If it seems that a major two-year-old race worth a seven-figure sum is run every second week in Australasia, it is hardly surprising. In this part of the racing world, the concept is contagious.
Only two weeks after the Magic Millions Classic on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Auckland are set to stage their version, the Karaka Million, open to graduates of sales company New Zealand Bloodstock’s Karaka National Yearling Sales.
As the name suggests, the race is worth NZ$1m — making it the biggest prize in New Zealand.
Run over 1,200m on beautiful Ellerslie racecourse, it is the perfect aperitif for the wide spread of potential buyers. Post time is Sunday night, only hours before the first lot enters the ring on Monday, the first day of the sales.
This is another big weekend of international racing, with the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida creating a fresh page in racing’s global development; the G1 Stewards Cup at Sha Tin, Hong Kong, providing the highlight of Monday’s popular Chinese New Year meeting; plus Saturday’s G2 Expressway Stakes at Rosehill, which acts as a reminder that Sydney’s important Autumn Carnival is about to commence.
Such is the lure of the big prize money at Ellerslie at the weekend that five Australian jockeys, headed by Hugh Bowman and Craig Williams, have taken rides at the meeting.
There is a full field of 14 (plus one emergency in case of a late scratching) for the Karaka Million, which has a typical blend of precocious two-year-olds and early-comers, whose pedigrees suggest they may prove even better at three.
Trainer Stephen McKee knows the procedure well. He saddled last year’s winner Xiong Feng, whose owners have rolled over their winnings, purchasing Star Treasure, who is one of the major chances this year.
Star Treasure, a son of the former champion racehorse and Darley stallion Lonhro, earned himself a ticket to the Million by winning over 1,100m at Ellerslie on Boxing Day on only his third race start. He has always shown ability.
Bowman will ride impressive last start winner Padraig, who is blinkered for the first time. McKee also has a solid second string in Hasahalo, and rival trainer Tony Pike expects Felton Road to run well.
There are even two Australian-trained runners, who have made the trip, namely Te Amo and Ameridon.
Another runner of interest is Melody Belle, a daughter of the former Darley stallion Commands, who died in 2014.
The long weekend’s global racing extravaganza concludes when up to 60,000 punters will try their luck at the first race meeting in the Chinese New Year at Sha Tin, Hong Kong. A big majority will place their faith in the jockey they call ‘the magic man,’ Joao Moreira, when he rides Able Friend for trainer John Moore in the Stewards Cup.
Moore will also saddle well-credentialed Werther, one of five he has entered for the G1 race.
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