This past weekend saw the five ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships finals take place at Ruakaka.
The qualifying races kicked off on Saturday 21 May 2022 and there were a number of races scheduled over May, June and July (at Te Rapa, Avondale, Pukekohe, Matamata, Cambridge, Rotorua and Ruakaka) with with great opportunities for all classes of horses before the finals which took place on Saturday 16 July 2022.
Without further ado, we present the winners of the finals!
The Swettenham Stud owned, Charm Spirt filly, Pacific Dragon, showed her class, winning the first of the finals.
Jumping from a wide gate, Michael McNab pushed the filly forward and was in front by the time they reached the first turn. While Pacific Dragon had been dug out of the gates, she was able to relax in front which enabled her to find a good kick in the straight to hold off Belthil with Mighty Bright making up good ground from the back to run third.
Looking at her previous form, which included a second (relegated from first) in the Group 2 First Global Logistics Eclipse Stakes, the $4.90 on offer was great value.
The first three home will all be players in spring black type three-year-old races.
Turn The Ace had been a fringe player over summer but, in recent months, has really hit his straps culminating in a decisive victory in the ITM/GIB 3YO Winter Championship Series Final.
The son of Turn Me Loose was always on speed from his inside draw and kicked hard at the top of the straight winning by just over a length. The Stephen Marsh trained Seresin made up a stack of ground for second, with the locally trained, Follow Your Dreams third.
Turn The Ace is certainly an improving type and is destined to be a player in bigger races as a four-year-old and beyond.
The locally trained, Chevron, that had won his previous start at Ruakaka by 8 lengths, was sent out an odds-on favourite, but it was the Tony Pike trained, River Run, himself a last start winner, that ran out a convincing 3-length winner of the Whangarei Gold Cup Stayers’ Final.
The Lance O’Sullivan/Andrew Scott Two Madison was a game second, with Chevron battling on, after leading to just hold onto third.
The Stephen Marsh trained, daughter of Deep Field, Oseleta, had always shown promise and she partly delivered on that with a comprehensive win in the Sprinters’ Winter Championship Final.
While she was soundly beaten by the very promising Butler at her previous start, that run was on heavy ground and there is no doubt that she improved many lengths racing on a soft 6. I am sure, given her pedigree and residual value, Stephen Marsh will be looking to gain black type with her in coming starts.
Second was the Chris Gibbs trained, Diamond Girl with hardy veteran, Manrico, third.
This series was designed for up-and-coming horses coming through the grades, so it was fantastic for the series that the promising Cakebytheocean was able to repel the challenge of Aqua Man to win, taking his record to three wins from nine starts.
Aqua Man, a last start winner was a game second with Kaimai Queen running on strongly for third. It was a tough watch for those that backed the Ken and Bev Kelso trained, Rose Crescent. From a tricky gate she was forced to settle back further than ideal and didn’t see daylight in the straight until the race was all over. She is certainly one to follow.
We're pleased to report that the first running of the ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships was a success and we expect it to only grow in the coming seasons.
With total turnover up 12% on last year and 86 starters this year compared to 69 on the same day 12 months ago, the Championships resulted in pleasing increases in key metrics - a great result for all involved.
Our thanks to local Whangarei identity, Shayne Heape, and his team for his sponsorship of the series and our thanks again to the team at Ruakaka for ensuring that the inaugural running of the Winter Championships was a success.