A perfectly judged ride by local jockey Bruce Herd got the visiting Roger James's Giant’s Causeway filly Grande Ballare home at the head of the field in the NZ Travel Brokers (2100m), a Rating 80 race at Awapuni today.
Herd made the right choice early in proceedings when easing Grande Ballare to last from the outside gate, and his task was made easier as Robert Hannam aboard Omata Road (Daggers Drawn) set up a strong gallop in front. As the ranks closed nearing the 600 metres Grande Ballare travelled into contention seemingly full of running, and was driven to the line for a strong win once she cleared traffic early in the home straight.
Last start winner Elle Pickle (Deputy Governor) made the transition to a higher grade in stylish fashion when also coming from back in the field for second, and could well have narrowed the three quarters of a length margin if she had been able to obtain a clearer passage in the straight. Similarly, Untouched (Danske), also a winner last time out, had trouble clearing a pocket near the rail at a vital time in the straight before claiming third, half a length away.
Notably, the first three across the line were all mares, and each of them gave the impression they are capable of carrying their strong performances on to their next assignments.
The time for the 2100 metres, on excellent footing, was 2:09.45.
Trainer Roger James had said that Grande Ballare would be better suited to racing over a middle distance when speaking of her prospects earlier in the present campaign, and she delivered the goods at her first step-up, having had three previous starts since resuming from a spell of almost a year, and only a rider error late in the piece robbed her of finishing closer than fifth to promising Danske gelding Red Square over a mile at Ellerslie on February 16, at her previous start.
An expensive yearling purchase, Grande Ballare was signed for by James at the 2005 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale from the draft of Ascot Farm for $300,000 and is owned by Huntington Bloodstock Ltd.
Racking up a hat-trick on the seven-race card at Awapuni was New Plymouth based trainer John Wheeler and rider Shannon Doyle, who combined to win aboard each of the three Wheeler runners.
Debutante, Resounding (4 B. G. O’Reilly – Star Reason by Sound Reason), a half-brother to Kingsinga (Danasinga), kicked off by winning race one with ease by three and a half lengths.
Pintot, a three-year-old Pins filly from Blues Traveller mare A Bientot was their next victory when scoring fresh up at only her second race-day appearance, having not raced for over twelve months, and they concluded the programme where they started off when Spikesmatecharlie (6 B. G. Flying Pegasus – Ladybird Lee) came off a let-up to record a dominant all-the-way win by two and a three quarter lengths in the last race.
Both Wheeler and fellow trainer Roger James will be hoping their good stable form continues through the Auckland Cup carnival, which commences on Saturday March 1 at Ellerslie with the Group 1 Mercedes Derby, sees the Group 1 Stella Artois Auckland Cup raced on Wednesday March 5, and concludes on Saturday March 8 with the running of the Group 1 Ford Diamond Stakes, and Group 1 First Sovereign Trust New Zealand Stakes.
The Big G