Te Akau Racing has enjoyed a stellar season on the track and principal David Ellis is hoping that will continue this weekend when Melody Belle lines up in the Gr.1 Haunui Farm WFA Group One Classic (1600m) at Otaki.
The four-year-old daughter of Commands, who is raced by Fortuna Syndications, has won three Group One races this season and has proven to be an astute purchase out of Haunui Farm’s 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft by Ellis.
He went back to the same well in January to try and uncover Te Akau’s next star and he believes he has done so. Buoyed by the quality of yearlings on offer, Ellis was able to be active at the sale in January, purchasing 43 yearlings for just over $8 million.
“We have got a really great ownership base that we have built up over a lifetime,” Ellis said.
“When I told them I thought it was the best quality of yearlings that I have seen at Karaka for at least ten years it gave my owners a lot of confidence.
“They have seen what an unbelievable job Jamie (Richards) has been doing training the horses, so we were very strong.
“I thought that conformation-wise they are as good as what I have seen. They had terrific bone and were well developed, probably reflecting the great season that we had.
“I thought it was good buying and it’s a great time for people to invest in the New Zealand thoroughbred.”
In just under a month since the sale, all bar nine yearlings have been fully subscribed and Ellis said history has shown some of the last yearlings to be sold by Te Akau have proven to be the best of their crop.
“I think we have sold 34 horses outright already,” Ellis said. “There are still a lot of shares still available.
“The amazing thing is how many good horses come from the last to be sold. For example, Avantage was the last to sell in her year and the third-to-last horse to sell was Sword of Osman, and they are both Group One winners.”
The highlight purchase for Ellis at Karaka this year was undoubtedly the Savabeel – Make A Wish colt who he bought for $1.4 million. The Te Akau principal said the colt has brought a real boost to the Te Akau team.
“He’s just a magnificent individual,” Ellis said. “Having a colt like that, it puts an enormous amount of excitement into the whole team that look after him at the farm, Jamie who knows he has got such a magnificent colt to train, all the staff at Matamata who know they will be looking after him. It’s just a huge thrill for everybody.”
Te Akau has experienced a lot of success with juveniles, having won the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) for the third successive year in January, including taking out the trifecta in this year’s running of the race.
While Ellis is pleased with Te Akau’s record in the race, he said he doesn’t go to Karaka in search of precocious types, rather progressive types like 2017 Karaka Million 2YO winner Melody Belle.
“I go to buy horses like Melody Belle, horses that can show something at two, train on to be better at three and as a four-year-old. She has won four Group Ones already and I think her best season will be next year,” Ellis said.
“A horse that is a two-year-old and no more is no good to me. I only want horses that have the scope to train on and be better.
“We don’t put any pressure on our two-year-olds, we only race them if they tell us they are enjoying it and want to do it.
“We are lucky that the horses we have got are enjoying their two-year-old racing, they are not put under any pressure. We have had six champion two-year-olds and they have all trained on better and they have all gone on to win Group races as older horses.”
Ellis said he is excited to see what Melody Belle can do at Otaki on Saturday, but he is also looking forward to watching star two-year-old filly Probabeel head to Sydney in the autumn after her dominant win in the Karaka Million 2YO last start.
“Probabeel is going to Sydney to run in one of the lead-ups to the Golden Slipper (Gr.1, 1200m), before a decision is made on her plans. But she will probably go to a race like the Sires’ Produce (Gr.1, 1400m), but that decision will be made by Cambridge Stud and Jamie.”
Closer to home, Ellis is hoping Te Akau can add another Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) to their tally next month.
Trainer Jamie Richards will line-up last-start Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) runner-up In A Twinkling and stablemate Prise De Fer in the race.
“We have got two nice horses, both out of Karaka, in the Derby next Saturday,” Ellis said.
“We are pretty excited about that. We have got Glenn Boss and Opie (Bosson) who are going to ride them. It would be great to win another Derby.”
Te Akau previously won the New Zealand Derby with three-time Group One winner Gingernuts, who will lead out the field next Saturday.
“Gingernuts is leading the field out in the Derby,” Ellis said. “He has been enjoying being back in light work. He’ll never gallop again, but he is going to be used to help educate the yearlings that we have bought, he just loves that.”
Ellis was full of praise for his young trainer, Jamie Richards, and is excited for the future with him at the helm of Te Akau’s training operation.
“He’s still in his twenties and he’s trained 50 black-type winners in New Zealand and at least three in Australia, it’s just quite an achievement,” Ellis said. – NZ Racing Desk