Richards finishes strongly after slow start
Despite an eventful start to his day where his first runner at Awapuni was late scratched following an incident at the barrier, trainer Jamie Richards more than made up for that upset as he produced his fifth Group One quinella of the season.
Along with On The Bubbles and I Wish I Win finishing one-two in the Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), Richards also watched progressive gallopers Mai Tai and Markus Aurelius register authoritative victories at Ellerslie as the duo set themselves up for stakes targets in the near future.
A wide draw and little luck in transit prevented glamour mare Melody Belle adding to her illustrious record in the Gr.1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill, but on the whole Richards was more than happy with how the day played out.
“We didn’t go too well to start the day with Campionessa being scratched at the barrier, but we came right later on,” Richards said.
“It was a great thrill to win with On The Bubbles and I Wish I Win certainly didn’t lose anything in finishing second to him.
“I thought On The Bubbles would handle a bit of soft ground as his action suggests that, but he’s also just a tough racehorse who loves doing his job and being in the stable.
“He will go to the paddock now with a record of four wins and two seconds from six starts, which is a tremendous effort.
“He can have a decent break and then we’ll bring him back for a campaign aimed at the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton in November.
“I Wish I Win is also going for a spell and he is another candidate for the 2000 Guineas next season.
“I think he has enormous potential and could be a real topliner once he fully develops.”
The Awapuni feature was the 21st juvenile win of the season for Richards and the Te Akau team, with seven of those coming at black-type level.
Richards and Te Akau Racing have already set a new stakes record this season with 33 Group & Listed victories and will look to add to that tally with Ellerslie winners Mai Tai and Markus Aurelius.
Stella Artois Championship Final (1500m) winner Mai Tai will tackle either the Gr.2 Manco Easter Handicap (1600m) on April 24 or the Listed Manawatu ITM Anzac Mile (1550m) at Awapuni a day later, while Markus Aurelius will take his place in the Easter Handicap.
“Mai Tai is a promising mare who I believe is a stakes winner in waiting,” Richards said.
“We were going to run her in the Flying Stakes (Listed, 1400m) at Awapuni on Saturday, but she was too badly weighted, so we directed her to Ellerslie instead.
“She could go to the Easter or to the Anzac Mile, with track conditions dictating that decision.
“Markus Aurelius will be in the Easter and I think he is going to be very hard to beat.
“He keeps raising the bar and is quite underrated. He has been galloping with horses like Avantage and holding his own so you can see why we rate him the way we do.”
Richards was far from disappointed with the run by Melody Belle after she was settled at the rear from an outside barrier by rider James McDonald, before running on strongly to finish close up behind the placegetters.
“Melody Belle ran as good as she could as it was always going to be tough from the draw,” he said.
“James said that when I spoke to him and I guess if she had drawn well and raced in midfield she would have probably run in the money.
“She’s going really well and will have three or four days to freshen up before we take her to Queensland for the Hollindale Stakes (Gr.2, 1800m) on May 8.”
Richards also reported that Avantage and Entriviere had come through their run in a special 1100m trial at Matamata during the week in fine style with Avantage to line up in the Gr.1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) next weekend while Entriviere will travel to Sydney to tackle the Gr.2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 17.