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Progressive mare Mai Tai added another feather to her cap when she picked up her first victory at stakes level with a win in the Listed Manawatu ITM Anzac Mile (1600m) at Awapuni on Sunday.
Sent out a warm favourite (+160) for the race, punters never had a moment of concern courtesy of a picture-perfect ride by Sam Collett, who collected her second black type victory for the weekend after taking out the Group 2 Easter Handicap (1600m) at Ellerslie aboard Demonetization on Saturday.
Collett made full use of an inside barrier to settle Mai Tai in behind a solid pace set up by eventual runner-up Quiz Kid. Collett made her move to loom into contention at the point of the home bend, angling into the centre of the track in search of better footing.
Quiz Kid fought hard in the straight, but Mai Tai always looked to have his measure, gaining the upper hand in the final 100m and moving clear for a decisive half-length victory, with Cambridge visitor Pierina flashing home late for third.
Trainer Jamie Richards watched the race from Auckland after celebrating his father Paul’s 60th birthday overnight and was delighted with the performance.
“She’s a promising mare who has just taken time to mature,” he said.
“She’s been getting better all season and has worked her way nicely through the grades.
“She’s not the easiest mare to train and has her moments but the team at home have done a super job with her.
“It’s also great to train another winner for the Hawkins family as we had a good deal of success for them with Our Abbadean (7 wins) and have had some lovely horses from their Wentwood Grange operation.”
Richards was also delighted with the ride by Collett, who followed instructions to the letter.
“I did say to Sam to be positive and try and ride her in the first four or five,” Richards said.
“I think she (Mai Tai) might be a little bit better going right-handed, but she copped the track well and did things right today.
“She can have a break now and come back for the spring.”
Bred and raced by the Hawkins family under their Llanhennock Trust banner, Mai Tai completed a wonderful weekend for them after Kolding, who was bred at Wentwood Grange by longtime client Warren Pegg, took out the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick while Easifar, who the Hawkins’ bred and sold, was successful at Doomben for trainer Chris Waller in the Listed Princess Stakes (1630m).
Sean Hawkins admitted the whole family was pinching themselves after such a stunning weekend of results.
“It’s been absolutely amazing and something we couldn’t dream of,” he said.
“It’s very special to get that win with Mai Tai as she was a foster foal and has a special place in the hearts of all of our staff here on the farm.
“She has a massive fan club, who text and Facebook message each other about her, as they just adore her.
“Jamie thought she was well placed at Awapuni as opposed to tackling the Easter Handicap (Group 2, 1600m) at Ellerslie yesterday and his judgement was spot on.”
Hawkins also made special mention of Pride Of Dubai filly Easifar, purchased by bloodstock agent Guy Mulcaster for well-known breeder and owner Debbie Kepitis, who has several broodmares based at the Hawkins’ property.
“We were just thrilled for Easifar as she tries so hard in her races, so she deserved to get a good win,” Hawkins said.
“Debbie has a mare or two with us and this filly is from a really well related family so with that black-type win she has another well credentialed broodmare prospect when she finishes her career on the track.
“I would be lying if I said we didn’t have a few beers to celebrate last night and I can see it happening again now that Mai Tai has won.
“It can be a very tough game so you have to celebrate your wins and we will definitely be doing that.”