Sultan Of Swing back in winning rhythm
Class galloper Sultan of Swing returned to winning form with a vengeance when he dealt to his open-class rivals over 1600m at Te Rapa.
The Shaune Ritchie-trained six-year-old indicated he was nearing his peak after a sound effort for second at Ellerslie a fortnight ago and franked that form with his ninth career victory on Saturday.
After enjoying a cosy run against the rail in midfield throughout, rider Jonathan Riddell had Sultan Of Swing handily placed to make his challenge one-off the fence at the 300m.
The pair burst to the lead shortly after and maintained a solid gallop to the line to defeat race favourite Aligns With Me, who stormed home out wide to snatch second from He’s Cavalier.
Ritchie thought his charge was ready to return to the winner’s enclosure although he was hesitant to label him a winner prior to the race due to the tricky track conditions and despite being opened as the $3.80 favourite by TAB bookmakers.
“I actually potted him on the radio this morning, as I thought $3.80 was too short when they opened up but obviously the bookmakers knew better than us,” he said.
“I was a little concerned about the track conditions but this is the second time he has come to Te Rapa and handled a slow track.
“Obviously he likes it here with that sand base.”
Ritchie had always felt a winning turn was not far away as luck had deserted the Bachelor Duke gelding in his most recent starts.
“He has been racing pretty well all season,” he said.
“He’s had big weights and wide runs and obviously the quality of horses he was racing against in the summer was right up there.
“There’s usually a nice horse coming through that can top him off, like last start, especially when they claim and you are giving them 9kgs.
“He’s a good genuine horse and a great horse for his owners.”
Bred and raced by Dominic Li under his IDL Racing banner, Sultan Of Swing has won nine of his 34 starts, including the Gr.3 J Swap Contractors Sprint (1200m) and over $269,000 in prizemoney.
– NZ Racing Desk
Bella Mente secures valuable Group One placing
While he may not have witnessed a winning run, it was hard to take the smile off trainer Shaune Ritchie’s face after his gutsy two-year-old filly Bella Mente picked up an invaluable placing at Group One level when finishing third in Saturdays Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni
The nuggety El Roca filly had entered the race as one of the outsiders for the contest despite a tidy form-line that included a fourth placed finish in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at her most recent start.
Ritchie and Bella Mente’s large group of owners took the option to forego a start in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie in favour of Saturday’s event and that judgment was well and truly vindicated as she fought bravely in the home straight to finish within half-a length of eventual winner Yourdeel.
A delighted Ritchie admitted he was starting to get more than a little excited at the 150m when Bella Mente hit the front for a brief moment.
“She looked like the winner momentarily, so the excitement levels were right up there,” he said.
“She was really kicking strongly at that point, but I looked across and saw the good horse (Yourdeel) coming and I knew we were in trouble then.
“She didn’t give it away at any stage, so to pick up a Group One placing at just her fourth start is fantastic for everyone involved in her.”
Despite starting at long-odds for the contest Ritchie believed the market price ($37) didn’t reflect the true chances of his charge.
“I think she might have been overlooked by many and we thought she was a much better chance than what the tote was saying,” he said.
“She went a terrific race at Matamata as she was wide most of the way while the first two home got inside runs.
“We missed Ellerslie and the heavy track that day, so she was the fresh horse on the scene and we knew she was at her peak for this one.
“She certainly did us proud and I can’t wait to see how good she can be for her three-year-old campaign.
“She will go out for a good spell now and we will bring her back with the intention of getting her to the One Thousand Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton.”
Ritchie was also pleased to see talented stayer Excalibur make a solid return to the track when running on nicely over 1400m at Ellerslie.
“He didn’t really come up as well as we would have liked and wasn’t finishing his races off that well, so we tipped him out for a freshen-up,” he said.
“I thought he went quite a cheeky race on Saturday so, if he can make some progress from there, we will have some nice options with him including some races over in Australia over the next few months.”
– NZ Racing Desk – Pic Race Images
Matamata Breeders Stakes target for flying filly
Progressive two-year-old filly Bella Mente set herself up for a tilt at stakes company later this month with a determined victory at Matamata on Sunday.
The Shaune Ritchie-trained youngster had finished an unlucky third at the same venue last month when badly interfered with on the home turn.
This time there was no such drama as rider Michael Coleman provided her with a perfect run behind the pacemakers before launching an assault early in the run home. Bella Mente set out after race-favourite Killin, who had assumed control at that point, and in a driving finish she fought best to claim victory in the 1200m contest.
Ritchie was keen for his charge to gain some more experience at the Matamata track as he sets his sights on a tilt at the Gr. 2 J Swap Contractors Ltd. Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at the venue on February 23.
“We’ve been thinking about tackling the Breeders’ Stakes with her so today has probably helped us make that decision,” Ritchie said.
“She is a lovely filly, quite muscular but not too heavy, who can really hit the line hard.
“She has one white sock which does tend to make her action look a little exuberant, but she is a very good mover.”
Ritchie had been impressed with how the El Roca filly had come through the stress of her first run after being knocked sideways during the running.
“We gave her a month off after that first run, mainly as a precaution to let her get over the experience,” he said.
“As it turned out she was probably less worried about it than we were.
“She had done everything right since then so we were hopeful she could perform today.
“It was a lovely ride by Michael as he got her in a good position and when he really asked her, she put in nicely.”
Ritchie is hoping a similar showing in the upcoming Matamata juvenile feature will also add significant value to the Swiss Ace half-sister that he purchased for $100,000 from the Westbury Stud draft on day two of the National Yearling sale last Monday.
“We really like the family, so I was pleased to be able to buy the half-sister at the yearling sale,” he said.
“I trained another family member (Bella Gioia) to run second in the 1000 Guineas so we know the family ability is there.
“If Bella Mente could win or place in the Breeders Stakes then it would be a great result all around.”
The victory also provided Westbury Stud-based stallion, El Roca, with the first winner from his first crop of racing age.
– NZ Racing Desk
RITCHIE HOPES FOR BIG PAYOFF IN WELLINGTON CUP
Success in Saturday’s Gr. 3 NZ Campus of Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup would be the ultimate payoff for a bit of friendly advice between friends several years ago.
Leading jockey Jason Waddell was keeping himself busy and building fitness for a return to race riding and was one of the busiest jockeys at the breeze-up session for the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale.
Reviewing the breeze-up footage, Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie noticed that Waddell was aboard several of the two-year-olds he liked and decided to approach the jockey and ask his thoughts.
“I asked Jason if there was anything he’d ridden that had given him a particularly good feel and he said this son of Tavistock was the pick of them,” Ritchie said.That horse was Excalibur, knocked down to long-time Ritchie family client and friend Peter Mitchell for $150,000 at Karaka and now an equal $8 favourite for the Wellington Cup.
“I said to Peter, ‘Jason’s probably a better judge than you or I’, so we backed his advice and bought the horse. He’s not perfect in front – he walks a bit like Charlie Chaplin – but that just put him in our budget.
“At the time I promised Jason he had first refusal to ride the horse, but through one thing or another, mainly light weights as he has come through the grades, he hasn’t been able to ride him till now. It would be good if he was able to get his reward for good advice in a Wellington Cup.”Waddell, who grew up in Wellington, would dearly love to win a Wellington Cup – especially on a horse he recommended as his choice from the Ready to Run Sale.
“I’m really looking forward to finally riding him on raceday. The wide draw (barrier 17) doesn’t really worry me because I was planning to ride him back anyway. On form, he looks a really nice chance,” Waddell said.
Ritchie said instructions would have been to ride Excalibur back even if he had drawn well because he’d had a wind operation to help him breathe easier and previous efforts to ride him handy early had failed.
“He’s had a few issues along the way but he’ll present on Saturday in very good order,” Ritchie said. “We had a foot abscess that forced him to miss the Egmont Cup and that lingered a bit and he was a bit of a sook about it.
We had to race him in bar plates in one of his races and that’s like a horse running in high heels.“But he’s got better with every run and when you go through the weights, he comes in really well. This is a race right within his range and I’d be disappointed if he underperformed on Saturday. I really don’t think that will happen.
”Ritchie floated Excalibur to Foxton yesterday along with Gr. 1 Harcourts Thordon Mile contender Sultan Of Swing and Turkington Forestry Douro Cup runner Owen Patrick. The trio have enjoyed several strolls along Waitarere Beach in the lead-up to Saturday.
“It would be great to win a big race in the Bonecrusher colours that’s not Bonecrusher, especially with Peter’s passing last year. We won the (New Zealand) St Leger with Daytona Red, but this would be a different league altogether.
”Ritchie expected a big run from Sultan Of Swing in the Thorndon Mile, while he rated Owen Patrick a good lightweight chance with the benefit of Wiremu Pinn’s three-kilogram claim.
“If Sultan of Swing can produce a similar run to last start (fast-finishing seventh in the Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie) but this time from the trail, he’s going to be very competitive,” Ritchie said.
“With Owen Patrick it’s hard to know how much is in the tank with him because he keeps raising the bar.”
– The Informant
Derby ambitions with Swords Drawn
Promising three-year-old Swords Drawn added a second stakes placing to his record on Saturday when running third to Cutadeel in the Listed Three-Year-Old Salver (2100m) at Ellerslie on Sunday.
He has impressed his trainer Shaune Ritchie in his six career starts-to-date and he believes Swords Drawn has the potential to contest the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie in March.
“I was impressed (with his run on Sunday),” Ritchie said. “I love the way this horse attacks the line. Jason Waddell (jockey) came off him and said it took him until the 1200 to pull him up.
“It will be nice to give him a maiden mile, and you would think hopefully a win, in preparation before the Avondale Guineas (Gr.2, 2100m) and his main target is naturally the Derby.” – NZ Racing News – 18/12
Ritchie in for The Good Fight
Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is excited heading into the Christmas-New Year period with his in-form racing team.
Heading that list is High Chaparral four-year-old The Good Fight who recorded his second career win from eight starts in the Pathways – The Immigration Specialists Premier (2400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Ritchie has a lot of time for the gelding, who he purchased out of Rich Hill Stud’s 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft for $300,000, but said he still has a bit of maturing to do.
“He’s a beautiful type of horse with a good pedigree and he’s starting to show that now,” Ritchie said.
“It’s very hard to win $300,000 back, he’s got to do a lot more yet, but fortunately he’s starting to step up to the plate and showing what his pedigree and physique is allowing him to do.”
While he has nominated The Good Fight for the Gr.3 NZ campus For Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup (3200m) at Trentham next month, his main target for the summer is the Dunstan Feeds Championship Final (2200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“The world is his oyster, but it is very hard to know how high we can aim,” Ritchie said.
“I have nominated him for the Wellington Cup, but he’s going to run in the Dunstan Final (at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day) and then we’ll take a breath and have a look.
“He’s just got a bit of maturing to go and I’d just like to see 12 to 15 more kilograms on him before we take on the open horses.
“We just might give him a little breather after the Dunstan Final. We have got Excalibur in line for the Wellington Cup too, so the stablemate might have to hold the flag for the stable there.”
Ritchie is bullish about Excalibur’s chances in the Wellington Cup after his fourth placing behind Mongolian Marshal in the Gr.3 Waikato Cup (2400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“That’s his goal race (the Wellington Cup) and he hit the line very well on Saturday,” Ritchie said.
“We had a few feet issues with him. His first two runs were superb, but he got a little infection in his feet and we had to put the bar plates on him on Saturday and they will be coming off next time.
“If those top couple in the market pull out, I’d say that 18-1 on him is looking pretty good.”
Meanwhile, Ritchie is looking forward to lining up Sultan of Swing in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day after his win in the Gr.3 J Swap Contractors Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
“I’m pretty keen to get him up over a mile,” Ritchie said. “He used to be very good as a sprinter fresh-up, but now he’s a year older he’s racing back in the field a little bit and with these 1400m and mile races being run at a good clip I think it will suit him.”
Although pleased with Saturday’s win, Ritchie does hold some concerns about the way his charge is finishing his races of late. “He’s been a very good horse. His form is remarkably consistent, but in his last couple of starts he’s looked like he’s had an unwillingness to win races,” Ritchie said.
“He went up alongside Magnum (on Saturday) like he was going to win and then he got headed. I thought he was going to give it away again, but he kicked back on the line.
“He’s not running his races truly to the line and I have no idea why. He’s vetted up all good and he’s racing in pretty good form, but it’s just a little bit of a concern that he’s not attacking the line like he was as a younger horse.”
All going to plan, Sultan of Swing could be set for bigger targets next year.
“If he did happen to win the Rich Hill, we’d probably back off and have a look at the 1400m weight-for-age race at Te Rapa and maybe the Otaki Group One mile.” – NZ Racing Desk 18/12
Wellington Cup Aim For Excalibur
Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie is eyeing a tilt at the Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) in January with Excalibur who will begin his Cups campaign in the MWIS Lawyers (1400m) at Ruakaka on Saturday.
The Tavistock gelding is the winner of six races, including three in a row before his unplaced last-start run in the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m), but his trainer isn’t expecting too much from the gelding fresh-up.
“He’s going to be in need of the run,” Ritchie said. “He hasn’t raced since the Auckland Cup and he’s a five-year-old now, so I would expect the 1400m to be too sharp for him.
“We’re just looking to work our way up. I don’t think he was competitive last year as a four-year-old until he got to 2000m-plus, so I wouldn’t think being a year older he would be any different this preparation.
“We thought we would take advantage of a decent track at Ruakaka and get his spring and summer cups campaign underway.”
Ritchie said he thinks Excalibur is better suited to handicap conditions and is planning the gelding’s spring and summer campaign accordingly.
“He probably was inconvenienced by the set weights and penalties conditions of the Auckland Cup,” he said.
“We’ll probably head for the Wellington Cup this season instead of an Auckland Cup. He’s probably going to take a couple of runs to get to his peak fitness and up to the trip we are looking for.
“I think races like the Waikato Cup, Counties Cup or the Avondale Cup would be within his range because he is probably in a nice position in the weights.
“We are keen to roll the dice and the Wellington Cup would certainly suit better than an Auckland Cup given the conditions of the races.”
Meanwhile, later in the day Ritchie will line-up Swisswatch in the Harcourts Bream Bay (1200m), but he holds concerns about drawing the outside barrier.
“If there was another option we would certainly be scratching on Saturday from gate 17,” he said. “It’s a horror draw for a horse who races forward and on the pace, so we can envisage him having a tough run.
“But with Eilish’s (McCall, jockey) four kilo claim we are hoping that he can sneak in somewhere and run a cheeky race, but that draw is a big question mark.”
– NZ Racing Desk
Magic Touch With Mare
It’s no surprise that Eilish McCall is looking forward to her next ride on the under-rated mare Blackmagicwoman.
The Cambridge apprentice has been aboard the daughter of Shocking in all bar one of her four wins with the latest victory coming at Pukekohe last Saturday when Blackmagicwoman charged home to win in the last stride over 2100m.
“She’s an absolute gem. I love riding her. She’s such a pleasure,” McCall said.
McCall is apprenticed to Blackmagicwoman’s trainer, Shaune Ritchie, and her first win came on the mare at Te Rapa 12 months ago.
McCall’s 4kg claim aided Blackmagicwoman on Saturday, reducing the weight to 51.5kgs, 2.5kg below the minimum.
“Blackmagicwoman is such an honest mare,” Ritchie said. ”She’s no world-beater, but the owners are having a lot of fun.”
– NZ Racing Desk
Credit Deflected To McCall
Cambridge apprentice Eilish McCall didn’t have a ride at Rotorua on Saturday, but she earned praise for one of the winners.
Trudy Thornton was quick to divert praise onto McCall after she guided Magnanimous Man to his upset win in the King Country Rugby Supporters 2200.
Thornton was having her first ride on the Nom du Jeu four-year-old and got the best from the out-of-form gelding, getting him home by two and a quarter lengths from Gabriel at the odds of 29/1 for Ritchie, who part-owns him with stable client Gerard Peterson.
“It’s all thanks to Eilish (McCall),” said Thornton of the Ritchie apprentice. “She rides him in work and she suggested that I would suit him. That’s how I got the ride. She also told me how best to ride him so she deserves all the credit.”
Apart from regularly riding Magnanimous Man in his trackwork, McCall has ridden him once in a trial. That event was at Te Awamutu a couple of months ago when he finished fourth after clearing maiden ranks in his previous raceday start over 2200 metres at Te Aroha 10 months earlier in an amateur rider’s race when ridden by Scott Wenn.
McCall has ridden five winners and the first of those was Blackmagicwoman, who races in Peterson’s GG Syndicate colours. She won on Blackmagicwoman at Te Rapa last August and again on her at Rotorua last month.
Magnanimous Man had seven starts in his first campaign and his best efforts leading up to the maiden win had been a couple of thirds, though he was disqualified from the second one when his rider weighed in light.
He has had four starts this campaign and hadn’t earned any prizemoney in any of the first three runs, but with a nose band on for the first time and Thornton aboard he put his act together with a comprehensive win in puggy ground.
Magnanimous Man’s training has included some schooling over fences and he has the makings of a potential jumper, particularly later as a ‘chaser.
“He schooled yesterday and apparently he jumps well,” said Thornton after the win. “He looks like he could make a lovely jumper, but he could win again on the flat.”
Magnanimous Man was bought by Paul Moroney Bloodstock and Glen Harvey Bloodstock on behalf of Gerard Peterson for $15,000 from the 2015 Festival Yearling Sale at Karaka.He is bred to stay, being by Australian Derby winner and Caulfield Cup runner-up Nom du Jeu from a Grosvenor mare, Rarima, who won two races.Magnanimous Man is a half-brother to Amirar, who won five races for trainer Jakki Good, including the Governor General’s Cup at Avondale, and among her placings was a third to Herman Munster in the 2010 Listed Taumarunui Gold Cup.This is the family which traces back to the champion galloper Uncle Remus and in recent times has been to the fore with Amirar’s daughter Amastar winning three races for Stephen Marsh.
– Cambridge JC
No Rush With Well-Performed Duo
The two highest-rated horses in the Cambridge yard of Shaune Ritchie will make later returns to racing in the new season.
The Hawke’s Bay carnival doesn’t feature in the plans for either his Group One winner Devise or the black type performer Sultan Of Swing
“Devise is a better horse in the later spring and early summer so we’ll let the Hastings races go by,” Ritchie said.
The Oaks Stud-bred and raced daughter of resident stallion Darci Brahma raced consistently well in strong company throughout her career before she earned major honours in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm Classic (1600m) at Otaki.
Ruakaka Return For Youngster
Promising two-year-old Jon Wick will head back to the scene of his latest triumph to make his third race day appearance.
The son of Thewayyouare produced a bold front-running performance over 1200m to score at Ruakaka and will return there on July 14.
“There’s a 1000m race and he’s got enough gate speed to get away with that,” trainer Shaune Ritchie said.
Jon Wick is a son of the Gr.2 Japan-New Zealand Trophy (1600m) winner Casabella Lane.
– NZ Racing Desk
Cup Bid On Daytona Red’s Radar
A trip to Riccarton is the long-term plan for the progressive stayer Daytona Red.
The four-year-old won three races during his last campaign and was turned out after an impressive performance to claim top honours at the expense of the highly-regarded Felaar in the Listed New Zealand St Leger (2500m) at Trentham.
“He’s been back in work for a week and his main goal will be the New Zealand Cup,” trainer Shaune Ritchie said. “He can handle some wet tracks so that makes it easier to get him ready.”