Trainer Excited for First Karaka Millions

Date: 26 Jan 2024

Trainer Excited for First Karaka Millions

NZ Racing News reports:

Te Akau Racing have a rich history in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m), having won the last seven editions of the race, and Sam Bergerson is hoping to extend their run in his first year at the helm of New Zealand’s leading stable, alongside co-trainer Mark Walker.

“I am massively excited,” he said. “It is a huge occasion and one that Dave (Ellis, Te Akau Racing principal) and the team always look towards from the Karaka sales when they purchase these horses.

“I am extremely lucky to be in the position I am in with Te Akau and getting the opportunity to train these lovely horses. You want it to go well but you take the horses there fit and well and just hope they get their chance.”

Bergerson couldn’t wish to have a bigger stage for his first Karaka Millions, with plenty of hype surrounding the meeting with its return to Ellerslie to race on its new StrathAyr track.

“I don’t think I have seen so much hype around a meeting – heading back to Ellerslie, with Entain onboard and Boys Get Paid, it is going to be a massive night. I am really looking forward to it,” he said.

Walker and Bergerson, who currently sit on 99 domestic wins for the season, will have four contenders in the Karaka Million 2YO at Ellerslie on Saturday, which may rise to five, with a scratching allowing Damask Rose into the field of 14 (stablemate Maracatu withdrawn on Friday afternoon with Damask Rose making the field).

Their charge will be led in the $1 million feature by Bellatrix Star, with the filly to carry the same Fortuna Syndicate colours that Melody Belle carried to victory in the 2017 edition of the race.

Purchased by Ellis out of Phoenix Park’s 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft for $80,000, Bellatrix Star has shown plenty of talent on the track, winning two and placing in two of her starts to date.

The daughter of Star Witness was runner-up in the Listed Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe in November behind Velocious but turned the tables on her rival when returning to the track on New Year’s Day to win the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) ahead of stablemate Move To Strike, with Velocious back in third.

“Bellatrix Star is a tough, gritty filly who just seems to love her racing,” Bergerson said. “She is absolutely thriving and has got that really good, tough nature, and seems to love a dogfight.

“She is doing everything well and is eating well, and her work on Wednesday was top-notch.”

She will be met on Saturday by stablemate Cool ‘N’ Fast, with the gelding carrying the weight of expectation from Boys’ Get Paid, with the punting group set to take home $1 million if he comes in, having put $50,000 on Cool ‘N’ Fast at $21 in a futures bet.

It has proven to be a clever investment, with Cool ‘N’ Fast going on to win on debut at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, shortening into $7 with TAB bookmakers, and he has shortened even further into $6 ahead of Saturday.

“Cool ‘N’ Fast is the hype horse,” Bergerson said. “He did a little bit wrong (in his debut) but still managed to win, which I think is a really positive sign. He has got a bit of x-factor about him.

“He only worked okay at Ellerslie with Opie (Bosson, jockey) on, but he was much more bullish after Wednesday’s work. He presents in good order.”

Te Akau will also be represented in the race by debut winner When Stars Align.

“When Stars Align is one from one and his form was franked at Matamata on Wednesday when Unbridled Joy won,” Bergerson said.

“He has gone on since his win at Wellington and has continued to improve and impress us. He looks super. He is a big type of horse that has still got plenty of filling out to do, so he is doing it on raw ability, and he seems to have plenty of that.

While needing a scratching to gain a start (which she now has), Bergerson is also upbeat about debut winner Damask Rose.

“Damask Rose is one from one and is another filly we really like. She has shown us plenty at home and has gone the right way since New Plymouth,” Bergerson said.

“You wouldn’t be surprised if any one of the four, or five, won it. They are all going in with good form, we are happy with them.”

Velocious heads the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO market at $3, with stablemates Bellatrix Star and Cool ‘N’ Fast the next fancied runners at $4.20 and $6 respectively.


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