The victory of Curraghmore's New Zealand Bloodstock graduate Long Leaf (Fastnet Rock) in the Listed Karaka 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on Saturday capped off a brilliant night for the horse’s shareholder and New Zealand Bloodstock owner Sir Peter Vela who used the occasion to savour the success of the sales company’s twilight race meeting.
The talented yet enigmatic Long Leaf, who was twice a Listed winner as a juvenile, also provided a winning homecoming for expatriate New Zealand jockey James McDonald who rode the Lindsay Park-trained three-year-old to victory in the $1 million race.
McDonald settled the three-year-old midfield before tracking Media Sensation from the 900m mark. He then drew his charge into the clear at the top of the straight where he went to battle with outsider The Real Beel.
Long Leaf was able to stave off the challenge to win by a neck over The Real Beel with three-quarters of a length back to race favourite Madison County in third.
“I am more excited, believe it or not, about the magnificence of the night and the number of people here enjoying it,” Sir Peter said post race. “It’s a concept we had that was a risk, but it’s more than vindicated a lot of opinions.
“A lot of people helped us and a lot of racing clubs gave up their days so this could be made a great night and there are a lot of people who deserve thanks for it.”
Long Leaf was purchased out of Curraghmore’s 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale draft by BBA Ireland for $750,000 and carrys the colours of part-owner Coolmore.
“It’s a great thrill for connections, with Sir Peter Vela and the Coolmore boys,” McDonald said. “He’s a super horse and we got the result.”
McDonald said it was exciting to be back racing on his favourite track on one the biggest race days on the New Zealand calendar.
“This is one of my favourite tracks out of everywhere I have ridden,” McDonald said. “To get a result for this team has been a great thrill.
“I haven’t ridden here for three years and everything has changed, the stables look magnificent.”
Sir Peter Vela, who has been a long-time supporter of McDonald, said he was delighted with the win and for his jockey.
“I am thrilled for him (McDonald) and for all the group that own him,” Vela said. “He gave it a peach of a ride and I’m just delighted for him to get the accolade.”
Vela is looking forward to New Zealand Bloodstock’s sales commencing at their Karaka complex on Sunday and said the result of the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) has boosted his confidence leading into the sale.
“I think it has shaped fantastically, given the two-year-old race trifecta was by our biggest buyer (Te Akau) and (Waikato Stud stallion) Savabeel has quinellaed it,” he said. “The signs are that it could be outstanding.” – NZ Racing Desk, ANZ Bloodstock News