Lot 907, an Ardrossan colt, will join the stable of Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard.  Photo: Trish Dunell

Benner eyeing further Karaka Millions success

NZ Racing Desk
2 February 2024

Otaki trainer Johno Benner had the lucrative Karaka Millions meeting very much in mind when sourcing four yearlings to date this week at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales.

While active at Book 1, purchasing colts by Tagaloa ($35,000) and Bivouac ($50,000), Benner has made a significant impact at Book 2, securing a colt by Ardrossan for $165,000 on Day 2, having gone to $130,000 on Day 1 for a sharp filly by Sun City.

Benner and Hollie Wynyard have scored million-dollar triumphs twice at the meeting, with Vespa in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) in 2014 and with Scott Base in the 3YO Classic (1600m) in 2018.

With the Ellerslie feature meeting enhanced even further from 2024 onwards, the Otaki trainers sent out Full Force to finish a meritorious third in the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) won by Velocious last Saturday, and further arsenal is required to tackle the meeting in future years.

Bidding on the phone via Libby Bleakley of Highden Park, Benner was delighted to purchase Lot 907, an Ardrossan colt out of Pwerfect from the draft of Landsdowne Park for $165,000. The colt is a full brother to Listed winner Beau Dazzler, who made eye-catching ground late when seventh in the Karaka Millions 2YO last weekend.

“I came over on Tuesday night, so I did all my work for Book 2 and identified the two horses I was going to buy, then I got home because I’ve got to run the stable. I do a lot with Libby and she spells all our horses down here, so it was great to have her help,” Benner said.

“Obviously that Karaka Millions 2YO is in my opinion the most prestigious million dollar race we’ve got on the night, so I just want to really get back to winning a race like that. I think you have to buy the right horses and that’s something Te Akau do very well, so I am just rapt to get him.

“Beau Dazzler you can just see has a lot of upside with the way he rounded out the Karaka Millions.

“He was probably one of the runs of the race outside the first three or four and he’s got that feel that he’s got that speed up to a mile.

“This colt looked like he was designed for the race.”

Benner also believes his purchase of a filly by Zoustar sire Sun City on Wednesday, will also get up and run.

“She’s speed on speed,” Benner said. “Sun City has had four runners for three metropolitan winners [in Queensland], so being a half-sister to Inundation, that horse of Mick Price’s, and having the physique and type to match up, I thought she was good buying actually.

“Obviously it’s just about trying to get these horses back for that million-dollar race and then you’ve got the carrot of the $1.5 million three-year-old race the year after as well as the slot race (NZB Kiwi, $3.5 million) and now the four-year-old race (Aotearoa Classic, $1 million).

“It’s all positive, so you’ve got to try and buy the right horses and I think we’ve done that.”

Meanwhile Benner revealed Full Force came through last Saturday’s run well, but overseas offers are likely after his gallant third placing from barrier 11.

“I’ve just given him a quiet week, he’s pulled up well,” Benner said.

“Whether a horse like that races again in New Zealand, I don’t know. He’s on the market from that point of view, I suppose. There’s also the Matamata Slipper (Gr.3, 1200m) and the Sistema (Gr.1, 1200m) as options as well.

“We’ll just sit on him for a week to ten days, no panic. He ran a big race. I think if he’d drawn a barrier he would have run second. I think the filly was too good, but he used a lot of gas.

“Ryan (Elliot, jockey) did all he could do, and I thought he was very brave on the night.”

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