Matamata trainer Graham Richardson has an eye on New Zealand’s longest juvenile Group One race as he prepares To Catch A Thief to resume racing at his home track this weekend.
Third in the Gr.3 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa on New Year’s Day, To Catch A Thief will seek his first victory in the Gr.3 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m) on Saturday.
He is likely to have a tough task, as his opponents look set to include Eclipse Stakes winner Trobriand and Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) winner Tokyo Tycoon.
However, Richardson, who trains To Catch A Thief with Rogan Norvall, said the main target for the remainder of the season would be the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on April 1.
“I gave him a couple of weeks off after the Eclipse but he’s back into it now and doing well,” Richardson said.
“He’ll probably go around on Saturday and head towards the Sires’ Produce.”
Victory in any of these races would be a wonderful tribute to the late Sir Patrick Hogan, who died in early January. To Catch A Thief was bred by the P and J Hogan Partnership and is raced by the estate of the late Sir Patrick, along with his widow Justine Lady Hogan, Ashford Lodge, and John and Karlene Murdoch.
To Catch A Thief races in the familiar colours of Ashford Lodge’s Peter Walker.
“Jason Walker, who’s the son of Peter Walker, is managing the horse and he asked if we could train him, and I was really happy to do so,” Richardson said.
“It would absolutely be great to get a win for them and for Sir Patrick. He’s a lovely horse and he’s just going to get better with age.”
To Catch A Thief is likely to be the only runner for Richardson and Norvall on their home track this weekend. However, the stable should be well represented in the next two weekends, with Defibrillate, Bonny Lass, Paisley Park, and possibly Channel Surfer potentially racing.
Defibrillate has been Richardson and Norvall’s best performer this season. Since his return from Australia he has won the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2050m) and Gr.3 Balmerino Stakes (2050m), finished third in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m), and fought bravely for fourth in the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa earlier this month.
Richardson said Defibrillate had done well since the Herbie Dyke Stakes and would race once more this season, in the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m) at Pukekohe on March 11.
Though he was impressed in the Herbie Dyke by winner Sharp ‘N’ Smart, who sat wide much of the race but still got up to beat Campionessa and Wild Night, he said things didn’t go Defibrillate’s way.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the winner, who put up a massive effort,” Richardson said. “But Defibrillate was caught wide, he had to go to the front, and he’s never led in his life. So to stick on the way he did, I was pretty happy with the effort.
“He’s done exceptionally well since that race.”
Bonny Lass, who finished seventh in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) will return to her favourite trip of 1200m for the Gr.3 Haunui Farm King’s Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa on March 4.
She has had her season interrupted by a stone bruise which kept her out of the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) and the Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m), but she was getting back to her best.
“The ideal race for her was the Railway, and she was set for that, but on the start of that day she walked off the truck sore, and that was it,” Richardson said.
“We ran her in the Concorde, and there was nothing in the field to bring the weights down, so she ended up running fourth with 60 kilos on her back.
“She’s okay over 1400m but she’s better over 1200m.”
Paisley Park, who jarred up when near the tail of the field in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) on New Year’s Day, will run in an open 1500m handicap on March 4 at Te Rapa, while Richardson is undecided whether Channel Surfer will press on to the Gr.1 Auckland Thoroughbred Racing New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Te Rapa the same day.
Channel Surfer was eighth in the Gr.2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) on February 18, less than six lengths behind the winner Desert Lightning, and it was a run Richardson said was better than it looked.
“He drew nearly the outside and got caught six wide down the back, it was a very good effort. He made up a lot of ground,” Richardson said.
“It’s a 50-50 thing at this stage whether he’ll run in the Derby.”