Local mentor Mark Walker was on top of the podium at Matamata on Saturday when he claimed the two juvenile feature races on the day.
Walker and Te Akau Racing produced the quinella in the Gr.3 Fairview Matamata Slipper (1200m) with the unbeaten Tokyo Tycoon making it four straight wins as he romped home from stablemate Trobriand, while just three races later it was blue-blood filly Zourion, who showed she could have untapped potential, with a strong performance to win the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).
The Group Two event is the most sought after prize amongst the Matamata training fraternity and Walker was on top of the world as the daughter of Zoustar rattled home along the inner for rider Opie Bosson to defeat Central Districts raiders Lowe Flying and Pignan.
A first up win over 1100m at Taupo which was preceded by an easy trial win at Tauranga had Zourion tipped as one of the major contenders for the contest and she never gave her supporters cause for concern.
Zourion was a $475,000 purchase by Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis out of breeder Pencarrow Stud’s draft at the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka and is raced by Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay,
She is out of the four-race winner Irion, who was stakes placed in the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) and is a daughter of Group Two winner Dopff, the dam of stakes performers Octapussy, Pussy Willow and Pussy O’Reilly.
Walker admitted he had taken a punt lining up the filly in the race at just her second start, but believed she had the quality to be very competitive.
“She really is a high-class filly and she has it all ahead of her,” Walker said.
“You do have a think about whether you are doing the right thing by tackling a race like this so early in her career, but she is just so tough and thoroughly professional that it seemed well worth it.
“It is great to win a race like his for Brendan and Jo and the whole Cambridge Stud team and I think the best thing about it is that I have no doubt she will be even better as a three-year-old in her next campaign.
“I’m going to sit down and talk with the team but I’m leaning towards maybe spelling her now as she is in for a big season next time in with a number of very winnable races available to her.”
Earlier on the card Tokyo Tycoon had clearly stamped his class with a comprehensive performance to maintain his unbeaten record.
The son of Satono Aladdin had left his supporters speechless with his last-to-first finish to claim the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) at his previous start, however this time around there was no such drama.
Rider Craig Zackey allowed his mount to find his feet in the early rush for positions but with just five rivals he was only four lengths from the pacemakers for most of the running.
Asked to improve around the home bend Tokyo Tycoon tracked stablemate Trobriand into a challenging position before cruising clear to win untouched by three lengths from a game Trobriand with Burn To Shine battling well to take third.
Walker was delighted with the final result as he plots a path with both horses towards Group One challenges in the immediate future.
“He (Tokyo Tycoon) did what we expected but it was still a very nice win,” Walker said.
“I said to Craig to just ride him where he felt comfortable and he did that without taking him out of his comfort zone.
“I felt he would handle the track conditions (Heavy 9) as he had trialled very well on similar back in November last year.
“I guess the home track advantage played in our favour a little but he did show his class nevertheless and I think there is more to come from him.”
Walker advised that Tokyo Tycoon is likely to contest the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Pukekohe on March 11, while Trobriand will have a short break before tackling the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni on April 1.
Raced by the Meadowbank Masters Racing Partnership and Te Akau Satono Samurai Racing Partnership, Tokyo Tycoon, who took his earnings past the $648,000 mark, was purchased by David Ellis as a yearling in 2022 at the Karaka Book 1 Sale, paying $125,000, from the draft of Rich Hill Stud.
The win also provided a fitting farewell gift for Zackey who announced during the week that he would be returning to his native South Africa for the foreseeable future.
Zackey has ridden 21 winners, including six at Group or Listed level, since his arrival in November with Saturday’s meeting at Matamata his last before heading home with fiancée Sasha and daughter Sierra.
Meanwhile, Walker confirmed that multiple Group One winner Imperatriz, who galloped between races, will venture to Sydney this week to contest the Gr.1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick next Saturday, where James McDonald has been booked to ride.