Stephen Nickalls hopes to get exciting three-year-old filly Llanacord to the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) next month as a tribute to her former trainer Glynn Brick.
The daughter of Contributer broke her maiden in style in a 2000m contest at Whanganui last week, clearing out by eight lengths and highlighting her stamina.
The filly is owned by Nickalls, who trains at Rangiotu, near Foxton, along with his mother and stepfather, Dianne and Kevin Hopson. The latter bought him for $15,000 at Book 2 of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale in 2019 and sent her to be prepared by Brick in Cambridge.
However, all that came to a shocking end when Brick died in a car crash near Cambridge in March last year.
“Glynn had trained Kevin’s horses for 10 years, and the intention was always that he would train this filly,” Nickalls said.
“When that happened my stepfather called and asked if I could take her and we were only too happy to.
“They were very tragic circumstances. To be able to do something with her is something, and if she can even run in the Oaks it will have great sentimental value for all of us.”
Llanacord hadn’t won in six starts prior to her maiden success but Nickalls always had an opinion of the filly and she was nominated for the Oaks very early on.
“We’ve always had a high opinion of the filly, but we weren’t expecting her to win by eight lengths,” Nickalls said.
“She’s always looked like she’s going to be a staying filly, and up to 2000m with the blinkers really helped her.
“She’d always had a bit of a flat spot and not quite travelled through the last bend, and I think the blinkers allowed her to stay there handy without being asked to.”
Nickalls said Llanacord was likely to head to the Group 3 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on March 3 to test whether she was worth taking to the Oaks.
“It’s hard to know if a maiden 2000m winner at Whanganui is a genuine contender, but the way she put them away suggests she’ll get the mile and a half no problem,” Nickalls said.
“She ran in the Oaks Prelude at New Plymouth and finished seventh but she got too far back and that prompted us to put the blinkers on. Hopefully she’ll be better again in the Lowland.”
A popular member of the racing fraternity, Nickalls, who prepared The Oysterman to win the 2017 Awapuni Steeplechase, is known for his exuberant post-race celebrations and is an avid jumping fan.
He lives with his partner Laura Knight, who also trains and prepared Ready Eddie to win the Grand National Hurdle in 2017.
The pair train about 10 horses between them, while Knight, daughter of former All Black Gary Knight, also has showjumpers.
“We both like the jumpers. We tend to look for horses that will either be stayers on the flat, or if they’re too slow for that, become jumpers.”