she hears the speakers and gets a saddle on she can be really cantankerous. Her constant companion on trial and race days Trevor Stewart has her measure though, he knows her inside out. However she is generally laidback and enjoys being in the stable and training.”
Sharing some of his experiences as part-owner in Avantage, David Peacocke said: “I’d owned horses before, but owning Avantage and winning Group races as a two, three, four, and five-year-old has been an amazing experience and incredibly exciting.
“We’ve got to know the other owners, quite a compact team, and fantastic for myself and (wife) Nicki. I’ve got to know the Te Akau team of David and Karyn and Jamie Richards really well. It’s a fantastic team to be involved with. Jamie has had tremendous success and it’s great to have Avantage as a part of that.
“It’s a different and one-of-a-kind experience, but not one that everyone is fortunate enough to have because there is a bit of luck involved. David and Jamie have taken some of the luck out of it by being so good at what they do: selecting the horse, training it, and setting it for races.”