Stephen Autridge has twice celebrated victories in New Zealand’s richest juvenile event and will on Saturday be bidding to halt the run of his former employer in the Ellerslie feature.
During his successful stint with Te Akau, Autridge prepared the subsequent multiple Group One winners Melody Belle and Avantage to claim successive Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) titles in 2017 and 2018.
He was then training in partnership with Jamie Richards, who in his own right sent out Probabeel, Cool Aza Beel and On The Bubbles to win the next three editions.
Richards has Dynastic, Fellini, Lord Cosmos, and Time Flies in Saturday’s line-up and Autridge will attempt to break the Te Akau dominance in the DoubleTree by Hilton-sponsored feature with Alabama Gold.
He prepares the youngster with Kris Shailer and the colt has made an encouraging start and will strip in prime order for the stiffest test of his fledgling career.
“Basically, he has improved every time and we’re very happy that he has already gone around at Ellerslie and did everything right,” Autridge said.
“The horse that beat him there is one of the favourites for the race and we believe our colt has improved again so we are very happy with where we are.”
At his most recent appearance, Alabama Gold finished runner-up behind Fellini and prior to that was just edged out at New Plymouth by Lord Cosmos.
“I’ve won it twice before so it would be good to do it with different colours on this time,” he said.
A son of Turn Me Loose, Alabama Gold is raced by Stan Painton, who has enjoyed a long and successful association with Autridge.
“We go back about 25 years and we think around 44 winners in that time,” Autridge said.
Among their leading lights have been the seven-time winners Abbey Tralae and Silverdale, who was also a multiple black-type placegetter.
“Alabama Gold is shaping up well and they all say Turn Me Looses want to be three-year-olds, but Stan wanted a horse to have a crack at the Million so that’s why we bought him,” Autridge said.
Unfortunately, the colt has drawn the outside gate but connections can take heart from the winning runs in more recent times of Probabeel and On The Bubbles, who both jumped from the widest barrier.
Alabama Gold was an NZD$85,000 purchase out of Highline Thoroughbreds’ draft at Karaka and is from the speedy family of Vinaka, who won both the Group 1 Railway (1200m) and the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m).
Meanwhile, exciting stablemate Glory Bound has trained on well since her runaway last-start maiden success as she prepares for a return to stakes racing.
“We’re very happy with her and she will run at Ellerslie on Sunday week and then, hopefully, we’re in the old Sir Tristram,” said Autridge, referring to the renamed Group 2 David and Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m).
Glory Bound’s first taste of black type racing came in the spring when she worked home late to finish fifth in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m). She was then spelled and showed the benefit of a break with her effortless first-up Matamata victory.
The Kevin Hickman-bred and raced Tavistock filly also holds Group One nominations for the Wellington Seamarket Levin Classic (1600m) and the Dubai Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m).
Both events are carded for Trentham on March 19 and a decision has yet to be made as to which race is Glory Bound’s primary target, but Autridge does believe the daughter of the Group-performed Zabeel mare Mia Le Fay will stay.