Jamie Richards has come a long way since getting his trainer license in 2015, with three premierships under his belt, but it was a tribute to his southern roots that helped Belle En Rouge ($26) win the $400,00 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on Saturday.
Belle En Rouge, the least-favored of three runners in the famous classic for Richards and the all-conquering Te Akau Racing team, was ridden by Jason Laking, who last won a Group One race over 20 years ago when The Jewel won the 1000 Guineas in 2002.
Laking was an apprentice at the time, based in Wingatui, where Richards was growing up.
‘‘I’ve known Jason for a long time and he’s been a quality jockey all the way through. He gave that filly a great ride today,’’ said Richards.
The Oaks had previously been a frustrating race for Laking, who was second on The Jewel in 2003 and was declared a non-runner on favourite Justine Coup a year later.‘
‘It means a lot to win the Oaks,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just happy to have another ride in the race, but to win it is bloody awesome.’’
Favourite Self Obsession responded gamely along the inside, with Aspen Colorado flashing home late for third after struggling to find clear running, but Belle En Rouge was too strong and scored by half-a-length after looming on the turn and forging clear.
Richards saddled the first four placegetters in the $260K Levin Classic (1600m).Richards – who will head to Hong Kong later in the autumn to join their red-hot training ranks – had five runners in the 3-year-old feature and dominated the finish with Imperatriz, On The Bubbles, I Wish I Win and Mohawk Brave, a $146 first four.
Imperatriz had also featured in Richards’ previous G1 first-four, chasing home stablemates The Perfect Pink, Shepherd’s Delight and Belle En Rouge in the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November. But she was the undisputed star of the show on Saturday at $2
ZAAKI LEADS CHARGE
Aussie star Zaaki and rider Jamie Kah took the $5.4m All Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday for trainer Annabel Neasham in dashing style, easing clear of the strong-finishing I’m Thunderstruck.In Sydney, Montefilia and ex-Kiwi jockey Jason Collett held out Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant in the $760K Ranvet (2000m) at Rosehill.And flying filly Fireburn ($13) captured the $5.4m Golden Slipper (1200m) for 2yos for NSW trainer Gary Portelli.