Jamie Richards has already forged a successful association with a major Hong Kong thoroughbred identity and that combination could go to the highest level at Trentham on Saturday.
The Richards-prepared Self Obsession promises to be a staying force to be reckoned with in the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) and victory might bring further long-term benefits for the Matamata horseman.
Richards is due to take up the next challenge of his training career when he leaves in May for Hong Kong where the filly’s owner David Price is resident.
“Hopefully, the door might stay ajar for me up there. David has a very unique business and buys a lot of yearlings to then on sell to Hong Kong if they are good enough to go,” Richards said.
Price is a major player at Australasian sales with the assistance of bloodstock agents John Foote and Merrick Staunton and Victorian trainer Patrick Payne. Former champion Hong Kong galloper Silent Witness, rated the world’s top sprinter from 2003 to 2005, tops Price Bloodstock’s Hall of Fame.
Self Obsession, who was also bred by Price, boasts impeccable lead-up form to the Oaks having won the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m), the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) and the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) from her last three appearances.
“The trip will suit her, she’s by Shocking and a genuine stayer suited to a big, roomy track. She has a few things in her corner and is holding her form really well,” Richards said.
Among her rivals at Trentham will be stablemates The Perfect Pink, winner of the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and Belle En Rouge, third in the Guineas and a subsequent dual Group winner.
“Everything has gone pretty well with The Perfect Pink, she had a bit of a freshen-up since the Avondale Guineas (Gr.2, 2100m) and has had a trial,” Richards said.
“She’s a pretty clean winded filly and worked very well for her on Tuesday morning.”
The Perfect Pink’s performance will be influential on future targets set for the daughter of Savabeel.
“We’re going to find out whether she’s a stayer and the owners just want to know a bit more about her distance range, particularly for the planning of next season,” Richards said.
Belle En Rouge most recently finished sixth in the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) with connections unable to gain a true line on her ability to run an Oaks distance.
“It was inconclusive last time, she ran really well and got caught up in the skirmish when Mustang Valley didn’t corner very well,” Richards said.
“She worked really well on Tuesday and we think she deserves the opportunity to see if she can stay against her own age and sex.”
Richards will also be represented by five runners in the Gr.1 Wellington Seamarket Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham with On The Bubbles, I Wish I Win, Mohawk Brave, Zeitaku and the filly Imperatriz in the line-up.
Last-start winners Imperatriz and On The Bubbles edge as the top seeds for the stable.
“I don’t think there is a lot between them, they are both going really well and hopefully we get a bit of luck in the running and all of ours have drawn quite nicely for a change,” Richards said.
The Te Akau operation’s black-type chances don’t end there with Mai Tai to run in the Gr.3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) for Wentwood Grange, who sponsor the race, while Leaderboard tackles the Listed Barneswood Farm NZ St Leger (2600m).
The former drops back in class after her eighth placing in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) and any rain will help Leaderboard.
“Mai Tai ran down there in the Group One last time and found that a little bit rich. This is a nice race for her, she’s drawn well and it’s quite an even weight scale,” Richards said.
“A shower would help Leaderboard, he really needs to get his toe in the ground. He is quite a hard horse to place, he doesn’t go right-handed and likes going left-handed with a bit of give in the going.”