Prowess downs older rivals in dramatic New Zealand Stakes

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  • March 13, 2023
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Three-year-old filly Prowess showed a combination of class and guts to upstage her older rivals in Saturday’s Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m) at Pukekohe.

After racing handy to the speed set by veteran galloper The Mayor, Prowess cruised to the front at the top of the straight. Despite laying out significantly under pressure, Prowess dug deep to cross the line with a neck advantage over runner-up Campionessa.

Winning trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, along with successful jockey Michael McNab, were forced to defend their victory in the stewards’ room, with connections of the runner-up lodging a protest after a bump late in the piece.

Third-placed La Crique and fifth-placed Defibrillate also suffered interference at the hands of the winner, but after viewing all angles the judicial committee settled on maintaining the original placings, with it clear the wayward Prowess was powering to the line too well for the vanquished.

James and Wellwood had made the bold call to bypass last Saturday’s Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in favour of a tilt at the elite level against older rivals over a preferred 2000m distance, and that decision was vindicated with an all-important first Group One affixed to the record of the daughter of Proisir.

James had argued strongly in favour of his charge during the protest proceedings and spoke of the high regard he held for the filly immediately after the race.

“Any Group One victory is important and especially for a filly and that was pretty impressive,” he said.

“It doesn’t get any better and it wasn’t easy at all as we were going to the Derby ten days ago and we made the decision not to, which was definitely the right thing to do.

“She was hand-picked (from the yearling sales) and she is doing the job for her connections.”

James and Wellwood went to $230,000 to purchase the filly as a yearling out of Hallmark Stud’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 draft for long-time stable client Dean Skipper.

Out of the Don Eduardo mare Donna Marie, Prowess is a half-sister to the stakes placed Ajay Tee and has never been unplaced in eight starts having won six of those for stakes earnings in excess of $957,000.

Wellwood was understandably proud of the filly, who fended off the multiple challenges of her older rivals after being left in front a long way from home.

“You know for a moment there it looked like perhaps we might be going to get beaten, but she was just labouring with nothing in front of her, as when she saw the challengers come up to her she kicked again,” he said.

“It was very impressive and very exciting.

“I saw the head-on film and I didn’t think we had any concerns from what I saw.”

Prowess is by Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir which capped another stunning day for the Walton-based nursery with their shuttle stallion Satono Aladdin providing the other Group One winner on the day in Tokyo Tycoon.

Prowess is the fifth individual Group One winner for Proisir with Levante, Legarto, Prowess, Dark Destroyer and Pier having all won Group One races this season.

James and Wellwood will now consider some Australian autumn targets for prowess which will likely include the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) in Sydney on March 25 for which she is a $4.50 chance.

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