Few runners in Saturday’s Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham will have a support crew like Pennyweka’s.
The Jim Wallace-trained Satono Aladdin filly goes into the Classic as a bona fide contender after fast-finishing placings in the Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham and the Group 2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Awapuni.
Pennyweka is raced by the Galloping Wekas Jazweka Syndicate, which includes Wairarapa brothers Jim and Les Wallace, who bred the filly, and their wives Mary and Janine – and about 70 other smaller syndicate members.
“Les and Janine run the Weka syndications and Les and I have retained a 10 percent share each to race the filly. Apart from a couple of others, many of the 76 strong members are one or two percenters,” Wallace said.
“Our family has a (hospitality) box at Trentham and we’ll have 25 in there and the Wekas have another box for 50 so there’ll be a pretty good support crew there at the races.”
Online bookmakers installed Pennyweka as a second favourite for the Oaks behind last-start Group 3 Sunline Vase (2100m) winner Sakura Girl.
“In the Lowland, she was desperately unlucky. If she’d had any sort of run at them, I think she probably would have won,” Wallace said.
“She was a touch unlucky in the Desert Gold too. She was just held up a little bit in the straight. I’m delighted with her. She’s showing no signs of any problem. She’s eating well and working well and I think she’ll eat up the mile and a half.
“I’m really happy to have Ryan (Elliot, jockey) on because she has sometimes suffered from not having a strong enough rider but he’s got that in spades. She’s drawn well and should find a nice spot.
“I’m as confident as you can reasonably expect to be going into a Group One race. There’s probably four or five good chances and I think we’re one of those.”
Pennyweka is out of a half-sister to Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Titch, bred and raced by Les and Jim’s father Jim Wallace snr and trained by Mary Wallace’s cousin Kevin Myers.
“She was always well balanced as a foal and seemed to be a good mover so we made a decision early that we wouldn’t sell her,” Wallace said.
“She’s from one of our good Ardsley Stud families that has been good to us over the years and out of a Pentire mare. We always thought she had the makings of a good racehorse.
“I’ve more or less given up on the training caper, just keeping one or two in work but nothing serious. This filly came along and when she and Maryweka came back from the breakers, I took them along a bit.
“They were both meant to go to Terri Rae but once I’d had this filly for a little bit, I said to Les, ‘I wouldn’t mind just keeping this one’. She’s always shown more than average ability.”
A Pennyweka Oaks win would be impeccable timing for the Wallace family, who will assemble as part of an expected 300 attendance at a celebration of life for Madeleine Wallace, the late wife of Jim and Mary’s son David, at Ardsley Stud on Friday.
All of the Wallace’s five children – James, David, Catherine, Michael and Rachel – will attend, with Catherine and Michael both flying in from the United States, and they will all be on track at Trentham to support Pennyweka too.
Wallace, who produced Cent Home for Group One wins as an owner-trainer in the 1999 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham and Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m) at Hastings, goes into the Oaks as optimistic as he can be.
“You go into Group One races full of hope but with the understanding that there are 17 other horses in there, half of them with chances as good as ours. But it’s nice to be involved in racing at this sort of level again,” he said.