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Contenders Push Karaka Million 2YO Claims

With the $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) now only 12 days away, the field for New Zealand’s richest two-year-old race is rapidly taking shape.

A series of high-quality races here at Ellerslie in recent weeks have played a large part in clearing up the picture, headed by the $120,000 Group Two Eclipse Stakes (1200m) on New Year’s Day.


Current Karaka Million favourite Wolverine (NZ) (Tivaci) maintained her undefeated record and her position at the top of the order of entry with a thrilling win, defeating Pacific Dragon (NZ) (Charm Spirit) via protest after initially being edged out by a desperate nose.


Wolverine now has $138,970 in stakes to her name from three starts, with the fast-improving Pacific Dragon soaring up to second with $38,850. Third place belongs to Grace ‘N’ Grey (NZ) (Spirit Of Boom), who lifted her earnings to $38,200 with a big win in a $60,000 race for two-year-olds here at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.


However, if historical trends are any guide, the horse in fourth place on the order of entry could be one to watch – Grace ‘N’ Grey’s stablemate Fellini (NZ) (Belardo), who moved up to $31,225 with victory in a $35,000 race here at Ellerslie on January 9.


Throughout the last decade, this two-year-old race on a Sunday in early January has towered over all others as the biggest form guide for the Karaka Million 2YO. Its previous winners include next-start Karaka Million heroes Ruud Awakening (Bernardini), Avantage (Fastnet Rock), Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) and On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau).


The 2017 Karaka Million winner Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) was unlucky when finishing outside the placings in this key lead-up, while Cool Aza Beel (NZ) (Savabeel), who won the 2020 Karaka Million, was scratched from the Sunday race due to an elevated temperature.


The Ellerslie race has become part of a winning formula for Te Akau Racing and trainer Jamie Richards, who have used it as a stepping stone to Karaka Million glory with Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel and On The Bubbles.


This year they again won the dress rehearsal again with Fellini, who found some traffic trouble in the early stages of the race before producing a strong run from off the pace to score by three-quarters of a length.


Bought by David Ellis for $40,000 from the Book 1 draft of Valachi Downs at Karaka 2021, Fellini has now had three starts for two wins and a third placing.


“The win will set him up nicely for the Karaka Million in a couple of weeks,” Richards said. “We’ve used this race before as a stepping stone for our two-year-olds. He’s a good, honest horse and he’ll show up here in 13 days and give it everything.”


Sunday’s runner-up Alabama Gold (NZ) (Turn Me Loose) now looks assured of a Karaka Million spot, moving up to 10th in the order of entry with $9,135, while Fellini’s stablemate Time Flies (NZ) (Time Test) sits in 14th place with $5,850 after finishing third.


There is potential for last-minute movement on the order of entry with two valuable races for two-year-olds taking place this weekend. Tauranga hosts a $30,000 race on Friday, which was won by subsequent Karaka Million winner Cool Aza Beel two years ago, while Saturday’s big Trentham meeting features the $60,000 Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m).


View the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) Order of Entry here.


Unbeaten 3YO Classic Contender Bound for Hong Kong


Last year’s Karaka Million 2YO winner On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau) has tightened his firm hold on favouritism for the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) with the defection of a key rival.


The Tony Pike-trained Scribe (Press Statement) made a big impression in a brief New Zealand career, winning both starts with ease. He cleared maiden grade with a dominant debut performance at New Plymouth in November, then beat On The Bubbles by two lengths at Te Rapa on December 11.


Bought by Pike Racing for $160,000 from Carlaw Park’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2020, Scribe earned $29,720 in stakes and has since been recruited by clients of Hong Kong-based trainer David Hayes.


“You never like losing good horses, but obviously the offer was substantial,” Pike said. “Being a gelding, and with the business model that we run, we decided that we would accept the offer and move on to the next one.”


Scribe’s withdrawal leaves On The Bubbles, a last-start winner of the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie, as a $1.70 favourite in the TAB’s market for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic on January 22. There are no other runners under $10.


View the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) Order of Entry here.