A stunning performance at his home track of Matamata on Saturday has propelled unbeaten three-year-old Te Akau Shark (Rip Van Winkle) to favouritism for next month’s Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.
The son of Rip Van Winkle had already forced his way into the classic picture with a last-to-first win on debut at Te Rapa last month, and the well-beaten placegetters that day – Sumstreetsomewhere and Campari – went on to finish first and second in a strong Te Rapa three-year-old race eight days ago.
But today’s $25,000 Fairview Motors Matamata 3YO was on a whole new level. Te Akau Shark endured a torrid run, over-racing for a chunk of the 1400-metre journey and trapped three wide without cover throughout the race.
But rider Opie Bosson asked his mount to circle the field rounding the home turn and the response was explosive. He swept past the front-running Astor and bounded away down the straight to win by two and a half lengths.
“It wasn’t a pretty ride, but I was just lucky I had a good horse underneath me and got away with it,” Bosson said.
“He’s got a lot of ability and he’s still learning too. The best is yet to come.”
The TAB responded by cutting Te Akau Shark’s New Zealand 2000 Guineas odds from $14 to $6, taking over favouritism from his stablemate Embellish who remains at $8.
“He surprised us a little bit with what he did at Te Rapa, but he’s a horse that’s just on the go now,” said Stephen Autridge, who trains Te Akau Shark in partnership with Jamie Richards.
“He didn’t really relax down the back straight, and Opie took him back to try to get some cover but he was caught three wide. But he certainly quickened up when Opie asked him to.
“He’s certainly got enough ability to be in the 2000 Guineas. In both of his starts he’s come from the back and made them look second rate. We don’t know where he’s going to end up.”
The indication from the stable is that Te Akau Shark is likely to head to the Gr.1 2000 Guineas at Riccarton on November 11 without another start.
Te Akau Shark was bought for $230,000 by Te Akau principal David Ellis at the 2016 Ready to Run Sale at Karaka – a year after buying stable star Gingernuts and fellow Group One winner Hall Of Fame at the same sale in 2015.
Bred by Darrell Hollinshead, Te Akau Shark is out of the Waikato Gold Cup-winning mare Bak Da Chief, a half-sister to the dam of Group One winner Pondarosa Miss.
Among the Te Akau Shark Syndicate are prominent Sydney businessman Steve Mace and Cronulla Sharks rugby league star Paul Gallen.
Mace has never been involved in racehorse ownership before, but a chance Waikiki poolside meeting with Ellis when both were holidaying in Hawaii set things in motion. Mace, who was on-course at Matamata this afternoon, is a major sponsor of the Cronulla Sharks and a friend of Gallen.