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Ellerslie action

The Group 1 action in New Zealand continues this weekend with a pair of $200k features at Auckland's racecourse, Ellerslie. Corey Hyde, @chyde33, returns with the previews.

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HAUNUI FARM DIAMOND STAKES 1200M $200,000

The Diamond Stakes represents the first of two New Zealand Group 1 races for the juveniles. The 2012 race developed into a roughhouse affair, with Warhorse, now known as Tougher than Ever, declared the winner upon protest. A much smaller field of six has been assembled this year, comprised of two colts and four fillies.

Runner-by-runner preview:

#1 AL STRADA – BARRIER 5 – JASON PRICE – REESE JONES - $10

A Perfectly Ready gelding with only three starts under his belt, yielding two wins. Last start victory on the same day as the Group 2 Matamata Breeders Stakes, running a second slower than the feature race. With three speed runners drawn under him it’s hard to see him getting the run required to trouble the two favourites.

#2 ZARAGOZA – BARRIER 6 – PETER McKAY – SAM SPRATT - $21

From one of the premier two year old barns in New Zealand, expect the son of Charge Forward to take a sit from the outside barrier. Should have the race run to suit from that position. Unlikely to trouble the first two, but looks a chance for minors.

#3 RUUD AWAKENING – BARRIER 1 – STEPHEN MARSH – OPIE BOSSON - $1.65

The standout juvenile of the New Zealand season. The daughter of Bernadini tasted her only defeat when blowing the start and running half a length second to Bounding on the 24th November. Subsequently won the Karaka Million sales graduate race in dominant fashion. From barrier one, she is drawn to either lead or take the leaders back if the early pace is too frantic. Clearly the one to beat.

#4 BOUNDING – BARRIER 4 – K & B KELSO – MARK DU PLESSIS - $2.60

Precociously bred daughter of Lonhro out of the speedy 2YO Believe’N’Succceed, she had her boom slightly lowered when running second last start in the Matamata Sires Produce Stakes. Reports suggest she had a slight setback in the week leading up to that race, and in addition to the fact that she sweated up profusely on a very hot day, she may have had excuses. Did defeat Ruud Awakening in their solitary meeting, although she had several factors in her favour, including the slow beginning from Ruud Awakening; the 1100m trip; and the on pace nature of the day. Was only able to cling on to a half length margin on the line, she will be hard pressed to beat Ruud Awakening on this occasion.

#5 GIRL OF MY DREAMS – BARRIER 2 – LEO MOLLOY – LEITH INNES - $18

Has impressed in winning lower quality races. Won at Listed level in impressive fashion last start at New Plymouth, coming from behind midfield with a powerful burst in the stretch. Will have the sit on the leaders and should have the last crack at them if the favourites engage in a speed duel up front. Definite knockout hope.

#6 REPULSE BAY – BARRIER 3 – SHAUN RITCHIE – MICHAEL WALKER - $12

Impressed when winning at Te Aroha last start, prevailing by two lengths after parking outside the leader. Appears to me as a promising three year old type, this task might just be a little early for her, but she is one to keep an eye on for the three year old filly series next season.

CONCLUSION:

The race should be run at a decent gallop, with Ruud Awakening having the most tactical options at her disposal. With top jockey Opie Bosson in the saddle she will look for the lead, but if Bounding or Al Strada press the issue he may elect to settle in behind. My first 4 is:

#3 RUUD AWAKENING
#5 GIRL OF MY DREAMS
#4 BOUNDING
#6 REPULSE BAY

LINDAUER NEW ZEALAND STAKES 2000M $200,000

The race has attracted a quality field of 10 runners and marks the final preparation race for Cox Plate winner Ocean Park before his planned assault on Meydan and Royal Ascot.

Runner-by-runner preview:

#1 OCEAN PARK – BARRIER 2 – GARY HENNESSY – LEITH INNES - $2.80

Established himself as the star Weight for Age performer in Australasia through the Melbourne Spring. Ran fairly for fourth in the Otaki WFA 1st up, and will have taken improvement from the run. He was not as impressive as previous first up performances, and in combination with his uninspiring exhibition gallop on the course on the 27th January there are some reservations in my mind. Class will take him a long way here but he may be slightly behind due to the long campaign ahead of him and he should improve again out of this run.

#2 VEYRON – BARRIER 10 – LINDA LAING – ROGAN NORVALL - $3.50

Another high class son of the late Thorn Park, he is the definition of a course specialist, having fashioned a record of nine wins and two placings from 13 career runs at Ellerslie. Is very dangerous when given peace in front, he looks to only have Better than Ever for company in front. Will be there for a long way and will fight out the finish.

#3 BETTER THAN EVER – BARRIER 4 – JASON BRIDGMAN – HAYDEN TINSLEY - $16

Former champion Singapore galloper who has run three nice races since his arrival in New Zealand. His best form is around 7-8 furlongs, and there are questions about his ability to run out a strong 10 furlongs. Will have the option of leading from barrier four or taking the one-back sit behind Veyron. With a the possibility of a slow tempo, he looms as a good place chance.

#4 NASHVILLE – BARRIER 6 – ADRIAN BULL – KELLY MYERS - $6

Talented customer who under-performed in his three year old Brisbane campaign due to a virus. Has shown no lasting effects this preparation, taking the difficult step from three year old company into open class in his stride. Desperately unlucky in the Telegraph Handicap and Thorndon Mile at Trentham, he gained a deserved Group 1 success in the Otaki WFA, defeating rivals Ocean Park, Veyron and Better than Ever in the process. Up to 2000m looks to be of no concern, should settle midfield, and there is no reason why he can’t repeat the dose.

#6 SHOOTOFF – BARRIER 9 – GRAEME ROGERSON – OPIE BOSSON - $18

Former Queensland Derby winner, he was a game third on a slow track behind Veyron and Shez Sinsational in the Zabeel classic on Boxing day. Some give in the track would render him as a place chance, however with the firm conditions he is unlikely to trouble the favorites.

#7 ALEGRIO – BARRIER 5 – RICHARD COLLETT – ALYSHA COLLETT - $31

Journeyman galloper of 50 starts, he should receive a nice trip just behind the leaders. Looks to be outclassed but should box on for a midfield finish.

#8 SHUKA – BARRIER 3 – PETER & DAWN WILLIAMS – MARK DU PLESSIS - $21

Has run quality races behind smart mare Silent Achiever in the past, and ran a nice second to Nashville in the Group 2 Couplands Bakeries Mile at Riccarton on the 14th of November. Will get a nice run and looks the horse who could potentially add value to the trifecta and first 4 dividends.

#9 DOLMABACHE – BARRIER 8 – RAMSEY/RITCHIE – MICHAEL WALKER - $18

Ran a nice second in the Group 1 Darci Brahma International Stakes at Te Rapa on the 9th February, behind subsequent Auckland Cup winner Sangster. This looks a stronger race, and her racing pattern of settling behind midfield looks to be unsuited to the tempo which should prevail here. Midfield finish looks most likely.

#10 ARTISTIC – BARRIER 7 – SHAUNE RITCHIE – MICHAEL COLEMAN - $8.50

Ran seventh last start behind Sangster in the Group 1 Darci Brahma International Stakes. Third up here so should be nearing peak fitness. Looks slightly under the odds for mine, although she is a definite First 4 chance.

#11 ASAVANT – BARRIER 1 – J & K PARSONS – TRUDY THORNTON - $18

Ran an eye catching 3rd last start behind Sangster in the Group 1 Darci Brahma International Stakes. Has a good record of two wins and a placing from four starts over 2000m. Should settle three back on the fence and with the right splits in the straight she is capable of running into a minor placing.

CONCLUSION:

There looks to be limited speed in the race, with Veyron and Better than Ever the only real pace influences. If Better than Ever decides to take a sit behind Veyron the race could be run at a very slow speed. On this basis I have a slight preference for Veyron over Nashville.

#2 VEYRON
#4 NASHVILLE
#1 OCEAN PARK
#8 SHUKA

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