Belclare smashes rivals in Ellerslie Group 1

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Perennially under-rated mare Belclare had a richly day in the sun on Saturday, bringing her high-class racing career to a close with a successful defence of her title in the Group 1 (1600m).

The Lisa Latta-trained mare has spent most of her career under the radar and has defied double-digit odds for many of her previous successes – including a +2100 upset in last year's Breeders' Stakes at and a +2000 boilover in the Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m) at Ellerslie two months ago.

But despite the lack of plaudits, Belclare has banked more than $980,000 for her ownership group, which includes her breeder David Woodhouse. Her outstanding 36-start career has produced 11 wins and six second placings.

“Lisa has done such a magnificent job with this mare,” Woodhouse said. “I'm very grateful to my ownership , who stuck it out through quite a slow start to her career. But then we sent her to Lisa, who really turned this mare around, and we've had so much fun together over the last couple of years.

“It's almost unbelievable that I'm thinking of selling her now, but that will set me up so that I can hopefully keep racing horses for the rest of my days.”

Belclare became the sixth mare to record back-to-back wins in the New Zealand , joining Tudor Light (1976-77), Orchidra (1978-79), Waikiki (1990-91), Aimee Jay (1998-99) and Saint Cecile (2001-02). The race was elevated to Group One status for the second of Saint Cecile's wins, so Belclare is the first to win the race twice at the elite level.

Belclare's second Breeders' Stakes victory came as a +390 second favourite with horse racing bookmakers, starkly contrasting with last year's three-length upset over the subsequent Group One winner Skew Wiff. The six-year-old was ridden again on Saturday by Sam Spratt, whose potent partnership with Belclare has produced victories in the Westbury Classic and both editions of the Breeders' Stakes.

After being slightly slow to leave the starting gates, Spratt drove Belclare forward and soon took up a position on the outside of the front-running Town Cryer.

Belclare cruised up on the outside of that rival approaching the turn, then took command quickly after straightening for home. She produced the same powerful kick that carried her to her previous big-race successes, pulling ahead of Town Cryer and opening up a winning margin of a length and a half.

“What a super mare,” Spratt said. “I don't normally get emotional, but she almost brought a tear to my eye today. She's been such a tough little mare.

“She'll be heading off to be a mum soon, I think she's going to be sold in Australia, so to go out today is awesome.

“She's often a stride slow to begin, so I was a bit worried about her draw today. But we managed to kick up, and as soon as I got up beside Town Cryer, I thought I was in a pretty good position. It panned out perfectly – exactly the way I was hoping it would, which doesn't often happen. She was just travelling so well, then kicked clear in the straight. It was easy as.

“She's such a cool little mare. She's always been the underdog, but she's got huge ability.”

Latta was relieved and delighted to see her stable star sign off in Group One style.

“It's been a really nerve-racking day, considering it's likely to be her last race for us,” she said. “I'm proud of her.

“I didn't think there'd be a whole lot of speed today, and I thought Town Cryer would be it. She got into a good spot on the outside of that runner, and the rest is history.

“It was good for her to have the experience from coming up here and winning the Westbury Classic earlier in the season, and she obviously goes really well right-handed.

“The owners have been so loyal, and to go out on a winning note in this race, it couldn't be better.”

The -trained Town Cryer held on for second in an all-Awapuni quinella, while the -trained Blissful Belle completed a clean sweep for the Central Districts with her third placing.

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