Marton trainer Fraser Auret made it a red-letter day for the Auret family on Saturday when he captured both feature races at Riccarton.
Two-year-old debutant Unusual Countess made a stunning racetrack debut when she took out the Listed Berkley Stud Champagne Stakes (1200m), before lightly raced four-year-old Streak Of Power outlasted his rivals to win the Listed Daphne Bannan Memorial Easter Stakes (1600m).
Both horses are raced by Auret’s parents Nigel and Adaire, who stand Group 1 Hollywood Turf Cup (2400m) winner Unusual Suspect, the sire of Unusual Countess, at their Letham Stud in Wanganui.
Unusual Suspect became her sire’s first stakes winner with a convincing display in the hands of rider Lisa Allpress, who had given Auret the thumbs up after riding her in a jumpout recently.
Allpress settled the filly on the outside of pacemaker Lucybelle before taking over early in the run home. Unusual Countess shot away from the chasing pack and despite knocking up a little in the final 50m, had enough in reserve to hold out the fast-closing MacKenzie Lad by a head at the winning post.
Watching the race back at his Wanganui home, Nigel Auret was on cloud nine with the result.
“Our dreams have come to fruition,” he said.
“We have always had a huge opinion of this filly, but Fraser has given her time to get over a few niggles as she went shinsore after she won a trial at Otaki back in February.
“Once she got past that she had a jumpout a few weeks ago and went superbly, so we set her for the race today.”
Auret secured her sire Unusual Suspect to stand at their property after he had originally commenced stud duties in Australia.
“We always liked the look of Unusual Suspect and when we had the chance to buy him, we jumped at it,” Auret said.
“He was a very genuine horse who won at Group One level as a six-year-old, but people probably don’t know he was also stakes placed as a two-year-old.
“He has produced nine individual winners in Australia and this is his first New Zealand winner and a stakes one at that.”
Fraser Auret was naturally delighted with how the day had panned out, especially as both horses were bred and owned by his parents.
“I think I might get an invite to Christmas dinner this year,” he quipped.
“It was a massive risk to take the filly (Unusual Countess) all that way for her first start, but she had showed us she has a pretty bombproof temperament.
“She travelled down beautifully and ate everything in sight, so I was pleased with her and she delivered a gutsy victory.
“We will give her ten days in the paddock when she gets home and then have a look around, but I would think that might be it for her as a two-year-old and you won’t see her again until the spring.”
Auret also had a special feeling of satisfaction with the victory by Streak of Power after taking over his father’s racing team around five months ago.
The four-year-old son of Power enjoyed a lovely run throughout for apprentice Wiremu Pinn before lodging a challenge in the home straight. The finish turned into a three-way battle with former northerner She’s A Lady and Belle Fascino, with Streak Of Power pulling out plenty to get home by a short head.
“I took on Dad’s team when he retired and this is one horse who has really thrived,” Auret said.
“He has gone from a rating 65 winner to a stakes winner and I think there is still improvement to come from him.
“He was really brave today as he didn’t get things his own way in front and had to scrap it out with two very nice mares in the last 200m.
“He’s out of a young mare (Stracile), so that is great for her broodmare future as well.
“He can also go home for a break, but now we know he can compete at a higher level there could be some nice races on his programme during his next campaign.”