From zero to hero: How Gingernuts went from no name to million-dollar earner

Opie Bosson and Gingernuts cruise to victory in Saturday's Group I Rosehill Guineas.
GETTY IMAGES

Opie Bosson and Gingernuts cruise to victory in Saturday's Group I Rosehill Guineas.

Where did he come from?

It was what every jockey in the Avondale Guineas was asking when Gingernuts gave them a five-length headstart and still spanked them, but now that same question is being asked by horseracing followers across Australasia.

His Australian debut saw the horse – who is quickly building a cult following – win the Group I Rosehill Guineas by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

Opie Bosson and Gingernuts lead the Rosehill Guineas field home.
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Opie Bosson and Gingernuts lead the Rosehill Guineas field home.

Saturday's win at the Sydney track netted the Te Akau Gingernuts Syndicate more than $381,000, taking the New Zealand Derby winner's earnings past the $1-million mark in just eight starts.

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But what makes the Gingernuts story truly remarkable is that until his monumental upset in the Avondale Guineas, few Kiwis knew anything about the horse and across the Tasman, it is safe to assume nobody had even heard of him.

A mud-soaked Opie Bosson celebrates Gingernuts' win in the Rosehill Guineas.
GETTY IMAGES

A mud-soaked Opie Bosson celebrates Gingernuts' win in the Rosehill Guineas.

Thirty-one days later, as the Iffraaj gelding cruised to victory at Rosehill, everyone was wanting a piece of Gingernuts.

Te Akau principal David Ellis, who was watching on from New Zealand, has confirmed Gingernuts has come through the run well and that the late entry fee for the A$2 million (NZ$2.19m) ATC Derby at Randwick (April 1) is almost certain to be paid before next week's deadline.

There is a myth Gingernuts, trained by Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards, was not nominated for the New Zealand and Australian Derbys because he had not shown enough to warrant it, but Ellis confirmed it was because of a suspensory ligament injury.

David Ellis paid just $42,500 for dual Group I winner and million dollar earner Gingernuts.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

David Ellis paid just $42,500 for dual Group I winner and million dollar earner Gingernuts.

When the nomination deadline came for the New Zealand Derby, Gingernuts was in the middle of a three-month spell nursing the injury back to health.

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"We never dreamed he would get to the race but he came up so easily," Ellis said.

"When he won at Te Teko (January 30), he won like a horse going places and Steve and Jamie were adamant they were going to start him in the Avondale Guineas."

Gingernuts and Opie Bosson win the New Zealand Derby.
TRISH DUNELL

Gingernuts and Opie Bosson win the New Zealand Derby.

Even Ellis gave up on his Avondale Guineas chances when he walked out of the gates five lengths behind the field, but he went on to win by one and quarter lengths.

Gingernuts may have won on a heavy 10 at Rosehill, but his connections are not looking for a repeat in the Derby.

"We hope we do get a good track so we can see the real horse," Ellis said.

Gingernuts leads the Avondale Guineas field home.
TRISH DUNELL

Gingernuts leads the Avondale Guineas field home.

And given the ease of his Rosehill Guineas win, there is plenty of confidence in the camp that he can improve in the Derby.

"We believe he hasn't had his best race in this campaign," Ellis said.

The chasing pack did make ground on Gingernuts late, but Ellis said he was not getting tired, instead jockey Opie Bosson was easing him down to look after him ahead of the likely Derby tilt.

Bosson suggests there is plenty of improvement to come before the big dance.

"He had his ears pricked all the way up the straight and he was gawking and looking around, I was just trying to keep his mind on the job," Bosson said.

Gingernuts settled near the back of the field after a slow start – although not by his Avondale Guineas standards – and after a bit of a squeeze up early, was spat out the back to be a clear last.

Bosson got him going with around 800 metres to run and by the 400m mark, at the top of the straight, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Ellis purchased Gingernuts from the Goodwood Stud draft at the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale for just $42,500.

Ironically, his purchase price was cheaper than the A$44,000 it will cost to pay the late nomination fee for the ATC Derby.

The only other horse Ellis brought from that sale was Levin Classic winner Hall Of Fame.

Ellis has since purchased a full brother to Gingernuts, a two-year-old gelding, aptly named Griffin.

The timeline of the Gingernuts fairytale makes for staggering reading.

April 5 2016: Gingernuts makes his first public appearance at the Avondale trials. 

He hardly looked the future Avondale Guineas winner when finishing fourth, well behind the winner, but he did go on to win his next trial 21 days later.

May 6 2016: Gingernuts picks up his first cheque, in his first start, when he runs second to his stablemate Hall Of Fame in a $7000 maiden two-year-old race at Counties.

He was four and a half lengths behind Hall Of Fame and banked $1,400 for his effort.

May 19 2016: Gingernuts breaks maidens at just start number two.

On an industry day at Hastings, he wins a maiden two-year-old race. The field was not overly strong and he earns $4,375 for the victory.

December 31 2016: Gingernuts kicks off his three-year-old season with a satisfactory fourth at Stratford in a field that was again not overly strong. The New Year's Eve celebrations would not have gone too far on his $475 cheque.

January 20 2017: Gingernuts' next start was a less than modest 10th place finish in a field of 14 runners in a rating 65 event worth $20,000 at Tauranga. The run did not earn him a single cent.

January 30 2017: Win number two came at the Whakatane Racing Club's meeting at Te Teko. 

It was impressive, he won by two and three quarter lengths, but announcing it was the run of a New Zealand Derby and Rosehill Guineas winner would have been meet with more than a few raised eyebrows. He banked $5000 in the process.

February 18 2017: Gingernuts leaves Ellerslie shocked as he wins the Avondale Guineas at 31-1 with bookmakers and 27-1 on the tote.

When he ambled out of the gates five lengths behind the field, anyone that did back the longshot, would have been ready to throw their tickets in the bin.

Still last with 400m to run and after coping a check early in the straight, Gingernuts charged up the inside rail to win by one and quarter lengths.

The almost unbelievable victory earned him $60,000 but because it was so good, $30,000 of his earnings were spent on a late nomination for the New Zealand Derby.

March 4 2017: Gingernuts proves to be too good in the $1 million New Zealand Derby with a classy win that shows his true ability.

With the ink not even dry on his $600,000 winners cheque, a decision is made to take the still fresh Gingernuts to Rosehill.

March 18 2017: Gingernuts takes his earnings over the $1 million mark with a comfortable victory against a high quality field in the Rosehill Guineas.

His stunning wins earns him more than $381,000 and has bookmakers announcing him as the ATC Derby favourite.

 - Stuff

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