With runners in action at four different venues, the influence of New Zealand’s leading stable is set to be felt far and wide this weekend.
Te Akau Racing has 17 horses entered across Friday and Saturday’s meetings at Te Rapa, Hastings and Riccarton, while Imperatriz and Zourion will fly the flag in black-type features in Melbourne on Friday night.
It all adds up to a busy few days for Te Akau trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson and their staff, along with the stable’s top jockey Opie Bosson, who has rides at Moonee Valley and Hastings within a 14-hour period.
“It’s going to be an exciting weekend, we’re all looking forward to it,” Walker said on Thursday morning. “I’ll be staying in Melbourne, but Opie’s on a flight after the races tomorrow night and will be back in time for the big day at Hastings.”
Walker, Bergerson and Bosson dominated the opening day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival, sweeping all of the three black-type features. They won the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) with Skew Wiff, the Gr.3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) with Quintessa and the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) with Tokyo Tycoon.
The Te Akau team will be shooting for more of the same at Hastings on Saturday, where Tokyo Tycoon is the favourite for the Gr.2 Animal Health Direct Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) and Group Two-winning mares Campionessa and Aromatic will tackle the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m).
The Sir Colin Meads Trophy was a particularly impressive three-year-old debut by Tokyo Tycoon, who was named New Zealand’s champion two-year-old of 2022-23 during the Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards in Auckland earlier this month.
The son of Satono Aladdin towered over his opponents in last season’s Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and Gr.3 Matamata Slipper (1200m), and his powerful finish over the top of his Sir Colin Meads Trophy rivals was more of the same.
Tokyo Tycoon is a $1.55 favourite for the Hawke’s Bay Guineas, which Te Akau has previously won with outstanding three-year-olds Darci Brahma (2005) and Tell A Tale (2008).
Walker reported that Tokyo Tycoon has gone the right way since his first-up heroics three weeks ago, and that he should be unfazed by rain-affected ground this weekend.
“It was a highly impressive performance first-up and he seems to have only improved since then,” Walker said. “We’re very happy with him. I don’t think he’ll have too much trouble with a wet track, so I’m expecting him to run well again on Saturday.”
Both Campionessa and Aromatic are second-up in Saturday’s Arrowfield Stud Plate, and Walker believes both will take good improvement from their resuming runs. Campionessa was a late-finishing fifth in the Livamol Premier (1600m) on the opening day of the carnival, while Aromatic made up good ground for eighth in the Tarzino Trophy.
“They’re both big improvers from those first-up performances,” Walker said. “Aromatic in particular handles rain-affected ground very well, so a wet track is only going to help her chances this weekend.”
Te Akau will have a big team in action at Riccarton on Saturday, including exciting mare It’s Business Time in the Plough Hotel Rating 75 (1200m). The five-year-old daughter of Turn Me Loose has had seven starts for four wins and two placings, and she resumed with a scintillating three-length win over this course and distance on September 2.
“She looked good last season and seems to have improved even more this time in, judging from that first-up performance,” Walker said. “She’s really quite a promising mare.
“She’s pleased us with everything that she’s done in the few weeks since that race. The plan is to work towards a potential crack at some black type during the carnival in November.”
It’s Business Time holds a nomination for the Gr.3 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) on November 15, but could also be pointed towards the Gr.3 Windsor Park Stud Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) for fillies and mares on the same day.
Trobriand will take another step towards the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) with a run in Saturday’s Rangiora New World Guineas Trial (1400m).
The Kermadec colt won the Gr.2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) last season and placed in the Karaka Million, and he resumed with a third placing behind the undefeated Crocetti in last month’s Gr.3 Northland Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Ruakaka.
“We’re happy with Trobriand, he seems to be making good progress and we’re working our way towards the Guineas,” Walker said. “We have another three-year-old entered at Riccarton with Talisker, but we’re keeping an eye on track conditions with him. He might be saved for Timaru (October 6) instead.”
The South Island will stage its first juvenile race of the season in Saturday’s Nobby Bussell Memorial Two-Year-Old (800m). Te Akau’s runner is Dream Of The Moon, who was bought by David Ellis for A$160,000 as a yearling on the Gold Coast earlier this year.
The filly by All Too Hard has had two trials, finishing second at Te Rapa on August 1 and at Waipa on August 29.
“She’s shown us quite a lot and we think she’s quite a promising filly,” Walker said. “I’d expect her to run a good race on debut on Saturday.”
At Te Rapa on Friday, Te Akau’s four runners include the proven pair Prise De Fer and Brando in the Fluid Power Distributors Mile (1600m), along with last season’s Gr.2 Wellington Guineas (1400m) winner Cognito in the Traffic Management Waikato (1400m).