IN Racing
Legarto remains unbeaten after Eight Carat Classic victory
Class three-year-old filly Legarto maintained her unbeaten record with a stunning performance to win the Gr.2 ATR Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe.
NZ Racing Desk | December 26, 2022
Trish Dunell

Class three-year-old filly Legarto maintained her unbeaten record with a stunning performance to win the Gr.2 ATR Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe after most punters had written off her winning chances in the home straight.

Sent out at the cramped odds of $1.10 in her first start since delivering an elite level victory in the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton last month, the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained runner settled near the back of the field as front-runner Wessex set up a solid pace.

With most riders keeping a wary eye on Legarto, Wessex and rider Craig Zackey increased their margin to be more than ten lengths clear as they rounded the home bend.

Ryan Elliot aboard Legarto had begun to move forward at that stage but was still well in arrears as Wessex went for gold at the 300m.

Inch by inch Legarto clawed back the ground on both Wessex and the hard chasing Skew Whiff and within the shadows of the post the Proisir filly sailed past the pair to register her fifth win from just five starts.

Ken Kelso admitted he had all but given away the winning chances of his charge when he saw how much ground she had to make up in the home straight.

“There were a lot of anxious moments as I didn’t think we could pick that horse up,” Kelso said.

“I had pretty much given it away, but she is something special, very smart and just has that will to win.”

While keen to add further black type to the filly’s record, Kelso was also using the race as a chance for Legarto to familiarise herself with surroundings before tackling the NZ $1million Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at the venue next month.

“She had a good look around and that was part of the exercise today,” he said.

“I couldn’t be happier with her although you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get nervous before a race like this.

“I’m now just very relieved.”

Elliot was left looking for superlatives after the race.

“We actually got the perfect run of the race, on the back of the second favourite and rolling into it nicely,” he said.

“That one in front gave us something to run down and my filly just kept giving.

“Every time I asked her, she kept finding lengths and she gave me an unbelievable feel.

“The scary thing is she is starting to get better and better in her trackwork and it is starting to show out on the track now.”

A $90,000 purchase for Phillip Brown of Ancroft Stud from Book 2 of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka in 2021, Legarto is raced by many of the same connections as the multiple Group 1-winning mare Levante, including former Waikato Racing Club chief executive Tony Enting.

Bred by Bay of Plenty farmer Warwick Jeffries, Legarto is out of Towkay mare Geordie Girl and has now won all five of her raceday starts for just over $389,000 in prizemoney.

TAB Bookmakers have her at the head of the Karaka Million 3YO Classic Fixed Odds market at a $1.60 quote. 

Ancroft Stud Craig Zackey Geordie Girl Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas Gr.2 ATR Eight Carat Classic Karaka Million 3YO Classic Ken and Bev Kelso Legarto Levante New Zealand Bloodstock Phillip Brown Proisir Pukekohe Riccarton Ryan Elliot Skew Whiff Tony Enting Warwick Jeffries Wessex