Racing: Ladies to fore at Te Rapa

By Michael Guerin

Mares set to continue their dominance in the weight-for-age features on Saturday.

Fix is one of several high-class members of the fairer sex racing at Te Rapa on Saturday. Photo / Natalie Slade
Fix is one of several high-class members of the fairer sex racing at Te Rapa on Saturday. Photo / Natalie Slade

A perfect barrier draw gives Artistic a shot at continuing the recent staggering female domination of our major galloping races when she runs at Te Rapa on Saturday.

Trainer Shaune Ritchie was thrilled when last season's NZ Oaks winner drew barrier three in the Darci Brahma International, especially after the Te Rapa track provided a fast lane on the inside last Saturday.

"That barrier is ideal because as we know she loves to run on the pace," said Ritchie.

"So she is really in this race now.

"She might not be stripped right down for a dogfight because she is still on the way back but I think this race stacks up nicely for her."

Stablemate Zurella will contest the other weight-for-age feature, the Waikato Draught Sprint, and the pair are just two of a number of outstanding mares on display on Saturday.

The Darci Brahma International will see Artistic up against Lady Kipling and Dolmabache, while the line-up of female talent in the sprint is even more potent.

Zurella will clash with last-start Telegraph quinella mates Final Touch and Xanadu, Railway winner Fleur De Lune and last season's Telegraph winner, Guiseppina.

Those mares have been part of a female domination of our best races over the past two season, with the girl-power team of course headed by recently retired Shez Sinsational.

And the trend has even trickled down to the 3-year-old ranks, where Silent Achiever was dominant last season and Habibi has been beating up on the boys this term.

So while New Zealand has had champion weight-for-age mares before, headed by the incomparable Horlicks and Sunline, it is doubtful the girls have ever dominated our richest races quite as dramatically as they have in the past 18 months.

With Mufhasa heading to Caulfield this weekend and our two other male galloping greats Ocean Park and Veyron off to Otaki in a fortnight, although the former may head straight to Australia, that domination could be extended on Saturday.

"It definitely helps not having those sort of boys around this weekend," said Ritchie.

Ironically, two of the big boys on show this weekend are former overseas stars finding their feet in New Zealand. Former Aussie class act Shootoff continues his comeback at the head of the field in the International, in which Sangster looks the biggest threat to the girls.

The former VRC Derby winner was an improved second in the Anniversary Handicap at Trentham last start, beaten by another mare in Glad.

Sangster remains the favourite for next month's Auckland Cup but will have plenty of support on Saturday as the race lacks many true weight-for-age performers.

He opened the $4.50 favourite for Saturday's 2000m race, just in front of Lady Kipling ($5) and Artistic at $6.50. And former Singapore hero Better Than Ever will have his second start back for Jason Bridgman in the Waikato Draught.

The 16-race winner was brave chasing Mufhasa home on his New Zealand debut at Awapuni back on December 22 and has been given plenty of time to recover.

He has, however, drawn outside the big-name mares at barrier 10.

Better Then Ever shared favouritism in the opening market, at $5.50 alongside Final Touch, whom he beat into third at Awapuni.

Fleur De Lune and Xanadu (both $6) and Guiseppina at $7 were next, with Zurella at $9.

Both Sangster and Better Than Ever will have the services of Opie Bosson, who earlier on the stellar programme will ride Soriano in the Sir Tristram Classic.

She has drawn barrier three, right alongside arch-rival Fix.

The race is the next leg of the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series, which looks set to go down to the wire.

Fix leads the series with 19.5 points, whereas Soriano shares second with Rollout The Carpet, who is no longer a player for the title because of injury.

Saturday's race carries eight points for first, four for second and two for third but even a win wouldn't be enough to guarantee Fix the title as the final leg, the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham on March 16, is worth 12 points to the winner because it is a group one.

Glamour girls

*Female gallopers have dominated their male rivals in many of our best races in the past two seasons.

*That trend could continue in the group ones at Te Rapa on Saturday.

*Opie Bosson is booked to ride two of the favourites in the weight-for-age features.

*Fix and Soriano continue their battle for the NZB Filly of the Year title.

- NZ Herald

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