Exciting four-year-old Te Akau Shark (Rip Van Winkle) put his future spring rivals on notice with a stunning return to the racetrack at Hastings yesterday.
The showy chestnut had been off the scene with niggling problems since finishing fourth behind stablemate Embellish in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton last November. Trial wins at Te Rapa in July and Te Teko last month indicated he was forward for his resumption where punters installed him a hot favourite for the rating 82 1200m contest.
“I think he’s top drawer, He’s a Group One horse if we can keep him sound. We’ll space his races, and he could be the type to win a Foxbridge Plate and the Tarzino next year.” Richards said.
Te Akau Shark and rider Shafiq Rusof reeled in their rivals with a devastating burst of speed in the run home that saw them cruise past Livin’ On A Prayer in the last 100m to record a punishing win in a slick 1.12.57 on the slow7 rated surface.
“He relaxed lovely early in the race, but I just wondered at the top of the straight how well we were going,” Richards said.
“I had a look at Shafiq’s body language and he had a lapful of horse. When he let down he looked quite exciting.”
Richards has an immediate target for his charge with the Gr.3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) next up on his spring programme.
“He’ll be back here (Hastings) in five weeks for the open 1400m,” he said.
“We’ll just space his races and take it slowly.
“I’d like to give his owners in Sydney and New Zealand a big thank you as they have been very patient with him.
“He was an expensive horse from the NZ Bloodstock Ready To Run sales, but they are going to get their money back from this bloke big time.”
Owned by a large group including Te Akau boss David Ellis, Te Akau Shark was a $230,000 purchase by Ellis from the Lyndhurst Park draft at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale at Karaka.
Click here to watch Te Akau Shark win