IN Racing
La Crique back to brilliant best in WFA Classic
Katrina and Simon Alexander celebrated one of their most satisfying moments on a racetrack with La Crique’s triumphant turnaround in the Gr.1 Trackside Otaki-Maori WFA Classic (1600m) on Saturday.
Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | February 24, 2024
Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Katrina and Simon Alexander celebrated one of their most satisfying moments on a racetrack with La Crique’s triumphant turnaround in the Gr.1 Trackside Otaki-Maori WFA Classic (1600m) on Saturday.

The undisputed star of the Alexanders’ Te Awamutu stable, La Crique had endured a turbulent 12 months since her runner-up finish behind Levante in the same race in February of last year.

But the efforts and patience of everyone connected with the Vadamos mare was richly rewarded as she bounded away from a star-studded weight-for-age field at Otaki.

“It’s the first time I’ve had the shakes for a while,” Katrina Alexander said. “I don’t think anyone other than the team at home will understand what’s gone into getting her here today.

“Inch by inch, we’ve improved her, tried to get her back on track and tried to get her back to the horse that we knew as a three-year-old.

“I was pretty happy with her during the week. I ride her in all of her trackwork, and I really felt that we were getting her personality back. So this is hugely satisfying and we couldn’t be happier.”

There has never been any doubt around La Crique’s quality. She burst on the scene as a three-year-old with five wins from eight starts, including the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) and Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m). She placed in all of her other three, headed by an unlucky second in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) behind another of this summer’s comeback horses, Asterix.

La Crique became a Group One winner with a dazzling Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) performance at Matamata in the spring of her four-year-old season, but she had gone winless in seven starts through the 16 months since.

“She just had one of those annoying blowouts that happened as soon as she came into the stable at the beginning of her last preparation,” Alexander explained. “Unfortunately it blew out of the coronet, and the hole that came out split horizontally around the coronet.

“So every time the hoof grew down, the gap got wider. She obviously had a lot of discomfort in her movement and it was really bothering her.

“It’s been frustrating, and mostly for the horse. She’s put up with a lot. She’s very tough and she’s tried to battle her way through it. Even here last year, it was bothering her and she hung in slightly in the straight. I just hate doing that to a horse.

“She’s been brave, she’s got here, and she’s just matured so much as well. We’re absolutely thrilled.

“It’s so good for Matt (Cameron) as well. This was his first sit on the horse and he produced a beautiful ride.”

Cameron settled La Crique in fifth along the inside, keeping a close watch on the $2.30 favourite Desert Lightning, who was in an early speed duel before easing back to take a trail behind Belclare.

The field moved away from the rail in search of better ground coming towards the home turn, and Cameron cut the corner and went for gold. She scythed through and burst to the lead at the top of the straight, kicking hard and taking command.

Aegon chased hard and ate into the margin late in the piece, with Desert Lightning sticking on bravely in third, but La Crique triumphed by a length and a quarter.

“I’d never sat on her before, but she makes my job easy,” Cameron said. “My job was to follow the favourite, and she just tracked along beautifully. She’s so athletic and she’s a little machine. She felt super.

“She was lovely and quiet and stepped out of the gates well. There was a bit of hustle-bustle in front, and I was fine just doing my thing behind her. She was great.

“Jockeys always have a hard choice, either coming here for this race where there isn’t as much on the undercard, or going to Matamata where there’s a lot of good races. I was happy to pick up the ride on this mare today and it was definitely worth the trip.”

Bred and raced by John and Jan Cassin, La Crique has had 18 starts for seven wins, seven placings and $956,777 in stakes.

Alexander hinted that La Crique might be in line for a return to Australia, where her one previous appearance produced a fourth placing in the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m).

“A lot depended on today and how she finished this race off, not necessarily the placing,” Alexander said. “We haven’t looked too far ahead, so we’ll go home and make some plans.

“I think we know now that she’s an autumn horse. The spring just doesn’t suit her.” 

La Crique Simon and Katrina Alexander Vadamos