Lightly raced filly Bellatrix Black ($17.20) upset the applecart at Ellerslie on Saturday when she stepped up from a maiden victory at Tauranga at her last start to take out the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m).
The Catherine Cameron-trained daughter of Westbury Stud stallion Redwood relished every step of the 2100m journey as she bullocked her way through the middle of the pack to down pacemaker Mustang Valley and Achieve in a desperate finish to the contest.
Ridden by Japanese-born rider Taiki Yanagida, who has only recently stepped into the senior riding ranks after serving his apprenticeship with the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott stable, Bellatrix Black looked to be travelling comfortably throughout before making a move to improve her midfield position at the 800m.
Blocked for a run rounding the home bend, Yanagida waited for a gap to appear centre-track before bursting through late to get the better of Mustang Valley by a head, with a further short head away to Achieve in third.
The 2100m journey was completed in a modest 2.13.21, with three-and-a-half lengths covering the first nine across the line, but the victory of Bellatrix Black was well and truly deserved.
Cameron had been cautiously optimistic about her chances leading into the race and was delighted to see the filly deliver on her promise.
“That was fantastic and a great result for her owners who rolled the dice and didn’t sell her after her last win,” Cameron said.
“It’s a great thrill for them.
“I was a little bit cheeky hoping she could run in the first five as she has just been a lovely filly to have as she is quite progressive.
“She is relatively fresh compared to some of these, so it was good to see that today.
“We hoped she could take the next step up and we were going to find that out today.
“She has had a cheeky nom for the New Zealand Oaks and we might have to trek to Wellington now, if she comes through this well.”
Bookmakers reacted quickly to the victory, shortening Bellatrix Black from a $31 chance in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks into the $10 fourth favourite behind the Jamie Richards-trained Self Obsession ($2.20).
Yanagida was all smiles after the win, which was his second on the day after guiding Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) candidate Swords Drawn to victory over 2200m earlier in the day
“She has just impressed me as she is such a tough girl,” he said.
“I was going to go to the outside, but the favourite (Glory Bound) came around us, so I saw the inside had opened up space and when she had run second at Te Aroha, she had run on well on the inside so I knew she could do it.
“Catherine and I had been talking that 2400m would be better for her, so she is going to perform well over that distance, I’m sure.”
Bred and raced by Dave McKerchar and Janet Alexander Bellatrix Black is the first foal out of Mastercraftsman mare Dark Arts and comes from an extended family that includes dual Group One winner Lotteria.
The Sunline Vase is the penultimate leg in the prestigious New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series where Bellatrix Black has collected six points for her victory and now sits in the top ten on the points table which is headed by the Jamie Richards-trained Self Obsession (24) with the final race series being the New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 19.
Redwood will be represented by four individuals during the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale that will be held from March 7-12 at Karaka.