The man who created New Zealand racing's biggest night allowed himself a smile as Avantage won the Telegraph at Trentham on Saturday.

Because Sir Peter Vela knows the $1 million juvenile sprint to be held at Ellerslie on Saturday has graduated from being a sales races to a launching pad for serious Group 1 horses.

It wasn't always that way, sales races rarely are. They can often be the low-hanging fruit on racing's feature-race tree, especially early-season 2-year-old dashes.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Since Vincent Mangano won the first Karaka Million in 2007, it has changed the way the yearling sales are viewed, giving those who look for early comers on sales day a target inside 12 months.


And for obvious reasons, plenty of those horses don't go on to Group 1 greatness. But for the race to get the respect its stake deserves and for the local breeding industry as a whole, it helps if at least a couple of Karaka Million winners go on to be outstanding.

How about three. In a row.

Melody Belle won the Karaka Million three years ago, at a scarcely believable $32.40 for a Te Akau horse ridden by Opie Bosson. And she is now a world-class mare.

It was Avantage's turn for Te Akau again the next year and not only is she now a weight-for-age Group 1 winner but looks to have much more in front of her.

She did, after all, overcome barrier 13 and a two-time Telegraph winner on Saturday.

And Probabeel, who returns this Saturday trying to become a historic first winner of the Million and the Million Classic, might be as good as her two older stablemates.

She had the raw ability to be competitive with the Sydney autumn 2-year-olds and the spring 3-year-old fillies there, and trainer Jamie Richards can't wait to get her up over 2000m there this autumn.

So we now have three consecutive Karaka Million winners who are already proven Group 1 horses, not just here, but in Australia.


And New Zealand Bloodstock supremo Vela knows that is the greatest form of legitimacy for not just the race night but the sales.

"You want the horses who win these races to go on and do a job," he says.

"And they really are now. It is great for the entire industry and just adds another level to Karaka Million night."

Vela also takes great pride in the Karaka Classic Mile for the 3-year-olds jumping enormously to $1 million two years ago, while the entire meeting has gone to another level by moving from Sunday to a Saturday twilight.

"I think everybody involved has got it right now and having the sale starting the next morning [Sunday] this week, it provides great momentum," offers Vela.

"The Saturday night works and we needed that 3-year-old race to get to the $1 million a couple of years ago and ideally get some of the nice Australian horses to come back for it."

Vela helped grant that wish in part himself last year when Long Leaf, who he part-owned, won the Classic Mile, while on Saturday, the same Hayes/Dabernig stable will bring Conqueror to Ellerslie.

Already the only race meeting in the country that has a truly international feel, Saturday's $2.34 million extravaganza gets further boosts with Catalyst resuming in the Henley Park Mr Tiz Trophy, while Melody Belle will even pop in for an exhibition gallop between races.

They are two superstars with serious Australian Group 1 targets like the Australian Guineas and All Star Mile and will ensure there are plenty of Australian eyeballs on the action.

Other highlights are the return of hero jockey James McDonald with an army of punters who follow him, Opie Bosson and Te Akau looking for their fourth straight Karaka Million and Facebook group Boys Get Paid staging an enormous punters club with hundreds of members in attendance.

Saturday's meeting is shaping as something spectacular.

The barrier draw for Saturday's two $1 million races will be live on Trackside and New Zealand Bloodstock's website at 11 am tomorrow.