Kiwi mare stars in William Reid

Star New Zealand sprinter Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) took out Friday night’s Gr.1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at The Valley in emphatic fashion, providing trainer Mark Walker with his first Group One victory in Melbourne.

A four-time Group One winner in her homeland, Imperatriz claimed an all-important Australian Group One to maximise her future value as a broodmare.

The daughter of I Am Invincible had gone desperately close to landing an elite level victory at her first start across the Tasman when pipped on the post by Artorius in the Gr.1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) three weeks ago.

Under a perfectly judged Opie Bosson ride, Imperatriz ($3.60 favourite) settled midfield with cover and crept into the race before the turn, avoiding the tiring leaders Jigsaw and In The Congo.

While eventual runner-up Bella Nipotina briefly looked a threat, Imperatriz pulled clear over the concluding stages to win by a length, with New Zealand-bred mare Roch ’N’ Horse making good ground late for third.

Fellow Kiwi Babylon Berlin fought on well to be beaten less than six lengths after also contesting the hot speed.

New Zealand’s leading trainer, Walker, who returned from Singapore last season to again take the helm at Te Akau Racing’s Matamata stable, was thrilled to claim a Group One win in Melbourne.

“We’ve been a bit unlucky in Group Ones (in Australia), especially in Melbourne over the years, so it was great to get that win tonight,” he said.

“I was away for quite a while. I was 11 years in Singapore, but to come back so soon and do it was very satisfying.

“My son Zavier is here tonight as well, so that’s even better.”

Walker has made no secret that Imperatriz has been at the top of her game this preparation after her spring campaign was hindered by an ongoing back issue.

“She’s just been trouble-free this preparation and it was a fantastic ride of Opie’s as well and he just timed it perfectly,” Walker said.

“We had to make quite a long, sustained run, so full credit to the mare, she’s a beauty.

“We’ll just get her home to Te Akau Stud and get some of that good New Zealand grass into her and give her a break.”

A delighted Opie Bosson returns aboard Imperatriz after her Gr.1 William Reid Stakes win at The Valley
Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

Champion New Zealand jockey Opie Bosson made it Group One win 91, with 11 of those coming in Australia.

“I think it’s only my second winner here at The Valley. I was a little bit nervous going out there, but she did it all for me, she’s a wonderful mare,” he said.

“She’s just got an amazing turn of foot. She can get herself out of trouble and she can run out a strong 1400, so 1200 wasn’t going to be too much of a problem.

“There was a lot of pressure, I got back probably a couple of spots further than I wanted to, but I ended up getting a nice drag into the race and she has done the rest really.

“I sensed Bella Nipotina coming. I gave her a couple behind the saddle and those ears sprang back and she gave again because she does tend to like it a little bit when she gets in front by herself but when she heard that other horse coming she gave it another crack.”

Bosson paid credit to the team at Te Akau Racing, including principal David Ellis, who purchased the mare who was bred by Raffles Dancers.

“It’s amazing. The whole team at Te Akau. it’s just a privilege to ride these horses. David Ellis buys so many amazing horses I get to sit on, and I’ve got the dream job in New Zealand,” Bosson said.

Bred by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Farm, Imperatriz is another nod to the success of the breeding operation, which was managed by Bruce Sherwin since it was established in 2008 and in addition to Imperatriz has produced the likes of Group One winners Glint Of Hope, More Than Sacred and First Seal.

Economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm on the outskirts of Cambridge was sold in 2022, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.

Imperatriz is by leading Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group Two-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016.

Residing since then at Bhima Thoroughbreds in New South Wales, Berimbau produced an I Am Invincible filly two years later who was offered at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

She caught the eye of Te Akau’s David Ellis, who secured her for A$360,000 – and the now five-time Group One winner has stamped herself as one of the elite mares in Australasia and crucially has again franked the quality of New Zealand racing form.

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