Jockey Danielle Johnson, trainer Jamie Richards and sassy stable hand Teina Walters are some of the protagonists at the coal face of Avantage's success, in between Te Akau Racing head honcho David Ellis calling the shots.
Consequently, it was only appropriate the manager of the Te Akau Avantage Syndicate, Karyn Fenton-Ellis, had stepped up at the birdcage to exalt the achievements of the playmakers when the champion Fastnet Rock filly bagged the group 3 Bostock New Zealand Spring Racing Carnival races in Hastings today.
"David Ellis, of Te Akau, has been the largest buyer at Karaka for the last 12 years so that's quite a record for a New Zealander on an international buying bench," said Fenton-Ellis, the wife of Ellis, who is suitably qualified to draw such assertions after an illustrious career that began in 1992 as the inaugural Trackside TV presenter.
She revealed — after Avantage clinched the Hawke's Bay Breeders' Gold Trail Stakes over 1200m in her season opener — the 3-year-old filly was among the last two horses to sell at the Karaka sales last year.
Ellis bought Avantage for $210,000 from The Oaks Stud draft during the premier session of the National Yearling Sale.
In pipping the Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen-trained Xpression by a head, Avantage claimed $43,750 for her syndicate owners from the $70,000 race for 3-year-old fillies. Her sixth victory has taken her career prizemoney to $806,120.
"People buy shares in horses but you never know what their potential is like," said Fenton-Ellis, emphasising Avantage was always on Ellis' radar because of her pedigree — out of Asavant, by Zabeel.
"On paper, anyway, she always looked like something special but then she had been on the track as a 2-year-old last season and started six times for five wins and got a second where she was only beaten by a draw," she said, adding the filly claimed the Karaka Millions (1200m), the group 1 Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (1400m)and capped off her campaign as the champion 2-year-old of the season.
Fenton-Ellis saluted Richards, stressing his exuberance was well beyond his years.
"Look, he's phenomenal. He's not 30 yet and he was basically born on a horse," she said of the 28-year old from the Taieri Plains in Otago but now based in Matamata.
She said his father, Paul Richards, was a top jockey and trainer in his own right while mother Leanne is a former president of the Otago Racing Club.
"Jamie's probably the hardest working man I've ever met [because] he's so dedicated to being a top trainer."
She said they were lucky because a prodigious pool of workers share the load around him at the stables.
And what of Fenton-Ellis who stopped fronting TV cameras this year?
"I decided that I wasn't going to get up at 4 o'clock on a Sunday morning any more and I was going to dedicate my life a little bit more to family time," she said, adding the arrival of a new grandchild meant she had a lot to look forward to.
Fenton-Ellis said the Hastings track had been very kind to them.
"We've won the $2 million race, which was the Kelt Capital and is now the Livamol [Classic], which we've won three times so it;'s been a very happy hunting ground for us here."
Richards said Avantage still had some improvement in her before heaping plaudits on Xpression.
"I think she's a proper filly," he said of Xpression. "There's no doubt about that because she'll be competitive no matter where she goes with her team so we're looking forward to some nice races in the future."
Avantage has been nominated for the gavelhouse.com 46th New Zealand 1000 Guineas at Riccarton Park, Christchurch, on November 17 so she'll be up against Xpression again although the former also has been bracketed for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai 46th New Zealand 2000 Guineas at the same venue on November 10 as well.
"I'd say more than likely in the South Island but we'll just work it all out on Monday," he said of the impending meeting with Ellis.
A beaming Johnson acknowledged, going into the race, she was mindful Xpression was the one to beat.
"She put up a dogfight at the end so it just shows what type of class these fillies are so looking forward it's exciting to have them in New Zealand racing," said the 27-year-old rider, who has a perfect two from two on Avantage.
Johnson described Avantage as "very, very tough".
"You know, she doesn't really give you a break around the start and then she's always up for a dogfight so she's probably the perfect race you want to be riding," said the jockey who backed that win with another soon after on the Jacob McKay-trained Danger Dee in the $30,000 Hastings Heart of Hawke's Bay 1400 Rating 65 handicap.
Lowry, graciously receiving the handshakes of numerous well wishers, was happy with the performance of his Showcasing filly who trailed the field around the rails for a lion's share of the race after as Samantha Collett got her out of barrier 8 compared with No 1 for Avantage.
"She finished it off nicely. We were just beaten by a very good filly," he said, agreeing there was very little in it although a fine drizzle had set in during the race.
Lowry said the plan was to give Xpression another "little run" in the South Island before the 1000 Guineas.