Counting Down to the Biggest Karaka Million Yet

Last year's Karaka Million 2YO winner Melody Belle (NZ).
Last year's Karaka Million 2YO winner Melody Belle (NZ).

Through its first 10 years the Karaka Million has established itself as one of the biggest events on New Zealand’s racing calendar. Now, as it moves into its second decade, the twilight spectacular at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse is going to a whole new level.

Tied in with a revamp of New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sales Series, which kicks off at Karaka the following day, the six-race Karaka Million Twilight programme has been given a massive upgrade.

It has been moved forward by one day to Saturday (this year January 27), and it is no longer the only million-dollar race on the card. The former Karaka 3YO Mile has been renamed the Karaka Million 3YO Classic, and its stake has quadrupled from $250,000 last year to $1 million in 2018.

Adding further lustre to New Zealand’s richest raceday, the other four races are now all black-type events – the $100,000 Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m), the $200,000 Group 3 Windsor Park Stud City of Auckland Cup (2400m), the $70,000 Group 3 Brighthill Farm Concorde Handicap (1200m) and the $70,000 Group 3 Mongolian Khan Trophy (1200m).

Karaka Million 2YO

The race that started it all is the $1 million Karaka Million 2YO (1200m), arguably the most exciting 70 seconds in New Zealand sport.

Its 10 winners have been purchased at Karaka for prices ranging from $30,000 (Xiong Feng (NZ) (Iffraaj) to $170,000 (Ockham’s Razor (NZ) (Any Suggestion), and it has been a springboard to Group 1 glory for The Heckler (Lucky Owners), Ruud Awakening (Bernardini), Vespa (NZ) (Elusive City) and last year’s winner Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands).

Another quality field is assembling this year for the 11th Karaka Million, with the connections of last year’s winner Melody Belle once again to the fore.

That filly was bought at Karaka by Te Akau principal David Ellis, and trained by Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards. The Te Akau tangerine are likely to make up more than a third of this year’s field with five possible runners, headed by the two favourites – Avantage (Fastnet Rock) and Sword Of Osman (NZ) (Savabeel).

Avantage was purchased by Ellis for $210,000 at the Premier Sale. She is unbeaten in three starts, and moved to the top of the Karaka Million order of entry with a victory at Ellerslie on Sunday. She has earned $41,620 and heads the TAB’s Karaka Million market at $4.

Just behind her on $4.60 is stablemate Sword Of Osman, who was a $165,000 Premier Sale purchase. He was an easy winner of his only start last month at Awapuni, earning $12,500 in prizemoney to sit comfortably inside the top 10.

Te Akau are represented by the six-length Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) winner Al Hasa (NZ) (Exceed And Excel) and talented fillies Pinot Grey (NZ) (Burgundy) and The Real Beel (NZ) (Savabeel).

Second on the order of entry is the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1000m) winner Sir Nate (NZ) (Nadeem), who was purchased by Lisa Latta for $65,000 in the Select Sale and has now earned $36,125. Also trained by Latta, she won the 2011 Karaka Million with Fort Lincoln (NZ) (Charge Forward).

Al Hasa is third, followed by She’s A Thief (NZ) (Showcasing) and Masque (NZ) (Savabeel).

She’s A Thief was purchased by Paul Moroney Bloodstock for $30,000 at the Festival Sale and has already recouped that price, impressively winning her first two starts before finishing third in the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes (1200m).

The Graham Rogerson secured Masque ($200,000 at the Premier Sale) won on debut before placing in the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1000m).

Also prominent in the order of entry is Espumoso (NZ) (Pins), who cost $50,000 at the Premier Sale and has earned $40,310 in prizemoney from three starts. He won his first two, then placed in the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes. However, he is the subject of an overseas offer and is the latest in a long line of examples of talented New Zealand youngsters who attract the attention of big markets overseas.

Karaka Million 3YO Classic

Meanwhile, the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), and its predecessor the Karaka 3YO Mile, was well established as a quality race even before this year’s huge stake increase.

Its winners include Group 1 gallopers such as Banchee (NZ) (Oratorio), Rock ’N’ Pop (Fastnet Rock) and Volkstok’n’barrell (NZ) (Tavistock). Last year’s field was one of the best three-year-old races of the 2016-17 New Zealand season where Volpe Veloce (Foxwedge) beat Heroic Valour (Fastnet Rock), Jon Snow (NZ) (Iffraaj) and Sacred Elixir (NZ) (Pour Moi). Heroic Valour and Sacred Elixir were already Group 1 winners, while Volpe Veloce and Jon Snow have since triumphed at that level.

The leading contenders for this year’s $1 million showpiece include Embellish (NZ) (Savabeel) and Hasahalo (NZ) (Savabeel) – the respective winners of this season’s Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

The $3 favourite is Embellish, who is now jointly owned by Cambridge Stud’s incoming owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay and will take up stud duties there at the conclusion of his racing career. Embellish was a $775,000 purchase at the 2016 Premier Sale by David Ellis.

Go Racing’s $100,000 purchase, Hasahalo, has already made her mark at this meeting with a fast-finishing placing in last year’s Karaka Million 2YO.

Savvy Coup (NZ) (Savabeel), a $65,000 purchase at the Premier Sale, won the Group 3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) in December and was placed in last Saturday’s Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m).

Other likely contenders include the Listed winner and New Zealand 2000 Guineas placegetter Ever Loyal (Sebring), a $240,000 Waikato Bloodstock purchase at the Premier Sale; Group Two winner Contessa Vanessa (NZ) (Bullbars), secured for $50,000 by Team Rogerson; and the Listed winner and Group Two-placed On The Rocks (NZ) (Alamosa), who was secured by Paul Moroney Bloodstock for $40,000 at the 2016 Select Sale.

Nominations for the spectacular twilight race meeting will close at noon on Tuesday January 23, with the fields closing at 10am the following morning. A live barrier draw hosted by Trackside’s Michael Guerin will take place at Karaka from 11am on Wednesday January 24. Broadcast live on Trackside Channel 1 and streamed on NZB’s website and facebook – connections to the runners will draw the barriers at New Zealand Bloodstock’s iconic Sales Centre.

The order of entry for both the Karaka Million 2YO and Karaka Million 3YO Classic fields are updated daily and can be viewed online.

Karaka Million 2YO Honour Roll

2017 Melody Belle (NZ) Commands x Meleka Belle Haunui Farm $57,500 Premier Sale Mr DC Ellis
2016 Xiong Feng (NZ) Iffraaj x Stray Monovale Farm $30,000 Select Sale ZL Mok
2015 Hardline (NZ) Showcasing x Midnight Breaker Hallmark Stud $130,000 Select Sale LB Racing
2014 Vespa (NZ) Elusive City x Miss Avalon Valachi Downs $34,000 Select Sale Cavallo Agistment Centre
2013 Ruud Awakening Bernardini x Dawn Almighty Westbury Stud $90,000 Premier Sale Go Racing Ltd  
2012 Ockham's Razor (NZ) Any Suggestion x Shadow Ray Rich Hill Stud $170,000 Premier Sale Bahen Bloodstock
2011 Fort Lincoln Charge Forward x Belle Toujours Curraghmore $110,000 Premier Sale Lisa Latta Racing Stables
2010 Sister Havana (NZ) General Nediym x Ultima Vita Shelby Park $40,000 Select Sale Aquanita Racing
2009 The Heckler Lucky Owners x Comedy Café Woodridge Farm $70,000 Select Sale Peter Walker
2008 Vincent Mangano (NZ) No Excuse Needed x Rationable Waikato Stud $80,000 Premier Sale Mr PN & Mrs K McKay

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