6 Win Saturday – Over the Moon, Another Group 1
19 Mar 2023
Te Akau trainer Mark Walker kept racking up big races when Romancing The Moon (3 f El Roca – Underthemoonlight, by El Hermano) won the $350,000 Gee & Hickton Funeral Directors’ Levin Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m) on Saturday at Trentham.
After racing clear to win the NZB Insurance Stakes (Listed, 1400m) on 4 March at Wingatui, Romancing The Moon provided the fifth Group One victory among 29 stakes’ wins and 146 overall this season – to say the stable is flying would be an understatement.
A year earlier, Te Akau prepared the first four in the Levin Classic, won by Champion Three-Year-Old and now four time Group One winner Imperatriz (I Am Invincible), while third placed I Wish I Win (Savabeel) has since won the A$10 million Golden Eagle at Rosehill, NSW.
It was the fourth Levin Classic for the stable in the past seven years, following consecutive wins with Hall of Fame (Savabeel) and Age of Fire (Fastnet Rock) in 2017 & 2018, respectively, in addition to Imperatriz.
Runner-up in both the The O’Learys Fillies Stakes (Listed, 1200m) and Soliloquy Stakes (Gr. 3, 1400m), and fourth in the 1000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m), Romancing The Moon kept enhancing her three-year-old season to result in the ultimate prize of Group One success.
Ridden positively from the outset by Kozzi Asano to take up a trailing position, Romancing The Moon ranged outside the leader at the 600m and after being briefly headed at the 200m by stable-mate Skew Wiff (Savabeel) she rebelled the challenge to fight back and score with authority.
Skew Wiff, not an easy filly to ride, was beautifully handled by jockey Opie Bosson, and kept fighting to retain second in a Te Akau quinella.
Under clear skies, on footing that remained Soft7 after 30mls rain in the preceding 48-hours, Romancing The Moon ran 1600 metres in 1:37.1, winning by one and a half lengths, and paying $6.50 & $2.40 on the NZ TAB tote.
“She’s done a lot of travelling this season and it was a great effort,” said Walker, on target for a record-breaking season and his 10th training premiership.
“She was bought cheaply by Dave (Ellis) as a yearling at Karaka, and is a good, tough, filly, with a fair amount of class.
“She’s continued to improve all season. She was at Wanganui for the first Listed race of the season and been really competitive through to her peak performance today.
“There have been a lot of people involved in getting her to win a Group One; I think those South Island trips (twice) are sometimes the making of a horse and she can go for a well deserved spell now.
“That was Kozzi’s first ride for us since he didn’t ride one to instructions back in October at Ashburton, but he’s made amends and congratulations to him.”
Owned by Te Akau Moonstruck Racing Partnership (Mgr: Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM), Romancing The Moon was purchased as a yearling by David Ellis CNZM for $50,000 at the 2021 Karaka Book 1 Sale, from the draft Westbury Stud.
Her record stands at four wins and four seconds from 11 starts and $327,695 in prize money.
“The way she won her last stakes’ race earlier in March, it looked like she’d be a good chance today and it just goes to show how tough she is in her attitude to racing and also what a brilliant trainer Mark Walker is,” Ellis said.
“Her mother was a very tough race mare. She’s left a really good first foal in Romancing The Moon and we’ve had so much success with first foals.
“We’ve had 11 wins in the past week and what an incredible the season Mark is having. It’s his first full season back from training for us in Singapore and while he knows the territory, it’s still an amazing performance.
“He can only do these things with the phenomenal team he’s got to help him and people have no idea just how proud Karyn and I are of them all.”
Sire El Roca, by Champion Sire Fastnet Rock (Danehill), was a terrific racehorse, winning two stakes’ races over 1200 metres and was a strong Group performer that placed at Group One level. In his early days at stud he has already sired Group One winner Travelling Light who scored in the Levin Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m), and other horses to win 12 stakes’ races.
Undermoonlight was an underrated mare, noted for her tenacious qualities, especially on yielding ground. She was a Listed, Group Two and Group Three winner to 1400 metres and Group One placed over 1400 metres.
Prior to accepting spoils in the birdcage on behalf of the owners, syndicate manager Karyn Fenton-Ellis said: “It’s huge for a filly, especially, in terms of residual value.
“She was a $50,000 filly that David purchased at Karaka, and it just goes to show that you never know where the next Group One winner is going to come from.
“It was Mark’s 29th stakes win this season, over $6.5 million in stakes money for our owners, and we’re getting close to the 150th win for the season.
“Mark and the team at home do such a good job and we’re just so appreciative.
“I think she was a little bit of an overlooked horse in some ways. She’s well travelled, she’s tough and robust, takes everything in her stride and mentally she’s quite sensible, too, which I think has helped her.
“We had a first four in the race last year when Imperatriz won and it will be interesting to see how she goes in the (Group One) William Reid next Friday night at Moonee Valley.”
Romancing The Moon was strapped by Stephanie Hyde-Richards.
In the additional Group One race on the programme, stable-mate Mehzebeen (Almanzor), a last start winner over 2200 metres at Awapuni, came from the rear with a tremendous run for second in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr. 1, 2400m) – a race won by Te Akau for the past two years with Amarelinha and Belle En Rouge, and previously with Princess Coup.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz