Long Leaf’s win in the Karaka 3YO Classic has been particularly satisfying for Sydney-based ex-pat New Zealand jockey James McDonald.
The Lindsay Park-trained Long Leaf is owned by Coolmore and Sir Peter Vela, the boss of NZ Bloodstock which conducts the Karaka Sake and race day at Ellerslie.
McDonald had not ridden at the Auckland track for three years until Saturday’s triumph.
“It’s a great thrill for connections, with Sir Peter Vela and the Coolmore boys,” McDonald said. “He’s a super horse and we got the result.
“This is one of my favourite tracks out of everywhere I have ridden,” McDonald said. “To get a result for this team has been a great thrill.
“I haven’t ridden here for three years and everything has changed, the stables look magnificent.”
Vela has been a long-time supporter of McDonald and said he was delighted with the win and for his jockey.
“I am thrilled for him and for all the group that own him,” Vela said. “He gave it a peach of a ride and I’m just delighted for him to get the accolade.”
While pleased with the win, Vela said he is even more satisfied with the success of the Karaka Million concept.
“I am more excited, believe it or not, about the magnificence of the night and the number of people here enjoying it,” he said.
“It’s a concept we had that was a risk, but it’s more than vindicated a lot of opinions.
“A lot of people helped us and a lot of racing clubs gave up their days so this could be made a great night and there are a lot of people who deserve thanks for it.”
Probabeel won the Karaka 2YO Million for Te Akau and jockey Opie Bosson.