1: Michael Dee kicked home rank outsider Lunar Fox to win last Saturday's Group 1 Australian Guineas in Melbourne.
2: Avantage (right) and Hastings-trained Callsign Mav fight out the finish of the Group 1 El Cheapo Cars Weight-for-age at Otaki last Saturday.
Former Hastings-based jockey Michael Dee created Australian racing history last Saturday when he kicked home the longest priced Group 1 winner that country has ever seen.
Dee, 24, brought up the fifth Group 1 success of his career when he steered the 300 to one shot Lunar Fox to victory in the $A1million Australian Guineas (1600m), feature race at Melbourne's Flemington track.
Lunar Fox was the rank outsider in the 15-horse field and returned a dividend of $139.50 for a win and $20.30 for a place on the New Zealand TAB. But his starting price in Australia was $301 and he has now taken over from Abaridy as the biggest upset winner at Group 1 level on Australian soil.
Abaridy started at 250-1 when he won the 1986 Caulfield Guineas, ridden by Australian jockey Gary Doughty.
Michael Dee is a son of former successful thoroughbred trainer Richard Dee, who is now a stock agent in Hawke's Bay.
He started out as a probationary apprentice with the Hastings training partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen before transferring to Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers for a time and completed his apprenticeship with Caulfield trainer Mick Price in Melbourne.
Dee had his first race-ride aboard Negotiate at Stratford in December 2012 and chalked up his first win on Bamboo at New Plymouth on January 17, 2013.
His first Group 1 victory was on Foundry in The Metropolitan (2400m) in Sydney on September 30, 2017.
Both Doughty and Dee agreed with the punters in thinking their mounts had little or no chance of victory and both were gobsmacked when they saluted the judge.
Doughty recalled he had a better ride than Abaridy in that year's Caulfield Guineas but the horse was injured in the days leading up to the race and withdrawn. He only picked up the winning mount when Abaridy's trainer rang him two days before the race and he agreed to take it because he had ridden for the stable in the past. However he felt it was just another ride for the day.
Dee did have a bit of prior knowledge about Lunar Fox as he had ridden the horse in his previous start, when he finished 12th out of 14 over 1400m at Flemington. But that performance had given him little or no confidence going into a race like the Australian Guineas.
"To be honest, I didn't give him much hope. No one else really did either. All I could do was do my job and do it to the best of my ability. Hopefully the horse ran well in doing so," Dee said.
Horsham trainer Paul Preusker provided the master stroke by adding a set of blinkers to Lunar Fox's gear for the race, which got him to settle well and then finish the race off strongly.
"Having the blinkers on brought just a massive improvement. They drilled it into me before the race to stay off the fence. From the gate we were able to get the perfect run three-wide and work into it. It's obviously a massive thrill and I can't believe it has just happened," Dee added.
Dee's experience in his first two years of race riding in New Zealand included a win aboard star mare Silent Achiever in an open handicap at Ellerslie in February 2014.
He achieved early success when he moved to Melbourne where his first major winner was Churchill Dancer in the Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Stakes (1200m) at Flemington in September 2015.
Last season Michael Dee rode 65 winners in Australia and he now sits on 499 career wins.
Although Lunar Fox was despised by the punters the Foxwedge gelding had shown plenty of ability as a young horse. His two previous wins included the Group 2 VRC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Flemington 12 months ago, when he beat Larimer Street and the subsequent Group 1 winner Ole Kirk. He also finished fifth in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in October last year.
He had struggled since and probably put in the worst run of his career first-up when thrashed as a $151 outsider in the CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) in his final lead-up to last Saturday.
The addition of blinkers for the first time probably brought about the biggest turnaround in form in the history of Australian racing.
Michael Dee is now looking for back-to back longshot Group 1 victories at Flemington in today's $A1.2million Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
The in-form jockey is hoping lightning can strike twice with the Annabel Neasham trained three-year-old Prague, listed as a $101 chance for the 1200m sprint.
"He trialled really well up in Sydney behind Jungle Edge. He's classed as an outsider but I think he's certainly going well, " Dee said.
"Annabel Neasham's team is flying up in Sydney so hopefully she can bring him down here in good order."
It will be the son of Redoute's Choice's second start from the Neasham stable having finished third first up earlier this month in the Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Randwick.
Callsign Mav to go up in distance
Hastings-trained Callsign Mav will be stepped up to a middle distance for the first time when he has his last start in his present campaign.
The Atlante four-year-old, prepared by John Bary, continued his great run of form this season with a gallant second behind the outstanding mare Avantage in last Saturday's Group 1 $200,000 El Cheapo Cars Weight-for-age Classic (1600m) at Otaki.
It was the horse's sixth start since September, five of them in black type races, and he has not finished further back than third in any of them. He won the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on the first day of the Hawke's Bay spring carnival in September before chasing home the classy stablemates Melody Belle and Avantage in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on the second day at Hastings.
He then finished second to Tavi Mac in the Group 2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni in December before winning an open 1400m sprint on the same track the following month.
Callsign Mav then ventured to Te Rapa on February 13 for another tilt at Group 1 in the BCD Sprint (1400m) where he also chased home Avantage in finishing second, just three-quarters of a length behind the winner.
Bary said this week that for Callsign Mav to finish so close to Avantage last Saturday was an outstanding effort.
"He's a horse that is still learning and to chase home an eight-time Group 1 winner like her was tremendous."
Bary has always been keen to try Callsign Mav over a distance further than 1600m and said the horse's next start will be in the Group 2 $100,000 Awapuni Gold Cup on April 3. That race is run over 2000m under set weights and penalties conditions.
"That will be his last run for the season and he can then go out for a well-earned spell," Bary said.
Eighth Group 1 for Avantage
Avantage continued her march into the realms of super stardom when she made it career Group 1 win number eight with a gritty performance in the $200,000 El Cheapo Cars Weight-for-age (1600m) at Otaki last Saturday.
Unbeaten in three starts this year, all at Group 1 level, Avantage was confidently expected to add Otaki's elite feature to make it four in a row and she duly obliged under a confident ride from Opie Bosson.
The Fastnet Rock mare was having her 25th start for a record of 15 wins, five seconds and two thirds and took her stake earnings past the $2million mark.
The five-year-old is raced by the Te Akau Avantage Syndicate, with Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby among the large group involved in the ownership.
Jockey Opie Bosson had Avantage positioned perfectly outside the pacemaker Deerfield throughout before issuing a confident challenge 300m from the finish. Kept up to her work over the final stages, Avantage held out a gallant late bid from Callsign Mav to score by three-quarters of a length.
Bosson was full of praise for his mount, who showed all her fighting qualities in the last 100m to hold out Callsign Mav.
"The plan was to go forward and ride her positively early," Bosson said.
"We got into a little bit of trouble when Deerfield came across us, but she came back off him, relaxed nicely and did everything right.
"I could see him (Callsign Mav) out of the corner of my eye, but once I gave her a few backhanders she put her head out and had a crack.
"That shows you how good a racehorse she is, she loves it."
With trainer Jamie Richards busy back on his home track at Matamata, it was left to his father Paul to travel with the mare to Otaki and he was thrilled with the result.
"Half-way down the straight she had a fight on her hands and she found plenty," he said.
"She is an amazing athlete who has been doing this since she was a two-year-old and there is still plenty ahead of her."
Jamie Richards confirmed that the Group 1 $200,000 Bonecrusher Stakes at Ellerslie on March 13 would be the next race for Avantage and she is likely to clash with her illustrious stablemate Melody Belle in that 2000m event.
Richards also confirmed that a potential trip to Australia later in the autumn was also being considered for Avantage, although no definite arrangements have been made as yet.