Te Akau spring plans fluid as Shark recuperates

Boom Kiwi galloper Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle) remains in an equine hospital in Sydney after undergoing eye surgery.

The striking chestnut had optic implant surgery for a rare condition last month and while recovering well from the operation picked up a lung infection that is causing concern.

Trainer Jamie Richards said the multiple Group One winner was making steady progress and hopes the gelding will be out of the clinic by early next week.

“The plan is to spell him in NSW for probably three or four weeks to make sure everything is 100 percent and then get him back to New Zealand,” Richards told RSN927.

“Then we will give him a break and get him ready for racing later in the summer and hopefully have him back to Sydney in the autumn.”

Richards said they would get a better indication of Te Akau Shark’s progress once the horse came off the medication for the lung complaint, adding it could affect other parts of the body.

“The implants have improved the cloudiness in his eye and they don’t appear to be painful,” Richards said.

Meanwhile, the Matamata trainer said the border closure between NSW and Victoria because of a spike in COVID-19 cases was concerning as he looked to descend on the Australian carnivals with a quality group of Kiwi raiders.

“The longer it goes on the more concerning it becomes,” Richards said.

“Our plan was always to have those horses ready to trial at the back end of July or early August and then look to bring them over but we have to see how it all plays out in the next three weeks.

“I think we have got the right horses to come over and be competitive, but getting the staff and horses there is the concern and rather than be rushing into it in the first week of August, we might just take stock and give them a couple of trials here in New Zealand and possibly a race and maybe look at it a bit later in August.”

Richards left Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) and Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) in Sydney under the care of stable employee Ashley Handley following their autumn campaigns, with both horses steadily building fitness.

Melody Belle is due to kick-off her campaign in the Gr.2 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on August 8 as a lead-up to the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick a fortnight later, with Richards mindful that the star mare improves markedly from her fresh-up run.

Richards was planning to have Probabeel in Melbourne to start her campaign on August 22 in either the Gr.3 Toy Show Quality (1100m) or the Gr.3 Show County Quality (1200m) but could also keep the Group One winning daughter of Savabeel in Sydney a bit longer.

“Three-year-old fillies, turning four, don’t have the best record going into the spring, so I think we need to be a bit cautious about what races we are targeting,” he said.

“We will probably try and stay away from the big heavy hitters in the weight-for-age races if we can and look at races like the Epsom (Gr.1, 1400m), the Sir Rupert Clark (Gr.1, 1400m) or the Toorak Handicap (Gr.1, 1600m). They are the sort of races where she would get in with a reasonable weight and have some appeal.

Richards was keen to have as many as a dozen boxes at Flemington during the spring, but hasn’t been granted as many boxes as he would have liked.

“There are other options available that we are looking at,” he said.

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