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Another Pinot toast for team

23 November 2017, 1:44 p.m.

 

The Te Akau Racing Stables team will on Saturday take another step toward assembling its squad for the Karaka Million (1200m).

Trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards will be looking to Pinot Grey, an impressive debut winner at Otaki earlier this month, to cement her place in the line-up for the $1 million juvenile feature at Ellerslie on January 27.

Pinot Grey Photo: Race Images

Pinot Grey has $6250 in the kitty as a result of her win and a further victory (or even a second) in the $50,000 Listed Ashford Lodge 2YO Stakes (1100m) this weekend will be enough to guarantee her spot in the Karaka Million.

Already the Te Akau team has four of the top earners on the Karaka Million order of entry list with Al Hasa, an impressive winner of last Saturday’s Listed Barneswood Farm Welcome Stakes (1000m) at Riccarton, and Avantage, unbeaten in two starts, safely in the field.

Al Hasa is third on the list (headed by Australian-trained youngster Long Leaf) with $32,475 and Avantage next with $28,120. Pinot Grey is down in eighth spot at present with stablemate Irish Cream also on $6250.

Irish Cream, who annihilated her opposition with a seven-length debut win at Ruakaka, is in the same boat as Pinot Grey needing more stake money to cement her place in the Karaka Million.

“She jarred up pretty badly after her first run and we’re taking her along quietly,” Autridge said. “We’re not putting any pressure on her to get there.”

Avantage has also had a setback and is on the easy list. Shinsoreness prevented her from running in last Saturday’s Listed Barneswood Farm Welcome Stakes.

“She’s on the water-walker and we’re just taking our time with her,” Autridge said. “She’s been feeling the ground a bit.”

However, there has been no cause for concern with Pinot Grey as she builds up for Saturday’s stakes mission.

“She’s a very natural two-year-old and knows what to do,” Autridge said. “She won her first start easily and she’s done well since.

“If she can win again, or even run second, we can back off her knowing she’ll get in the Karaka Million. We’ll probably do the same as we did with Melody Belle last year before she won the Karaka Million.”

A $145,000 Select Sale purchase by David Ellis, Pinot Grey is a daughter of Burgundy and the unraced Stravinsky mare Streaming and hails from the same family as Melbourne Cup legend Makybe Diva.

Pinot Grey is part of a three-horse attack on the black-type races at Pukekohe on Saturday by Autridge and Richards. Stablemates Zambezi Warrior and Heroic Valour will contest the Gr.3 Ssangyong Counties Cup (2100m) and Listed Haunui Farm Counties Bowl (1100m) respectively.

Zambezi Warrior will be ridden for the first time by Danielle Johnson, who made a special trip to partner the stayer in trackwork this week.

“He worked up good for Danielle and he’s a good lightweight chance, but he would appreciate some sting out of the ground,” Autridge said. “He’s coming up well.”

Zambezi Warrior was runner-up in the Gr.2 Valachi Downs Championship Stakes (2100m) at Ellerslie as a three-year-old and sixth in this year’s Gr.3 Wallaceville Estate Wellington Cup (3200m). He has had a couple of runs this campaign and was unlucky not to finish closer than fifth behind Ocean Emperor at Awapuni over 1550m last start after being held up in the home straight.

Heroic Valour will be going into Saturday’s Counties Bowl with one lead-up run, a creditable fifth to Untamed Diamond in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint (1200m) at Te Rapa earlier this month.

“Actually I did think he would go better at Te Rapa, but it was his first run back and he’s a bull (entire) so he probably needed it,” Autridge said. “His work on Tuesday was outstanding and he’ll have blinkers on.

“We’re planning to ride him a little quieter. He appreciates it more when he’s chasing.”

Heroic Valour was unbeaten in three juvenile starts, highlighted by his win in the Gr.1 Sistema Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie, and his last win came fresh-up as a three-year-old in the Listed Tavistock Northland Breeders Stakes (1200m) at Ruakaka.

Despite failing to get his head in front, he was a model of consistency last season with six placings, including a third in the Gr.1 Sothys NZ 2000 Guineas (1600m) and a fourth in the Gr.1 NRM Sprint (1400m). He was also runner-up in the Gr.3 Gold Coast Guineas (1200m). - NZ Racing Desk