Walker scores double at Awapuni

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  • June 20, 2023
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Te Akau’s Mark Walker extended his unassailable lead in New Zealand Trainers’ Premiership when scoring a double at Awapuni’s synthetic meeting on Friday.

Redsheis kicked off proceedings when taking out the Whisker Forestry Maiden (1200m), while Stonybreck won the Whisker Forestry (1200m) a race later.

Stonybreck’s victory took Walker to 190 wins for the season, far exceeding New Zealand’s previous domestic record of 160, set by former Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards in 2020/21.

“It was a really good fresh-up effort and a lovely, intelligent ride by Parmar (Niranjan Parmar, jockey),” Walker said.

“When they went to slacken the speed, he saw it coming and he was out, off the fence, and up and around them before they even knew.

“It was a brilliant ride and the winning of the race. He’s a horse that is starting to mature now, getting a bit stronger, and relaxing so much better too.”

Now the winner of three races from eight starts, Stonybreck was purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis from Pencarrow Stud’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale for $20,000.

“He was a bargain from a really good Pencarrow Stud family of Sir Peter Vela, and beautifully bred,” Ellis said.

Artzino primed for staying assignment

A strong Kiwi connection will be at play this Saturday at Flemington when New Zealand-bred three-year-old Artzino pairs with star apprentice Wiremu Pinn in the Sir Henry Bolte Handicap (2000m).

Artzino finished third fresh-up over 1600m at Sandown in late May for trainers Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr after being held up in the home straight and closed strongly to the line behind Elkington Road.

Kent Jnr said the gelding was in great order and had come through his gallop well on Thursday at Cranbourne.

“Artzino is a nice horse, he’s been frustrating having a few little things go wrong and against him,” Kent Jnr told Racing.com.

“He ran very well first up at the mile, he’s now second up at 2000m and he’s been looking for this trip.

“He’s by Tarzino, he’s got a beautiful action and Billy the Kid (Pinn) rides him, so we get a good claim of 2 kilos.

“We’ve looked after him, we’ve been patient, and on the back of his good first-up run I think he’ll go very well.”

Expat-kiwi Pinn has been in racing headlines through the week after having his claim reduced from 3kg to 2kg by Victorian stewards, however, he remains in strong demand with a full book of rides at the iconic Melbourne venue.

Artzino was purchased by his Victorian trainers, in partnership with bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo, out of Seaton Park’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft for $60,000.

Benaud looks to add cup win to Group performances

Group One performer Benaud will look to build on his stakes-level performances in Saturday’s Listed W J Mckell Cup (2000m) at Rosehill on Saturday.

After recording his maiden win on debut in the country, a lack of progressive middle-distance races early in Benaud’s career meant trainer John O’Shea quickly stepped the gelding up to metropolitan stakes level, of which his next 17 starts have come without victory.

However, the connections of Benaud have been rewarded with impressive Group placings in the Gr.3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) and Kingston Town Stakes (2000m), and most notably a runner-up finish to star three-year-old Hitotsu in the 2022 Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m).

“I remember the decision we made when he won a 1400m maiden at Nowra and we were trying to find a nice mile, a progressionary race for him to run in, but there was none,” O’Shea said.

“He ran a placing in the Gloaming at his second start, so the die was cast after that.”

A four-year-old son of Westbury Stud sire Reliable Man, Benaud will step out fresh-up in the Rosehill feature after finishing his previous campaign with a fifth in the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) on April 22 behind Right You Are.

“He’s had a freshen-up off a pretty tough, seasoning campaign with a couple of runs at a mile-and-a-half, and his Mornington Cup run was a good run in very good company.”

“We just need him to get back to his best and bring his A-game and he’ll be competitive there Saturday. He is well weighted at that level.”

Benaud will have the services of three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy on Saturday, and O’Shea is hopeful a strong performance will lead towards the Listed Grafton Cup (2350m), another strong off-season staying race.

“Coming back at this time of the year is more about weaker grade and building some confidence,” he said.

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