Aretha (NZ) Takes First Points in NZB Filly of the Year Series

Aretha (NZ) Claiming the G3 Gold Trail Stakes.
Aretha (NZ) Claiming the G3 Gold Trail Stakes.

High-class filly Aretha (NZ) (Charm Spirit) has picked up right where she left off last season, taking the early lead in the 2019-20 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series with a brave victory in Saturday’s $70,000 Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings.

Trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman for owner-breeder Greg McCarthy, Aretha’s four starts as a two-year-old produced a win in the Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) and placings in the Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m), Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes and Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m).

Going into Saturday’s race fresh up, she produced a superb, never-say-die performance. Sent forward by jockey Matt Cameron to take the lead in the first 100 metres, she was quickly taken on and headed by On Show (NZ) (Showcasing).

But Aretha worked forward to regain her advantage, then produced a strong kick in the home straight to go clear.

Another of last season’s star fillies, Bavella (Snitzel), quickly emerged as a major threat in the last 200 metres. She swept up alongside Aretha and looked likely to race past.

But Aretha responded to the challenge. In an exciting, head-bobbing finish, she prevailed by a nose.

“She was very brave,” Forsman said. “I thought she was a beaten horse. Fresh up today, I thought she’d gone a bit keenly in front. She kicked well for home, but then I thought Bavella had her for sure.

“But we’ll take it. It’s great to see her come back so well in this campaign, and hopefully she can go on with it up to 1600 metres later on.”

McCarthy took great delight from his star filly’s performance.

“It’s a huge thrill,” he said. “The Gold Trail is a wonderful race, very time-honoured. I’ve raced in it only once before, back in 1993. To come back and win it now is fantastic.”

Aretha has now had five starts for two wins, three placings and $177,250 in prize-money.

The Gold Trail Stakes was the first of 10 legs in the 2019-20 NZB Filly of the Year Series, and Aretha has taken the early lead with 6 points. Bavella now sits second on the table with 3 points, while Loire (NZ) (Redoute’s Choice), who produced a big finish down the straight to run third, has 1.5 points.

The second leg of the Series is the $300,000 Group 1 Gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 16. Worth 12 points to the winner, the prestigious classic is now firmly on Aretha’s radar.

“We’ll try to pick the best path through to the 1000 Guineas from here,” Forsman said. “That race will have taken a fair bit out of her, it was a big run, so we’ll just see how she comes through it and reassess.”

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