IN Racing
All eyes on Telegraph defence
Ken Kelso isn’t looking too far ahead with Levante.
NZ Racing Desk | January 12, 2023
Levante (inside). Photo: Peter Rubery

Ken Kelso isn’t looking too far ahead with Levante with his focus firmly centred on the star mare’s bid for back-to-back feature sprint titles at Trentham.

The Matamata conditioner and training partner and wife Bev can’t fault their daughter of Proisir ahead of Saturday’s defence of her Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) crown.

“I have always been one to take it a race at a time, but the obvious target after this would be the BCD Group Sprint (Gr.1, 1400m) back at Te Rapa, which she won last year,” Kelso said.

“That’s the logical one, but we just want to get through Saturday first and then decide what we want to do.”

Levante made one appearance in the spring when she finished a gallant fourth in the Gr.1 Champions Sprint (1200m) at Flemington and following a break on her return, she worked home strongly to run third in the Gr.1 Railway (1200m) on New Year’s Day.

“She wasn’t disappointing at all and hadn’t raced for quite some time,” Kelso said.

“She covered a bit of ground and it was quite firm. I thought all in all, it was a good run so it’s all looking positive.” 

Levante has derived great benefit from her Te Rapa outing and will strip in prime order for a second Telegraph after accounting for subsequent two-time Flemington Group One winner Roch ‘N’ Horse in the 2022 edition.

“We’re very happy with her and her work on Tuesday morning on the course proper was very good,” Kelso said.

“I think she has improved immensely since the Railway, she hadn’t raced since Melbourne so we’re looking forward to it and it’s all systems go.

“Hopefully, the weather plays its part and we get a reasonable surface, but she won’t mind a little bit of the cut in the ground anyway.”

Levante dominates the pre-post market at $1.55 and younger stablemate Legarto is also a short-priced favourite at $1.90 for her upcoming assignment in Saturday week’s Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

Also a daughter of Proisir, the filly was a stunning winner of the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day in her first appearance since trouncing her rivals in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

“She will be having an exhibition gallop at Tauranga tomorrow after the first race,” Kelso said.

“Hopefully, she will get a reasonable surface and has a nice hit-out there and she’ll be right for the Million.”

Levante will be galloping with the Mark Walker-trained Wild Night, who has won his last five on the bounce including the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) and the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at his most recent outing, and is a $3.40 second favourite for the Karaka Million.

“We work in pretty well together at Matamata, we’re all mates and I’ve got a small team so I’m always looking for something to go with,” Kelso said.

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Ken Kelso Levante Bev Kelso Legarto Wild Night Proisir