Derby on the cards for Wairarapa Cup winner

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  • February 10, 2023
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Foxton horsewoman Chrissy Bambry doesn’t plan to die wondering this season with her exciting three-year-old Opawa Jack.

The White Robe Lodge product scored his second victory when defeating older horses in the Wairarapa Cup (2050m) on Monday, fighting strongly in the hands of jockey Warren Kennedy to defeat Amathusia by a nose in the Rating 75 event – a great effort for a horse rated 63 going into the race.

If all goes well, Bambry hopes to have Opawa Jack at Te Rapa on March 4 to contest the Gr.1 Auckland Thoroughbred Racing New Zealand Derby (2400m).

“He’s a horse that I obviously rate,” Bambry said.

“He’s still very much a big baby and still got a lot to learn – Warren said he was still switching on and off but he fought well to the line and he’s improving each time. I’m just waiting until the penny drops with him because when it does he could be a very smart horse.

“Whether he’ll have his ringcraft refined enough for the Derby will be a question mark, but we plan to give him a go.”

Opawa Jack certainly has plenty of stamina in his pedigree – his dam Serve De Aunt, a daughter of Australian Derby winner Nom du Jeu, is a half-sister to dual Group One-winning two-miler Who Shot Thebarman.

He caught Bambry’s eye at the 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale and after he was passed in, agent Paul Willetts bought him on their behalf for $40,000 from the White Robe Lodge draft.

“Paul rang me after he passed in and asked if we should try and get him, and we said yes,” Bambry said.

“We were the first ones back to the box afterwards.”

With two wins and a new rating of 68, Opawa Jack has probably done enough to secure a start in the Derby.

He will have one more lead-up start, most likely close to home rather than trekking up north for the Gr.2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) on the right-handed Pukekohe track on February 18.

The best options are likely to be either on February 19 in the Affco Wairoa Cup (2100m), a race used by C’est La Guerre as a lead-up to his 2008 New Zealand Derby victory, or the following weekend in the New Zealand St. Leger Trial (2100m) at Otaki.

“He doesn’t need to go up north and run the other way when the Derby is being run at Te Rapa on a left-handed track, so we will stick to the Central Districts,” she said.

Opawa Jack’s victory rounded off a fantastic weekend for Bambry, who also saddled Sergio and La Capita to win consecutive races at New Plymouth on Saturday.

Sergio led all the way to win the open 1400m handicap after being pulled out of the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) the week before due to the wet track.

“The track at New Plymouth was right up his alley and he got a lovely ride in front by Craig Zackey. It was a pretty dominant win in the end,” she said.

“There aren’t a lot of races around for him at the moment but we’ll probably look for a couple more open handicaps before looking at black type again.”

La Capita was at more than 50-1 in a 1400m special conditions maiden but won after jockey Kate Hercock dashed her clear before the top of the straight.

By Golden Slipper winner Capitalist out of a sister to Gr.2 Todman Stakes (1200m) winner Krupt, La Capita was bought by Bambry’s parents Tony and Judith Bambry on in June last year for $6,000.

“She’s actually in foal to Hello Youmzain so it was great to get a maiden win for her,” Bambry said.

“She’s got until the end of February before she will hit the 120 day mark in foal and be retired, so she’ll probably run once more before then.”

Bambry said the stable had some confidence she would run well, but she believed that only her father Tony was brave enough to back her at those odds.

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