Century awaits leading trainer as stars return

Trainer Jamie Richards will be out to notch a century of wins in New Zealand once racing returns in July Photo: Trish Dunell

Premiership-leading trainer Jamie Richards is looking forward to notching the ton when racing recommences in July, after an enforced break at the end of March left him stranded on 99 wins for the season.

It was a case of what could have been for Richards, who was sailing along at a great rate and ahead of target with a view to chasing down the record number of winners trained in a season in New Zealand of 143 set in 2017-18 by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.

Despite a limited program of racing in July, Richards has a handful of horses that could provide him with his 100th win for the season.

“We’ve got three older horses in Bak Da Master, Al Haram and Richard of Yorke who are all getting fit and looking pretty good,” Richards said.

“Horses like Cicciolina and Shebringsmerubies are also knocking on the door and can handle a bit of cut in the track.

“We’re obviously not renowned for wet trackers in the winter but I think we’ve got a few bullets there to fire.”

The 30-year-old trainer is likely to have several horses ready to trial at forthcoming meetings at Te Rapa on June 9 and 23, as racing gets set to return on July 3 following a Covid-19 enforced hiatus.

Having ended last season on 98 wins in his first season as solo trainer for Te Akau Racing, reaching the century domestically would cap an outstanding season for the young horseman.

Richards leads the premiership in all facets — wins, prize money, Group & Listed wins, and the best strike rate (4.8) among the top 10 trainers in the country.

Adding to his 17 stakes victories in New Zealand, Richards added three Group One wins in Australia, meaning that 11 of his 20 Group & Listed wins have come in Group One races.

Richards said the highlight of the season was a Group One double at Randwick on February 29, where Probabeel won the Surround Stakes (1400m) 40 minutes prior to Te Akau Shark winning the Chipping Norton (1600m).

“Mainly because of the prestige around racing in Sydney,” Richards said. “It’s one of the most competitive racing jurisdictions in the world. We had two runners that day and they both won Group Ones, so it was quite unbelievable really.

“That was the highlight, closely followed by the double on Karaka Million Night (Cool Aza Beel winning the Karaka Million 2YO and Probabeel winning the Karaka Million 3YO). We thought it would be hard to beat that, but then we did.”

Richards also reported that two of his three stable stars that spelled in Australia after autumn campaigns are now back in work.

“Melody Belle and Probabeel are back in work from yesterday (Tuesday) at the stables at Randwick, and Te Akau Shark will stay out a little bit longer,” he said.

Multiple Group One winner Melody Belle is back in workPhoto: Ultimate Racing Photos (Bruno Cannatelli)

“They’ve been really well cared for at Lime Country and the fillies in particular have put on a good amount of weight. They’re going into John Thompson’s stables and our staff member Ashley Handley will be looking after them again.

“We’re going to sit tight in Sydney, where the weather is generally a bit better, get them fit, poke them towards a trial, and see how it comes together. We haven’t worried too much about particular race plans, as yet.”

Richards added that he and the staff were happy to be back into the training routine at Matamata, after Covid-19 lockdown.

“We’re chipping away, building-up the horses’ fitness and looking forward to them stepping up,” he said.

“It’s great to welcome back proven horses like Avantage, Savy Yong Blonk, Prise De Fer, Need I Say More and Brando amongst others.

“And, it’s also great to have the new crop of yearlings coming through and seeing the exciting young horses that Dave’s (Ellis, Te Akau principal) bought. So, it’s a good time of year to be back into it.”

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