Matamata trainer Graham Richardson wasn’t planning to run Bonny Lass in the Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) until he saw the nominations – or rather, the lack of them.
Remarkably for a Group One race, just four horses were originally nominated for the contest on Tuesday – the Jamie Richards-trained stablemates On The Bubbles and Sword of State, Group Three winner Magneto, and the maiden filly Seven Twenty.
Richardson was planning to bypass the Sistema Stakes with Bonny Lass, winner of the Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) on February 27, and instead concentrate on the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) on April 3.
But with Group One black-type on the line for Bonny Lass, Richardson decided to have a go at the Ellerslie feature.
“I was a little bit confused about why there were so few nominations. It’s actually a little bit disappointing to be fair,” said Richardson, who trains at Matamata with Rogan Norvall.
“But when I saw there were only four we decided to have a go. I jokingly said we would go as long as we draw barrier one, and we have.”
Richardson said his reluctance to start Bonny Lass was because he thought she might need more time to recover from her Matamata exertions.
But he said she has every chance of being in the finish at Ellerslie.
“She’s an absolute natural. She’s had one jumpout, one trial, and two races, and she’s won them all,” Richardson said.
“The way she won at Matamata I think she may be better over 1400m at Awapuni but her work this morning right-handed was very good.”
Bonny Lass was one of four late nominations for the juvenile feature as the field swelled to eight, with multiple Group Two-placed Fonsalette also amongst them.
Richardson will also have two of the eight runners in the Group 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) in Tiptronic and Paisley Park. Both are in good order but face a tough task against Melody Belle, Avantage and Royal Performer.
Tiptronic won the CollinsonForex Karaka Cup (2200m) at Ellerslie two starts ago before being galloped on during the running of the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) on February 13, in which he finished sixth.
Paisley Park continues to improve even as a six-year-old, scoring his first black-type success in the Listed Kaimai Stakes (2000m) at Matamata on February 27.
“Tiptronic’s a good horse, and nothing went right last time, and Paisley Park’s an up-and-comer,” Richardson said. “They’re both well and they have a chance.”
Meanwhile, Richardson is looking forward to the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) on March 20, in which he hopes to have two runners.
Canuhandleajandal is the more experienced, having finished a close third in the Group 2 Lowland Stakes (2100m), but Richardson is also excited at the chances of Carolina Reaper, who finished sixth in the Group 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie last Sunday.
“Canuhandleajandal ran really well in the Lowland and will stay all day, while Carolina Reaper races like a stayer. She made up three lengths on any other horse in the last 200m and though a mile and a half is a different story, she’s a chance if she gets the trip.”
Richardson is also having a great time as the major owner of Defibrillate. He trained the gelding to win two of his three starts before sending him to Patrick Payne in Victoria, and this season he has won more than $A320,000 after winning four of his six starts and finishing sixth in the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at the weekend.
“There wasn’t enough money in New Zealand for him, and I’m over the moon with how he’s going. We’re having an absolute ball with him,” he said.