Drama surrounded the finish to Saturday’s Group One feature at Awapuni when the final result was settled by the judicial committee after a protest was lodged by the connections of runner-up Wolverine against first-past-the-post Maven Belle.
Maven Belle, the Mark Walker-trained daughter of Burgundy, had led out from the barrier in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) and skipped clear with 400m to run.
Local filly Wolverine was the only runner to issue a serious challenge in the home straight and rider Leith Innes had her finishing strongly with 100m to go, when Maven Belle began to drift out into the middle of the track under rider Sam Weatherley.
Wolverine’s momentum was clearly impeded as Maven Belle pressed on to hit the line first, a length in front of Wolverine, with Waitak closing strongly to finish third, albeit three lengths in arrears of the first two.
The protest siren sounded and after deliberations by the Judicial Committee placings were confirmed with Maven Belle providing Te Akau Racing with their seventh win in the race and their fifth in a row.
“She got some soft sectionals in front and there wasn’t anything really pressuring her,” Walker said.
“She is a homebred off the farm and it is a real shame for Burgundy who is not with us anymore as he has had such a good season.
“We’ve got a great team of young people at home and a win like this is very satisfying for them and everyone involved in this filly.”
Te Akau principal David Ellis was on track at Awapuni to savour the success of the filly he co-bred with wife Karyn Fenton-Ellis and Walker.
“It is very emotional to be standing next to my mate, Mark Walker, in the birdcage at Awapuni after winning another Sires’,” he said.
“Mark came to work for me after leaving school and for him to win a Group One on his first day back training for Te Akau after ten years in Singapore is just unbelievable. It’s great to have him back.
“Karyn and I came down today to support Mark and support the club and to go home with a Group One and a Group Three win is remarkable. We’ve got Mark’s son Zavier with us too, which adds to the excitement.”
Walker had provided the upset winner of the Gr.3 Higgins Concrete Manawatu Classic (2000m) in Amalfi Prince earlier in the day with Maven Belle adding to his remarkable return to New Zealand racing.
Maven Belle had won her first three starts, including the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) before finishing an unlucky third in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie where she was held up for a run a vital stage in the home straight.
Raced by the Te Akau Maven Belle Racing Partnership the filly is a daughter of the late Redoute’s Choice stallion Burgundy who was purchased by Ellis as a yearling for $1.3m out of the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales and went on to win seven races, five at stakes level including the Gr.2 Cambridge Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
He is currently the sire of eight stakes winners with Maven Belle joining stablemate Belle En Rouge as a Group One winner this season after she had taken out the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) last month.
Ellis purchased Maven Belle’s dam Doyenne as a weanling at Westbury Stud’s Unreserved Mixed Bloodstock Sale in 2005 for $4,500, with the Kilimanjaro mare a half-sister to dual Group One winning sprinter Levante.