Kevin Hickman is already increasing his South Island-based firepower leading into this year’s New Zealand Cup carnival. A group of horses owned by the Valachi Downs principal were transported from Waikato on Monday morning bound for Riccarton, where they will continue their preparations for their respective trainers Stephen Autridge and Stephen Marsh. “Kevin likes to get to see them race and we’ve got five on this trip and there could be more later, including a two-year-old or two,” Autridge said.
Autridge’s shipment consisted of Woodcote Lass and Last Hoorah and three mares bought by Hickman in England – Red Chois, Blue Valley and Unbeatable Dancer. “The number one priority for the mares is to try and get them to Kevin’s own race, the Valachi Downs Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (Group 3, 1400m), on the middle day of the Cup meeting (November 13),” Autridge said. “If the fillies come up we’d like to get to the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (Group 1, 1600m) on the last day.”
Woodcote Lass, a daughter of Showcasing, has shown promise with a debut third then a juvenile win at Rotorua in April. She was then freshened before running a close second at the recent Te Teko trials. Last Hoorah, a daughter of No Excuse Needed, has yet to race and she also shaped well at the Te Teko trials, winning her 1040m heat.
Of the three imports, Red Chois has been the one to show immediate talent in New Zealand, clearing maiden ranks over 1200m on a heavy11 track at Te Aroha. A six-year-old daughter of top Australian sprinter and successful sire Choisir, Red Chois was runner- up five times in France before heading to England where she was placed in each of her three starts for William Jarvis.
Blue Valley, a five-year-old mare by Lope De Vega, was a winner in France for top trainer Andre Fabre and won the second of her trials for Autridge before finishing unplaced in her New Zealand debut at Te Rapa in May. “She won her trial well, but then I made a mistake by running her at Te Rapa,” Autridge said. “That was when the sand (on the track) was at its worst.”
Unbeatable Dancer, a four-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit, was placed a couple of times for trainer Mark Johnston in England and was runner-up in the second at the Avondale trials in May before also failing to handle the Te Rapa track in her first-up run in May.
Also on the Riccarton-bound float was the Marsh-trained Bronte Beach, a Reliable Man filly who won second-up at Hastings last April after nearly falling in the home straight. She was put aside after finishing seventh in a Listed 1100m at Te Rapa in May and was runner-up at the recent Te Teko trials. “She will run in a three-year-old 1000m race at Riccarton in two weeks and Chris Johnson is booked to ride her,” Marsh said.
Kurt, another Hickman-owned three-year-old prepared by Autridge, is also earmarked for the New Zealand Cup meeting. “Long term we’d like to get him to the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (Group 1, 1600m),” Autridge said. “He was meant to run at Taupo, like Woodcote Lass was, but they called the rest of the races off. I’m not sure where he’ll run next, but he’s a smart horse.”
Kurt, a son of Kingman, made ground late in both his starts as a two-year-old and was less than one and a half lengths off the winner, Rainbow Dash, last time in a Listed 1100m race at Te Rapa. He then impressed when winning by three lengths at the Te Teko trials earlier this month.