Gritty mare Nicoletta is no longer a bridesmaid at the elite level after claiming her maiden Group One title in Saturday’s Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha.
The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained five-year-old had been a Group Three winner earlier in her career but her best results at the highest level had been a third placed finish in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa and a similar placing in last year’s edition of the Te Aroha feature.
Racing in the colours of owner Lib Petagna, Nicoletta had disappointed somewhat in her three runs in her current campaign however she hinted a return to form was imminent when battling on nicely when finishing close up in the Gr.2 Japan NZ International Trophy (1600m) at Tauranga last month.
Some inspired pre-race instructions from co-trainer Andrew Forsman and an inch-perfect effort from rider Jake Bayliss saw the Savabeel mare dictate terms from the front throughout. Nicoletta established a break on her nearest pursuers turning for home before staving off the fast-closing Supera and Australian visitor Luvaluva in a desperate finish to the contest.
“He (Bayliss) rode her a treat,” Forsman said.
“She’s twice Group One-placed and is deserving of a Group One win so I’m glad she’s got it.
“He timed it to perfection as I said just out-stay them as she won’t beat them in a sprint home.
“He took it to them and she was just the toughest, fittest horse. They were coming at her late, but he got it right.”
Forsman was pleased the mare had finally picked up some racing luck after things had not gone to plan in recent starts.
“She just hasn’t had anything go right,” he said.
“She hasn’t been going poorly and looked outstanding today.
“I said to Jake that she was hard-fit and ready to go so put her in the race and give her her chance.
“She is good enough to beat these types of horses and she showed that today.”
For Bayliss the victory was his third at Group One level and a nice farewell present as he prepares to head home to Queensland for a three-month stint before returning to New Zealand later in the year.
“I gave her a little bit of a chance just because of the way she was going to be ridden although there were some quality horses in the field,” he said.
“When you lead like that you set it up for the back-markers but she stuck to her guns, it was just a brave brave run.
“It’s my third Group One and Mum was here to watch it, so it’s something special.
“I’m off to Brisbane again in two weeks’ time for the carnival and then some family time but you will see me back here again in August.”
A $90,000 purchase from the 2015 Karaka Yearling Sale, Nicoletta has now won five of her 30 starts and over $384,000 in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk