Military Move returns to Ritchie after stint in Hong Kong
New Zealand Derby winner Military Move is back in town.
The Volksraad gelding was exported to Hong Kong after his win in the $2.2 million Classic at Ellerslie in March 2010 and while he was twice a class one winner there and finished sixth in last year's Hong Kong Derby, his form fell away this year.
Military Move returns to the care of Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie, who prepared him to win the Derby and run second to Katie Lee in the Gr I 2000 Guineas at Riccarton earlier that season.
''He's back and I'm pretty happy about that,'' Ritchie said.
''He's out spelling at the moment but he'll come back in the new year and probably be seen somewhere over the March carnival [at Ellerslie].
''They retired him in Hong Kong. He wasn't showing his Gr I form that he had in New Zealand. He won a couple of races on the dirt but he wasn't really measuring up to that grade in Hong Kong.''
Steven Kit-Sing Lo had raced Military Move up to his retirement in Hong Kong but he has gifted ownership to Ritchie's wife Alison and Belinda Bellingham, the wife of Lo's Australian-based bloodstock advisor Paul Bellingham.
Now a six-year-old, Military Move has won four of his 27 starts and banked more than $1.9 million in stakes.
Ritchie said Military Move would get his opportunity to shine back in New Zealand but he wasn't getting carried away with his prospects.
''Hopefully we can get him back up to his best form in New Zealand but it's hard when they come back from Hong Kong,'' Ritchie said.
''You are never sure if they are really going to come back to their best. If we can get him back to his best, the handicap fields in New Zealand aren't overly strong at the moment and the key will be whether he can run out a strong 2000m.
''We'll kick him off at the mile and see how he goes, but I'm sure there will be some place in the ratings system for him.''
Meanwhile, Ritchie has welcomed back his star four-year-old mares Zurella and Artistic to training with a view to feature races in the late summer and early autumn.
Both The Oaks Stud-owned mares campaigned in Melbourne in the spring, with Zurella spelling for four weeks after a preparation which saw her win the Gr II Let's Elope Stakes at Flemington in September and Artistic spelled for six weeks, having produced her best run for fourth in the Cranbourne Cup in October.
Ritchie has outlined a programme for Zurella similar to the one he set Keep The Peace in the summer of her four-year-old preparation, beginning with the Gr I Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 9 and the Gr I Otaki-Maori Weight-For-Age (1600m) a fortnight later.
Keep The Peace was third to Mufhasa and Wall Street in last year's Waikato Sprint before defeating Wall Street at Otaki.
Ritchie said Zurella was likely to have the third start of her preparation in the Gr I New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie in March.
''Being a multiple Gr II winner, the obvious aim is to win a Gr I race with her,'' he said.
''At this stage it looks like we are going to avoid Ocean Park and Silent Achiever and with her Let's Elope form and that she could run second in the [New Zealand] Oaks, all those races look within her scope. She's only got to win one of them to achieve her autumn goal.''
Ritchie was delighted with Artistic's condition on her arrival back in the stable.
''She looks fantastic and she's really developed. She's had a good break and she's come back in tremendous order,'' he said.
Ritchie said Artistic would have a late-summer and autumn campaign of three or four races before a short break ahead of a planned Brisbane winter campaign, where the Gr II Brisbane Cup (2400m) would be among her targets.
''Dick Karreman, who owns her lives in Queensland, and it would be nice to win a big one for him in his own back yard,'' Ritchie said.
''She went to Brisbane last year so she's familiar with that carnival. I always find second time back to a carnival, they do terrifically well.''