Te Akau Shark maintained his status as New Zealand’s most exciting galloper, producing a stunning finishing burst to land the Gr.2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton on Wednesday.
Settled back in the field by jockey Opie Bosson, Te Akau Shark was produced centre-track in the home straight to win eased-down by six lengths from Boots 'N' All and Kolonel Kev.
“He’s awesome,” winning trainer Jamie Richards said.
“I don’t like to talk too much before the race but his work at Matamata on Monday was unreal.
“He’s the sort of horse that gets us all out of bed in the morning and I’d like to give a big thank you to the staff at home who have done a great job with him.”
Te Akau Shark is raced by a Trans-Tasman syndicate which includes NRL legend Paul Gallen, a veteran back-rower for the Cronulla Sharks.
Gallen, who was on-course at Riccarton on Wednesday, was brought into the ownership of Te Akau Shark by his friend, Steve Mace, a Cronulla Sharks sponsor.
“I came here hoping that he’d win, and we’ve had an absolute ball over the past couple of days,” Gallen said.
“The way he performed then, he’s an absolute superstar.
“I don’t know a lot about racing but from all reports he’s a superstar and hopefully he keeps on going.
“This is the first horse I have been involved in and to be able to come and watch the race live and actually meet the horse was a real highlight.
“I can’t wait for him to come to Sydney and do it all over again. Fingers-crossed the result’s the same.”
Te Akau Shark will head to Te Akau Stud on Saturday for a break before being prepared for Sydney in the autumn, with the Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) in April a possible target.
“We know what he is capable of doing and he is a very exciting horse and I can’t wait to take him to Australia in the autumn,” Richards said.
Rider Opie Bosson was equally excited, rating Te Akau Shark as one of the best horses he has ridden.
“I haven’t ridden a horse like that in a long-time,” Bosson said.
“I think he could be up there with the best I have ridden.
“I was a little bit worried because they weren’t going quick, but we were in a position where we got to the outside and as soon as I let the handbrake off it was just like wow.”
The flashy chestnut is quickly developing a cult-following, with several of the ownership group sporting matching grey shark hats.
The lightly-raced son of Rip Van Winkle emerged last spring with two impressive wins and a close fourth to stablemate Embellish in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), before injury curtailed his season.
He resumed in ominous fashion in a Rating 82 Benchmark at Hastings in September and returned to that venue the following month to demolish a strong field in the Gr.3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m).
“I’d also like to give Dave (Ellis) a big thanks too, because he bought him and syndicated him amongst these boys,” Richards said.
“He met Steve Mace beside the pool in Hawaii, so it’s quite an incredible story and it’s just amazing to be a part of it.”
Bought for $230,000 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale by Te Akau principal David Ellis, Te Akau Shark has now won $242,250 in prize money in six starts.
The win was a timely boost for the Ready to Run Sale, with more than 440 youngsters catalogued in the 2018 sale which takes place at Karaka on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.