If smiling were an Olympic sport, then Milan Park principal Tony Rider would most likely have had a gold medal hanging around his neck on Saturday evening.
Rider was on hand at Hastings to watch two three-year-old fillies he bred and owns assure their future at his Cambridge-based breeding operation once their racing days are over with comprehensive victories in their respective black-type events on the day.
First up was Savabeel filly Shezzacatch (NZ) (Savabeel), who was making her raceday debut for trainers Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen in the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads trophy (1200m).
Overlooked by punters, the filly, who is closely related to stakes performers Savvy Dreams, Pussy Willow, Pussy O’Reilly, Valpolicella and Vavasour, stormed home from well back to snatch victory in the final few strides.
Rider was ecstatic with the result but admitted he had an inkling that Shezzacatch wasn’t a forlorn chance following comments that co-trainer and part owner Guy Lowry had made to him a few weeks ago.
“Guy had told me she (Shezzacatch) had a lot of ability but was very green,” Rider said.
“He said he didn’t know if she would get around the corners but he thought she was a good horse.
“He actually told me six weeks ago that I should put the filly on a plane to Australia as she would be one of the best horses he had had since Savvy Dreams and deserved her chance over there.
“He felt she would be very competitive over there but I said to him I wanted to win black-type with her here at home before we considered a move like that.
“My ultimate goal is to win a Group One with her which we would like to do that here first, so if we were going to contemplate a move, it might not be until next season.
“We haven’t discussed it but I don’t think Guy is looking at the 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton but more like a race like the Levin Classic (Gr.1, 1600m) at Trentham in January for her.”
Milan Park principal Tony Rider is all smiles at HastingsPhoto Credit: Trish DunellWhile the Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) might not be on the horizon for Shezzacatch, Rider will still have a strong prospect in the fillies’ feature with the Jamie Richards-trained Miss Aotearoa.
The daughter of Per Incanto overcame a wide barrier when out-finishing her rivals in the Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders’ Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) and is being set for the Riccarton contest.
“I said to Jamie that it was a bit of bugger about the draw but he said to me that in most instances he would agree, but not in this case,” Rider said.
“He was very bullish about her chances and I know he is keen to get her to the 1000 Guineas.
“I don’t know his future plans for her, but on her breeding, I would think she could be an Oaks type of filly, as I can’t see why she couldn’t get out to a distance, but that will be Jamie’s call.”
Miss Aotearoa (NZ) (Per Incanto) is out of Danasinga mare Danex, the dam of Gr.1 Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) contender Oceanex who was also bred by Rider.
A former dairy farmer-turned supermarket owner, Rider sold Oceanex through his Milan Park operation to trainer Mick Price for $70,000 at the 2017 Premier Yearling sale at Karaka and he has followed her progress with much interest ever since.
With Oceanex having guaranteed herself a start in the Melbourne Cup courtesy of her win in the Listed Andrew Ramsden (2800m) earlier in the year, she has provided Rider with a potential quandary on the first Tuesday in November.
Rider is also the part-owner of another Cup aspirant in the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained The Chosen One (NZ) (Savabeel) who commenced his spring preparation with a stunning first-up win over 1700m at Flemington last week.
The five-year-old Savabeel entire was bred by South Island racing and breeding identities Joe, Tony, Ray and Martin Dennis, who took him to the 2017 National Yearling Sale at Karaka where he was passed in when failing to meet his $150,000 reserve.
“I’ve known the Dennis brothers for a long time but not that well until Tony asked me to have a look at a Savabeel colt (The Chosen One) at the sales that year,” he said.
“I had a look and when the horse was passed in, I went around and saw them straight away and said I would love to be involved if he was going to syndicate him.
“He told me that was what their thinking was and within an hour we had him syndicated, so I’ve been involved ever since and from there the friendship just grew.
“They are such a humble family who love this industry so it is pretty special to be racing a good horse with them.
“It would be neat to tear off a big race like the Cup with them but it does confuse me a little as I really want The Chosen One to win but then as a breeder, I would love for Oceanex to win.
“It’s always been a dream to win the Melbourne Cup and a few years ago I was on an Emirates flight where they had the Melbourne Cup and I got to hold it, so I’d like to do that again with one of my own.”