Stunning return from Imperatriz

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  • September 11, 2023
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Te Akau Racing’s new Victorian stable got off to the perfect start when star Kiwi mare Imperatriz made a stunning reappearance at The Valley on Saturday, cruising to victory in the Gr.2 McEwen Stakes (1000m).

The Mark Walker-trained five-year-old was first-up since winning the Gr.1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at The Valley back in March and was the first horse to race out of the powerhouse New Zealand operation’s new Cranbourne quarters, which opened just a matter of weeks ago.

Ridden to perfection by Michael Dee, Imperatriz raced back in the field and was patiently handled as key rival Giga Kick made first-run.

Dee presented Imperatriz widest of all and the mare’s acceleration was electric, as she put a strong field to bed in a matter of strides, setting a new track record of 56.68 at her first attempt at 1000m, as Rothfire and Giga Kick trailed her home in second and third respectively, beaten 2.5 lengths.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Ben Gleeson, Assistant Trainer for Te Akau Racing Australia.

“It is nice to add onto the day they have had at home with four winners and a Group One so a huge day for the team.

“Big credit to the team at home, Mark and Sam (Bergerson) sent her to me in incredible order. The improvement I saw in her after spending two weeks in New Zealand, there is an incredible group of staff and it just speaks volumes to the whole operation that she’s turned up and shown us that today.

“She got into a lovely position, we’d always planned to be dropping in behind the speed and having Giga Kick behind us was obviously a little bit worrying that he had us in a stalking position but when he took off Mick (Dee) just read the race perfectly, got the trail and the way that she let down was incredible.”

Imperatriz is likely to remain in Melbourne this spring, with the Gr.1 Moir Stakes (1000m), Gr.1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) and Gr.1 Champions Sprint (1200m) on the radar.

“It is nice to know that her next two starts are here at The Valley – bring it on,” Gleeson said.

Formerly Assistant Trainer to Danny O’Brien, Gleeson is relishing his new role with Te Akau.

“They’ve been an incredibly warming organisation for me,” he said. “It’s been very smooth, Mark and Sam and David (Ellis) and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis), they make you feel like a family. Mark’s been very trusting over here, it’s been pretty straightforward. To be a part of something special is a nice feeling.”

Winning rider Michael Dee was blown away by the turn of foot shown by the five-time Group One winner but admitted to some concerns in the run.

“I was a little bit concerned when Giga Kick came around, I thought I know she’s got a great turn of foot as we’ve all seen in the past and as it turned out I pressed the button too soon because we hit the front in three or four strides from sixth in the running,” he said.

“Opie (Bosson) said to me yesterday she’s got the best turn of foot of a horse that he’s ever felt and I’ve gotta say she’s probably the best one I’ve ever felt.”

Dee will be hoping Te Akau’s retained rider Opie Bosson is required for more feature New Zealand race meetings in the future.

“I think there’s certainly good racing over there (in New Zealand) at the moment and Opie’s the man for Te Akau but I think he’s just got a New Zealand contract doesn’t he so, it’s not a contract for Australia just yet,” he quipped.

The win capped a terrific day for Te Akau Racing, where trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson had saddled four winners at Hastings earlier in the day, including Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) winner Skew Wiff, and a pair of stakes victories with quality three-year-olds Quintessa (Gr.3 Gold Trail Stakes, 1200m) and Tokyo Tycoon (Listed Sir Colin Meads Trophy, 1200m).

Bred by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Farm, Imperatriz is another nod to the success of the breeding operation, which was managed by Bruce Sherwin since it was established in 2008 and in addition to Imperatriz has produced the likes of Group One winners Glint Of Hope, More Than Sacred and First Seal.

Economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm on the outskirts of Cambridge was sold in 2022, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.

Imperatriz is by leading Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group Two-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016.

Residing since then at Bhima Thoroughbreds in New South Wales, Berimbau produced an I Am Invincible filly two years later who was offered at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

She caught the eye of Te Akau’s David Ellis, who secured her for A$360,000 and Saturday’s performance has again confirmed her standing amongst the elite sprinters in Australasia. – NZ Racing Desk

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