If David Ellis CNZM needed any vindication for the quality of yearlings he has bought at Karaka over the past decade, he only needs to look through the past winners' list of the Karaka Million (1200m) and Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).
The Te Akau Racing kingpin has bought the last five winners of the two-year-old feature and has four purchases from last year's yearling sales series lining up in Saturday's $1 million Doubletree By Hilton Karaka Million.
Probabeel, Spellbinder and Rock 'n' Pop feature on the winner's list of the three-year-old feature, with On The Bubbles, Sophisticardo and Pin Me Up all set to tackle Saturday's $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic here at Ellerslie.
"It's been an enormous meeting for us," said Ellis, whose wife Karyn Fenton-Ellis syndicates his purchases.
"Nothing gives you a bigger thrill than seeing the owners get such a good return 12 or 24 months after they've invested with you and that's really what keeps Karyn and I going, seeing the fun our owners get out of it.
"We've got a terrific team of staff at the stud and the stable and to see the pride and the sheer joy they get out of winning these big races is something that's very special for us.
"We've won eight of either the two- or three-year-old races in the last nine years so you could say we're due a bad year. I just hope this isn't it."
Te Akau Racing trainer Jamie Richards will saddle 14 runners on the six-race card, including Fellini, Dynastic, Lord Cosmos and Time Flies in the Karaka Million, a race the stable has produced Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel, Cool Aza Beel and On The Bubbles to win over the past five years.
"Melody Belle, Avantage and Probabeel are great examples of the types of horses we are trying to buy," Ellis said.
"They'll race as two-year-olds but they have to be able to train on at three, four, five and six. The good thing about the two-year-old race is that every horse that's won it, and that goes back to King's Chapel (who won the 2003 Mercedes Super Bonus Classique, the forerunner to the Karaka Million), has gone on to win Group One races."
TAB bookmakers have Dynastic as a shortening $3.30 favourite, ahead of the Roydon Bergerson-trained Wolverine at $3.80 and Fellini at $6. Time Flies is at $11 and Lord Cosmos is at $21.
"We've got a really top colt in Dynastic, who I think is going to make a really good three-year-old," Ellis said.
"Whether he's precocious enough to win a Karaka Million, I'm not sure but on the way he went first up where he was three and four wide the trip, it was as good a run from a two-year-old as I've seen this season.
"And with Opie (Bosson, jockey) on from a good draw, he's going to get a great chance. Roydon's filly is a terrific chance. She's a really top filly with a lot of class and she's been very well trained and she'll be peaking on the night."
Last year's Karaka Million winner On The Bubbles will attempt to emulate his stablemate Probabeel and complete the Karaka Million-Karaka Million 3YO Classic double.
He is the shortest-priced Te Akau runner for the meeting as a $1.70 favourite, with Sophisticardo at $18 and Pin Me Up at $31.
"On The Bubbles will be another example of a good two-year-old that trains on,” Ellis said. “He's a really good chance on Saturday if he gets the mile. He's probably not bred to get a mile but he's a very classy horse and never been further back than second in his life."
Te Akau has several strong chances on the card, with Amarelinha the TAB's $2.70 favourite for the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m), Sword Of State, Imperatriz and Mohawk Brave giving the stable a strong hand in the Gr.3 Cambridge Stud Almanzor Trophy (1200m) and a three-pronged attack of Festivity, Markus Aurelius and Romantic Lady in the Gr.3 Brighthill Farm Eminent First Yearlings Concorde Handicap (1200m).
Pressed on Te Akau's best chance on the night, Ellis plumped for Festivity.
"It's a great night of racing, put on by New Zealand Bloodstock and what they've done for the industry is quite remarkable. It's great to be part of it again with some nice chances," he said.
"It's a night where every trainer in New Zealand aims to have their horse peaking so you've got to have luck in the running and you've got to have a good horse to do it.
"We've always had the sales on the next day so I’ve never been able to stay on and toast our winners but I'll certainly be able to relax afterwards and enjoy the evening a bit more this year, that's for sure."
Story c/– NZ Racing Desk