SENZ New Zealand Horse of the Year Probabeel.  Photo: Quentin Lang

Horse of the Year Probabeel heads Te Akau Racing charge

NZ Racing Desk
30 November 2021

Glamour mare and multiple Group One winner Probabeel led the powerful Te Akau Racing operation’s dominance of domestic racing honours for the 2020-21 season.

At New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s virtual event on Monday evening, the Jamie Richards-trained Probabeel was crowned Horse of the Year and was also supreme in the Sprinter-Miler category.

Her stablemate and Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) winner Sword Of State was named Champion Two-Year-Old while former barnmate Melody Belle, whose four Group One victories last season took her top-flight tally to 14, claimed Champion Middle Distance honours.

“It was very exciting and in quite a few of the awards we got the quinella - the Horse of the Year, Champion Sprinter-Miler and Champion Two-Year-Old,” Te Akau principal David Ellis said.

“Amarelinha was the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year as well so it was a pretty complete season.”

Avantage was runner-up to Probabeel for the Horse of the Year award and in the Sprinter-Miler category while On The Bubbles polled second-highest in the race for juvenile honours.

“It starts here at Te Akau Stud with a fantastic group of people, who break the horses in, run the business from the office and the people that look after all the horses,” Ellis said.

“Jamie and his team do a wonderful job. It is just a massive team effort and I am just the proud and lucky person to head the team.

“It was very rewarding last season to have bought horses that won 15 Group One races. That’s what gives Karyn (wife, Fenton-Ellis) and I the charge and what we love doing.”

Ellis keen eye for a horse has played a pivotal role in the success of Te Akau Racing, with Horse of the Year Probabeel purchased by the astute judge for $380,000 from the draft of Waikato Stud at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales.

The Sale has been a happy hunting ground for Ellis, who also sourced glamour mares Avantage ($210,000), Melody Belle ($57,500) and Amarelinha ($300,000) from Karaka, while Sword Of State was bought for $600,000 at the Gold Coast.

Raced by 2020-21 Owners of the Year and Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay, Probabeel will front Te Akau’s autumn charge in Australia in what potentially shapes as her final campaign.

“She’ll go back to Australia in the autumn for sure. Jamie and Brendan and Jo haven’t finalised her program yet, but she will definitely be going,” Ellis said.

In the autumn of last season Probabeel won the Gr.3 Geoffery Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) and Gr.1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield before a wet track at Moonee Valley thwarted her All-Star Mile (1600m) chances, finishing 12th before bouncing back to be narrowly beaten into second in the Gr.1 Queen of the Turf Stakes (1600m) in Sydney.        

“We have a nice team that we hope to have over there (Australia) including Amarelinha, Entriviere, Sword Of State, Bright Blue Sky and Noverre,” Ellis said.

Ellis also revealed that when circumstances permit, he planned to establish a permanent Sydney base to compliment Te Akau’s hugely successful Matamata and Singapore stables, headed respectively by champion trainers Richards and Mark Walker.

“I am really keen to start a stable full-time in Sydney, but it just can’t be done until I can go there and inspect what is available. For the last 18 months I haven’t been able to do that,” he said.

While Te Akau’s equine residents were dominant on Monday evening, human efforts were also acknowledged with Richards the Trainer of the Year and Jockey of the Year was Danielle Johnson, who enjoys a Group One-winning association with the stable.

Ashley Handley, who was side by side with Probabeel, among others, through her Australian campaigns which netted Group One wins in the Epsom Handicap (1600m) and the Futurity Stakes (1400m), was named Stablehand of the Year.

“It was a big thrill to see Ashley win the award. We love having young people in the team and seeing them develop and work well and see them get these sort of rewards,” Ellis said.

“When you take a horse away you don’t have a day off and she probably worked three months without a day off. She never once complained, she was always happy and a delightful person to have in the team.”

The NZTR Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Racing went to Waikato identity David Smith.

Smith, the founder of the Dunstan Horse Feeds company, has also made a lengthy contribution as an administrator, including 11 years as Waikato Racing Club Chairman, and been prominent as an owner and breeder. 

Full list of winners.

SENZ New Zealand Horse of the Year: Probabeel (29 votes), Avantage (14), Melody Belle ((10), Aegon (3), Amarelinha (1).

NZTR Award for Outstanding Contribution to Racing: David Smith.

Champion Two-Year-Old: Sword Of State (41), On The Bubbles (13), Bonny Lass (1).

Champion Three-Year-Old: Aegon (51), Amarelinha (4), Rocket Spade (2), Need I Say More.

Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to 1600m): Probabeel (37), Avantage (18). Melody Belle (1), Callsign Mav.

Champion Middle Distance Horse (1601m-2200m): Melody Belle (53), Beauden (3), Avantage (1), Concert Hall (1), Royal Performer (1).

Champion stayer (2201m and further): The Chosen One (41), Ocean Billy (14), Waisake (1), Savy Yong Blonk (1).

Champion Jumper: The Cossack (34), Magic Wonder (23), Yardarm.

Jockey of the Year: Danielle Johnson (47).

Jumps Jockey of the Year: Shaun Fannin (53).

Trainer of the Year– sponsored by Dunstan: Jamie Richards.

Owner of the Year – sponsored by TAB NZ: Brendan & Jo Lindsay Partnership (44).

LOVERACING.NZ Award for Contribution to Media, Digital & Content: Racing This Time (Andre Neill).

New Zealand Stablehand of the Year – sponsored by Martin Collins New Zealand:  Ashley Handley (Te Akau Racing), Northern region. Other finalists & regional winners:  Central Region - Haseeb Hussain (Gary Vile Racing); Southern region - Oleskii (Alex) Dobrytskyi, (Robert Dennis Racing).

Jockeys’ Premiership: Danielle Johnson.

Trainers’ Premiership: Jamie Richards

Apprentice Jockeys’ Premiership: Hazel Schofer.

Newcomer To Training – sponsored by Peter Didham.

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