Challa Enjoying Spring Racing
19 Sep 2023
NZ Racing News reports:
The spring is Challa’s favourite time of the year, and the Te Akau Racing speedster continued that tradition with another bold front-running performance in Saturday’s $50,000 Crawford Developments Open (1200m) at Riccarton.
Ever since placing in the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) in November of 2018 and winning a maiden sprint a year later, it has been at this time of year that the Dissident gelding has been at the peak of his powers. He scored back-to-back sprint wins at Te Rapa and Hastings in October 2020, was beaten by a nose down the Riccarton straight in October 2021, and added another two wins at Taupo and Matamata in September and October of last year.
The seven-year-old kicked off his latest preparation in style with an all-the-way win over 1000m at Riccarton on September 2, and he returned to the same course two weeks later and delivered a repeat result.
Challa showed brilliant gate speed to take a clear lead within the first 50m of Saturday’s race, then was nicely rated in front by four-kilogram claimer Ngakau Hailey. He produced a kick at the top of the straight, throwing down a stern challenge to his 12 rivals.
There were some nervous moments as he began to tire and Our Echo loomed up alongside him, but Challa saw him coming and summoned another big effort to hold him out by a neck. The time for the 1200m was a sizzling 1:06.72 on a windy day.
Challa was bought by Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis for $100,000 from Trelawney Stud’s draft in Book 1 of Karaka 2018. He has now had 31 starts for eight wins, seven placings and $197,200 in stakes.
“He’s a fantastic horse, Challa,” co-trainer Sam Bergerson said. “He’s a seven-year-old now and he’s not very big, but he’s an absolute stable favourite. Everyone loves him.
“I thought Ngakau rode him really well. We knew he would jump well. I told him that he didn’t necessarily have to lead, but it was likely he’d end up there. It was possible that he’d start to tire late in the race, so we wanted Ngakau to hold him up as much as he could. He did a great job, and I’m stoked for him. He’s a good young kid and is only going to get better.
“Challa toughed out the win really well. He’s seven, but he’s still as keen as ever for his racing and loves his trackwork too. He’ll probably find himself in a Pegasus (Listed, 1000m) or Stewards’ (Gr.3, 1200m) again during the carnival. He’s well up in the handicaps now, so may struggle, but he’s just a grand old horse and a pleasure to have around.”
The feature sprint was a new career highlight for the 16-year-old Hailey, who began his career earlier this year and has now ridden a total of nine winners from under 100 rides.
“That was amazing, he’s a good horse,” Hailey said. “He flew the gates and gave me a beautiful feel. He travelled and then just kept giving. It was amazing.
“He kind of blew out halfway up the straight, but when that other horse came up to him, he fought again.”
Challa was part of a big day at Riccarton for the Te Akau team, who had promising filly Star Of Justice (Justify) clear maiden ranks earlier in the afternoon before Viva Vienna (NZ) (All Too Hard) took out the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m).