NZ’s brightest stars to make million-dollar mark on Ellerslie

Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
26 January 2024

The biggest night on New Zealand’s racing calendar is upon us, and a sold-out crowd are set to descend on Ellerslie Racecourse this Saturday for the million-dollar action!

TAB Karaka Millions will return to the iconic Ellerslie Racecourse after taking a one-year hiatus, with the instalment of the highly-regarded StrathAyr surface successfully completed and ready to showcase our country’s biggest talents.

Having travelled to Riccarton, Trentham, Hastings and Pukekohe Park this season, The Grand Tour will make its mark on Ellerslie on Saturday alongside Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, with the team providing entertainment for the legendary After-Party with Sweet Mix Kids!

If you’re not a racing fan already, TAB Karaka Millions is a perfect place to start, as race-goers will be treated to a sensational six-race card with many of the country’s standout gallopers featured! An incredible $4.45m in stake-money will be on offer to the winning connections, with three million-dollar (plus!) races, alongside three Group-level events.

Some of New Zealand’s brightest stars have emerged in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m), with 14-time Group One-winning mare Melody Belle and her stablemates Probabeel and Avantage, who also amassed 13 elite-level titles between them, kicking off dazzling careers in the juvenile feature.

A vintage Millions field has assembled for this year’s edition, with powerhouse stable Te Akau aiming for an incredible eighth successive crown with Cool’N’Fast, Maracatu, Bellatrix Star, and When Stars Align, with Damask Rose a first emergency.

Standing in their way may be Velocious and star Kiwi-expat James McDonald, the Written Tycoon filly an early TAB favourite at $3.00 to provide Go Racing and trainer Stephen Marsh with a second Karaka Millions 2YO victory, after Ruud Awakening’s spectacular 2013 performance. Australian visitor Beau Dazzler incorporates some international flavour, the Ardrossan colt representing Queenslanders Tony & Maddysen Sears.

Two classy fillies have been pinned as the key contenders for the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO, with Orchestral looking an ominous threat to the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) star Molly Bloom. The pair currently share the $3.50 favouritism, followed by Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1400m) winner Pendragon ($7), who has the services of dual Melbourne Cup-winning hoop Mark Zahra.

Molly Bloom headlines a talented quartet of runners from Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott’s Wexford Stables, while last year’s Karaka Millions 2YO victor Tokyo Tycoon also features alongside in-form stablemate Talisker.

As if two million-dollar races weren’t enough, the inaugural running of the Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) will offer a seven-figure hamper for the four-year-old’s, including a scorching $1.50 favourite in Legarto. Ken & Bev Kelso’s mare was undeniably impressive fresh-up at Ellerslie’s opening meeting, while last-start Group One-winner Desert Lightning and another Trans-Tasman raider in Holymanz will be out to deny the daughter of Proisir.

The phenomenal undercard will include another three black-type events, and the returns of unbeaten three-year-old Crocetti (Gr.3 Cambridge Stud Almanzor Trophy, 1200m), and Group One-winning mare La Crique (Gr.2 Westbury Classic, 1400m) both prove exciting prospects. In the open sprint category, Maven Belle and Imwonderfultonight will step out of top-flight company against several up-and-coming speedsters in an evenly matched Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m).

Boys Get Paid have become a mainstay of Karaka Millions Night in year’s past, and the team will be back in force with several sizable investments already secured, including a $50,000 wager on Cool’N’Fast at $21 (Karaka Millions 2YO), and $100,000 on Faraglioni at $14 (Westbury Classic). Don’t expect this to be the last we see of them either…

The most highly-anticipated event of the season has unsurprisingly sold-out, but if you missed out on tickets, all the coverage of TAB Karaka Millions Night will be live on Trackside 1 and TVNZ Duke, while extended action will be available on Trackside Premier (SKY Channel 64)!

For those lucky enough to be on course at Ellerslie on Saturday, gates will open from 2:30pm, with the first race set to jump at 4.19pm!

What: TAB Karaka Millions

Where: Ellerslie Racecourse, 100 Ascot Ave, Remuera, Auckland

When: Saturday 27 January 2024

Race Schedule

4:19pm: Group 3 Cambridge Stud Almanzor Trophy (1200m)

4:54pm: Group 3 Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m)

5:29pm: Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m)

6:04pm: $1 million TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m)

6:44pm: $1 millions Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m)

7:24pm: $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m)

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