Last season’s standout three-year-old filly Legarto pleased trainers Ken and Bev Kelso with her first public hit-out this preparation at Te Rapa on Tuesday.
The daughter of Proisir settled midfield for jockey Ryan Elliot in her 900m trial before looming wide at the turn and closed late to finish third behind Group One winner Pier.
“I am very happy with the trial. Once she balanced up, she found the line well,” Ken Kelso said.
“It was a nice day out. The track was reasonably heavy and she will improve a lot from that.”
Kelso has been happy with the way Legarto has returned following her standout three-year-old term, where she won all but one of her six starts, including the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m), Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m), and Gr.3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m).
While rapt with all of Legarto’s wins, it was her triumph in the Australian Guineas that became a career-defining moment for the Matamata couple.
“We have taken a lot of good horses to Australia – Envoy ran second in the Adelaide Cup (Gr.1, 3200m) and Love Dance ran second in the AJC Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m), so it was good to tick that (Group One) box and it was a thrill to win it.”
Kelso was also pleased with the barn’s overall season at home.
“We had a fantastic year. Everyone dreams of winning a Group One and we were lucky enough to win four in one year and one in Australia, which made it extra special,” he said.
Kelso is hoping to replicate that success this season, with Legarto leading the charge as she prepares for an Australian raid later in the spring.
“She will trial at Taupo in the Group and Listed trial on the 23rd (August) and then depending on the track condition at Hastings, she will go to the Tarzino (Gr.1. 1400m). If not, she will unfortunately have to go straight to Australia,” he said.
With the characteristically wet New Zealand winter and spring, Kelso said it is hard to map out a firm spring plan, however, he is hoping for improved weather over the next month.
“It has always been a challenge getting good horses ready for the spring at this time of year,” he said.
“We have had an exceptionally wet time, so hopefully it will level out and we might get some fine weather from now on. The tracks will certainly want to improve from now and Tarzino time.”
While Legarto is the stable’s flagbearer, Kelso is also excited about a number of her stablemates ahead of spring.
“We have had a couple of other nice horses come up including Divici Belle, the half-sister to Melody Belle,” he said.
“We have just got a horse called Jolted from GSA Bloodstock. She is a Deep Impact mare that ran in the AJC Oaks.
“John Sargent (trainer) had her and she didn’t cop the ground in the Oaks.
“They have sent her over to try and get some black-type, so hopefully she comes up in the spring. She won quite nicely at Newcastle.”