A $1million purchase from the 2018 NZB Book One Yearling Sale, promising colt Conqueror (2c Fastnet Rock x Diademe, by Savabeel) was well fancied when making his debut at Sandown on Wednesday, but had to settle for second place behind another son of Fastnet Rock in the race favourite Game Keeper (2c Fastnet Rock x My Tusker, by Volksraad).
Prepared by Tony McEvoy, Game Keeper had the benefit of race experience having finished a close fourth at his first two starts at Geelong and Flemington.
Sent to the front in this 1200 metre assignment, he led all the way with Conqueror a gallant second beaten three quarters of a length.
“It was good to see him keep fighting like that,” said stable representative Darren McLeod.
“The last two starts he’s been up against it, but today he had the advantage of race experience.
“He can be quite colt, so we have to keep his mind on the job.”
A $175,000 Magic Millions purchase for McEvoy Mitchell Racing from the Coolmore draft, Game Keeper is the third winner from multiple Group II winning filly My Tusker, a grand-daughter of champion New Zealand mare Horlicks, whose family has produced Group I stars Brew, Fiumicino and Sacred Elixir.
In January New Zealand ex-pat jockey James McDonald made a winning return to his favourite track on Saturday when he was able to ride home talented Long Leaf (3c Fastnet Rock x Frustrating, by Stravinsky) to win the $1million Karaka 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie.
The David, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained colt was favoured by punters heading into the race and did not disappoint.
McDonald settled the three-year-old midfield before tracking Media Sensation from the 900m mark. He then drew his charge into the clear at the top of the straight where battled hard to the line to win by a neck.
Long Leaf was purchased out of Curraghmore’s 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft by BBA Ireland for $750,000 and carried the colours of part-owner Coolmore to victory on Saturday.
great thrill for connections, with Sir Peter Vela and the Coolmore
boys,” McDonald said. “He’s a super horse and we got the result.”
McDonald said it was exciting to be back racing on his favourite track on one the biggest race days on the New Zealand calendar.
“This is one of my favourite tracks out of everywhere I have ridden,” McDonald said. “To get a result for this team has been a great thrill.
“I haven’t ridden here for three years and everything has changed, the stables look magnificent.”
Co-owner Sir Peter Vela, who has been a long-time supporter of McDonald, said he was delighted with the win and for his jockey.
“I am thrilled for him (McDonald) and for all the group that own him,”
Vela said. “He gave it a peach of a ride and I’m just delighted for him
to get the accolade.”
Foaled and raised at Coolmore in Australia, Long Leaf was a two time stakes-winner at two and is from winning Stravinsky (USA) mare Frustrating, a daughter of blue hen Parfore, the dam of Group I winners Terravista and Tiger Tees, as well as Group II winner Ball of Muscle, Singapore Horse of the Year and sire Super Easy and the multiple Listed Stakes winner Our Lukas.
Frustrating produced another colt by Fastnet Rock last year and is back in foal to the champion sire.
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