With just under six weeks to go until the $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) and $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), we're currently in a period of calm before the storm.
Over the last few weeks, little has changed on the order of entry lists for the eagerly-anticipated races here at Ellerslie on January 23.
Top spot on the DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO table still belongs to Avonallo (NZ) (Belardo), the last-start winner of the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton on November 14. He has so far earned $33,750 in his three-start career.
Welcome Stakes runner-up Follow Your Dreams (NZ) (Contributer) remains in second with $32,250, ahead of the Glen Harvey-trained pair of Brix (NZ) (Sweynesse) and Miss Ipenema (NZ) (Sacred Falls), who have earned $28,700 and $18,925 respectively.
Palamos (Extreme Choice), an impressive winner of his only start on October 24, rounds out the top five with $13,050.
The only notable mover in the last couple of weeks is Taoiseach (NZ) (Highly Recommended), who made his debut in the Group Two Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) at Trentham on December 5. He finished second and has moved straight into sixth spot on the table with $7,000 in stakes.
But there could be some major movement over the next few weeks. There are a number of two-year-old races scheduled, including a $22,500 race at Awapuni this Saturday, a $50,000 race here at Ellerslie at our SkyCity Boxing Day Races and the $100,000 Group Two Eclipse Stakes (1200m), again here at Ellerslie at the SkyCity New Year’s Day Races.
Victory in any of those races would book a ticket for the Karaka Million starting gate.
An interesting contender who might step out in one of those races is Khufu (American Pharoah), who is prominent in Karaka Million betting (rated a $6.50 third favourite by the TAB) despite being yet to make his raceday debut.
A son of American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Khufu was a $150,000 purchase from Curraghmore’s draft in Book 1 of Karaka 2020 and is held in very high regard.
“We’re probably going to gallop him on Friday or Saturday, and he may trial on the synthetic at Cambridge,” trainer Tony Pike told NZ Racing Desk.
“Then we’ll make a decision whether we run him on Boxing Day in a two-year-old 1100-metre race, the Eclipse Stakes on New Year’s Day, or we may even give him just one run two weeks before the Karaka Million.
“He’s had a little hiccup with a hamstring, and he’s too good a horse to push too hard, but obviously he’s got that natural talent and natural ability. If he can win a race between now and then, he’ll line up in the Karaka Million. He’s going to be a beautiful horse going forward.”
The impressive and undefeated Group One New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner Aegon (NZ) (Sacred Falls) remains at the top of the 3YO Order of Entry, and is also the TAB’s $2.20 favourite.
The Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner Kahma Lass (NZ) (Darci Brahma) has been ruled out and is likely to fly the Kiwi flag in Sydney instead, while 2000 Guineas runner-up Bourbonaire (NZ) (Darci Brahma) was recently sold to Hong Kong.
But there are a number of chances in the weeks ahead for up-and-comers to stake their claims, including the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) on Boxing Day and the Group Two Auckland Guineas (1600m) on New Year’s Day.
Pike also has a potential contender for this event in the form of The Irishman (NZ) (Tavistock), a $170,000 Book 1 purchase who was a highly impressive debut winner earlier this season and trialled nicely on Monday of this week.
“He trialled up really well, he just went back from a wide gate and he’s rolled up nicely on the bridle,” Pike said.
“Leith (Innes, jockey) was really happy with the way he’s trialled, he’s had a good blow afterwards. If he pulls up well, we’ll probably head to Ellerslie on Boxing Day for the Uncle Remus Stakes or the Benchmark 65 1400-metre race.
“We’ll just decide after that – probably one more run, then into the Karaka Million 3YO Classic.
“Being out of a Zabeel mare and by Tavistock, we’ll definitely slowly be getting him up in trip. He’s entered for the Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m), and if we’re happy with his form, that’s the way we’ll head.”
See what's on offer at Auckland's million dollar night of racing, the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million (23 Jan 2021)
View the Karaka Million 2YO and 3YO order of entry here