Carlotta earns a shot at Rich Hill
Christmas black-type features are beckoning for Waikato winners on the undercard of Concorde Handicap day at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Te Aroha trainer Scott Wenn revealed Gr II Rich Hill Mile plans for Ekraar five-year-old mare Carlotta after she scored a narrow win over Sophia's Dream and Riotous in the $15,000 Sistema 1400.
Ridden by Wenn's sister Michelle, the Jeanette Broome-bred and raced Carlotta overcame a slow beginning to outsprint her rivals for her fourth win from 15 starts.
It followed a second placing at Pukekohe on Counties Cup day last start.
"She was probably one away at Pukekohe and she's improved for today," Wenn said on Saturday.
The $100,000 Rich Hill Mile is run over 1600m on New Year's Day.
Matamata trainer Chad Ormsby said She's Samashing would have her next start in the Gr II $100,000 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day after clearing maiden grade in good style on Saturday.
Superbly ridden by Jason Waddell, She's Samashing came from a trailling position, angling off the fence at the top of the straight and then asserting her superiority, scoring by half a length from the fast-finishing Urban Angel.
"She's a filly that we were close to stepping up to a mile today but we elected to stay at 1400m while she's going well and she was fresh," Ormsby said.
Al Samer filly She's Samashing's maiden win came at her fourth start but Ballymore Stables has always had a good opinion of the filly, starting her on debut in the Gr II Matamata Breeders' Stakes last season.
Cambridge trainer Murray Baker will give thought to the Gr II $100,000 Championship Stakes (2100m) at Ellerslie on
New Year's Day with Our Kingpin, who won the $12,500 Stella Artois 3yo (1600m) at Ellerslie for rider Matthew Cameron.
"We'll definitely look at that race because he looks like he'll stay," Baker said.
Meanwhile, from the members' grandstand Cambridge horseman Dean Hawthorne gave the thumbs up to trainer Tony Pike in the birdcage.
It was simple gesture to say well done for a mission accomplished after Exceed And Excel three-year-old gelding Smart Ball secured his passage to Hong Kong with a win in the $12,500 Hospice North Shore 1200.
Smart Ball was the second of two horses under Hawthorne's management to win their way into Hong Kong eligibility in the past two weeks after the Stephen Marsh-trained Sunofagun won at Te Rapa late last month.
Both horses will be trained in Hong Kong by David Hall. Hawthorne was rapt with the result and full of praise for Pike's conditioning of Smart Ball.
"He's been tricky. He's been a bit of a hot-headed horse but Tony's done a good job of getting him settled down," Hawthorne said.
Smart Ball was a $190,000 purchase at last year's Ready To Run Sale of two-year-olds at Karaka on behalf of Hong Kong owner Chris So.
Pike predicted a bright future for Smart Ball in Hong Kong. "He'll be a good horse in six months," Pike said.
Later, Cambridge trainer Bernard Dyke evoked memories of Star Harvest's Auckland Cup win in 1991 when he declared the Ellerslie 3200m feature as Dark Bishop's prime target for the season.
Dyke made the comment after Pentire five-year-old gelding Dark Bishop stormed home to win the $12,500 Dunstan Feeds Championship Qualifier (2200m) for Rating 65 gallopers in the hands of veteran Matamata jockey Noel Harris.
"My main for him is the Auckland Cup in March," Dyke said. "We'll make Harry waste a bit then keep going through."
Dyke is likely to try and seal automatic entry into the Gr I Auckland Cup by winning the $75,000 Dunstan Feeds Championship Final (2200m) at Ellerslie on March 1 with Dark Bishop, who has an ownership connection to Star Havest.
The Gollan family raced Star Harvest and Doug Gollan, from Gore, who shared in the ownership of the Auckland Cup winner, races Dark Bishop with his brother Paul, from Matamata.
"We bought him for $50,000 from the Ready To Run Sale. Bernard picked him out for us off the video," Doug Gollan said.
"We had initially intended getting him ready for the Derby but Bernard said 'let's back off him and wait till he's ready. He's a better horse than anybody thinks'."