The stellar racing season experienced by the Te Akau Racing team is reflected in the first group of finalists for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards.
Eight horses prepared at Matamata by Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards are among the 17 individual flat racing finalists, with Richards represented in each of the five categories.
The Te Akau contenders include reigning Horse of the Year Melody Belle, who is a finalist in two categories and in contention for a third Horse of the Year title.
Melody Belle and stablemate Avantage, who between them won nine Group I wins in the 2020-21 season, are finalists for both the sprinter-miler and middle distance awards.
The sprinter-miler section looks particularly strong, with the other finalists being Callsign Mav, who was a Group I winner and three times Group I-placed and Te Akau mare Probabeel, who won four Group races in Australia, including two at Group I level.
Sword Of State and On The Bubbles will represent Te Akau in the two-year-old section and their stablemates Amarelinha and Need I Say More are finalists for champion three-year-old.
Savy Yong Blonk, who won the City of Auckland Cup for Richards, is a finalist for champion stayer, a section that also includes Melbourne and Caulfield Cups placegetter The Chosen One, Auckland and Waikato Cups winner Ocean Billy and Wellington Cup winner Waisake.
Finalists for champion jumper, trainer, jockey, jumps jockey and owner will be confirmed at the end of the season. The 2021 Horse of the Year Awards dinner, in association with major partner SENZ, will be held in Hamilton on 12 September.
The finalists in the flat racing categories are:
Champion Two-Year-Old: Bonny Lass, On The Bubbles, Sword of State.
Champion Three-Year-Old: Aegon, Amarelinha, Need I Say More, Rocket Spade.
Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to and including 1600m): Avantage, Callsign Mav, Melody Belle, Probabeel.
Champion Middle Distance (1601-2200m): Avantage, Beauden, Concert Hall, Melody Belle, Royal Performer.
Champion Stayer (2201m and further): Ocean Billy, Savy Yong Blonk, The Chosen One, Waisake.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit loveracing.nz/awards