A stylish debut performance by a two-year-old filly at Randwick on Saturday marked the first southern hemisphere success for Haunui Farm shuttle stallion Ribchester.
Godolphin’s Plymstock began her career on the perfect note in the Heineken 3 Handicap (1000m), sprinting impressively from near the back of the nine-horse field to score by just under a length for jockey Tim Clark.
The James Cummings-trained Plymstock is the first winner from three runners in the first southern hemisphere two-year-old crop of Ribchester, who got underway with 16 winners in the northern hemisphere last year including Flaming Rib in the Listed Doncaster Stakes (1200m).
A son of former Haunui star Iffraaj, Ribchester shuttled to Darley in New South Wales in 2018 and 2019 before switching to Haunui when Iffraaj ceased shuttling in 2020.
“That was a nice way for Ribchester to kick things off in our part of the world – not quite as good as Almanzor with his Karaka Million winner, but we’ll still take it,” Haunui Farm managing director Mark Chitty said.
“But we were delighted with that result. Everyone appreciates that a Saturday two-year-old winner in Sydney at this time of year is pretty significant, and particularly on debut, so it was a fantastic way for him to get on the board.
“He’s done four seasons of shuttling to the southern hemisphere now, and he’s served bigger books in his two New Zealand seasons than he did in Australia, so the New Zealand breeders have really warmed to him. He’s arguably the best-performed son of Iffraaj on the racetrack, which has certainly got people’s attention. He hasn’t served over 100 mares in any season, so he hasn’t had massive numbers, but he’s had enough of an opportunity to succeed if he’s good enough.
“I’ve been very impressed by the foals from his first season shuttling to Haunui. He throws very good, well-grown and correct colts and fillies. They’re coming from all sorts of different mares as well, so there doesn’t seem to be any specific type that’s required.
“I think his foals look as good as the Iffraaj ones did, and if he turns out to be half as good as Iffraaj has been as a sire, we’ll be very happy.”
Saturday was also a big day for fellow Haunui shuttler Belardo, who sired a Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) placegetter for the second year in a row.
Fellini ran a big race for third in the lucrative Ellerslie feature behind Dynastic and Wolverine, filling the same position as Avonallo 12 months ago. For good measure, Belardo filly Verona also ran an eye-catching race for fourth in Saturday’s Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).
With his oldest progeny now three-year-olds, Belardo has sired 17 winners from 46 southern hemisphere runners to date, including black-type performers Avonallo, Yeaboi, Fonsalette and Fellini.
“It was great to see Belardo get a Karaka Million 2YO placegetter for the second year in a row, and I thought Fellini’s run was full of merit,” Chitty said. “He was a couple of lengths behind the first two all the way and stuck to his task very well.
“Verona ran a hell of a race in the Karaka Million 3YO as well, having also run fourth in the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) earlier in the month. That’s two big efforts in a row from a filly that looks like a really nice stayer in the making.
“Belardo is hitting his straps quite nicely. We always want things to happen yesterday in this game, but we’ve been patient and that little bit of time is starting to really pay off now.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s showstopping Ellerslie meeting was also a significant one for Chitty from an administration point of view. Previously the chairman of Counties Racing Club, Chitty was a key player in the amalgamation of the Auckland and Counties clubs last year.
Saturday’s Karaka Million was the first one under the new banner of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, for which Chitty is now the deputy chairman to Doug Alderslade.
“We just got in by the skin of our teeth with the move to red on Sunday,” Chitty said. “But it was just an absolutely fantastic night, we couldn’t have wished for any better.
“Paul (Wilcox, CEO) and all his team did a brilliant job and the Ellerslie crowd had a great vibe and atmosphere. The action on the track lived up to that as well, with five black-type races and some top-quality racing, and then there was the added dimension of Boys Get Paid and everything that they did. It was just an electric night right from the get-go, and something everyone should be very proud of.”