IN Racing
Campionessa claims her missing piece at Caulfield
“Her form in New Zealand is very, very good. She ran a huge race behind Legarto last start."
NZ Racing Desk | February 24, 2024
Campionessa (bay) holds off Vow and Declare to win the Gr.2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield. Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

A proven Group One star in her homeland, Kiwi mare Campionessa added valuable Australian black-type to her CV with a determined win in Saturday’s A$300,000 Gr.2 Carlton Draught Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield.

Te Akau Racing’s high-class six-year-old has put together an outstanding record in New Zealand, winning 10 of her 28 starts along with nine placings and more than $1 million in stakes.

She triumphed in the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2050m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, and she had previously won the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m), Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) and Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m).

Campionessa has also collected Group One second placings behind Sharp ‘N’ Smart in last year’s Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m), behind Prowess in the Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m) and behind Legarto in this year’s Herbie Dyke.

The final frontier was Australia, where her only previous start produced a sixth placing in the Gr.1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington last March. Her second visit across the Tasman produced a much better outcome on Saturday.

Rider Michael Dee had Campionessa ideally placed in fourth on the rail behind the front-running El Soleado and Unusual Culture.

Briefly boxed in at the home turn, Campionessa found clear air at the 300m mark and soon surged into contention.

Veteran stayer Vow And Declare went with her and turned it into a head-bobbing battle through the final 50m, but Campionessa prevailed in a nail-biting photo finish.

“Pre-race, I wasn’t sure if we were going to lead or box-seat,” Dee said. “We eventually ended up in the box seat, and it was just a matter of biding our time and waiting for the gaps to come.

“The gap did come and she gave a really good kick. I thought we were going to win quite comfortably at that stage, but being at Caulfield for the first time, she probably just had a bit of a look around. It wasn’t until Vow And Declare came up beside her that she found that bit extra.

“Her form in New Zealand is very, very good. She ran a huge race behind Legarto last start. So I was very confident leading into the race. She was obviously very fit for this, and that probably helped her get across the line today.”

While the Peter Young Stakes is often used as a stepping stone towards longer races such as the Australian Cup, trainer Mark Walker is leaning towards bringing Campionessa back to 1600m for her future Australian targets.

“We don’t usually make decisions on raceday, but my gut feeling is that we might come back to a mile for the Sunline Stakes (Gr.2) at Moonee Valley,” he said. “After that, there’s the Queen of the Turf Stakes (Gr.1) in Sydney.”

One of nine stakes winners for Mapperley Stud stallion Contributer, Campionessa was bred by Mapperley principal Simms Davison. She is out of the O’Reilly mare Bella Carolina, who is also the dam of four other winners including Listed winners Tennessee and Leedox.

Campionessa was offered by Mapperley Stud as a yearling at Karaka in 2019, where she failed to meet her $70,000 reserve. She later went through the ring in Westbury Stud’s draft at the Magic Millions National Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast, where Te Akau’s David Ellis secured her for A$60,000.

Campionessa’s 30-start career has now produced 11 wins, nine placings and A$1.16 million in stakes. 

Campionessa Te Akau Mick Dee vow and declare Mapperley Stud Karaka David Ellis Gr.2 Peter Young Stakes Mark Walker