With a rail-skimming ride aboard Campionessa in the Group 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m), comeback jockey Matt Cameron completed a feature double at Pukekohe on Saturday that marked his best day back in the saddle.
Cameron is a two-time winner of the New Zealand jockeys’ premiership and has ridden more than 1450 winners in a high-quality riding career. However, he has spent a large part of the last three years on the sidelines during a tumultuous period of his life.
The 37-year-old has returned to the senior riding ranks in recent weeks and has quickly got back to doing what he does best, already notching up 10 wins from fewer than 100 rides. He celebrated the first black-type success of his revived career aboard Maria Farina in last Saturday’s Listed Stewards’ Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton, but that was little more than a curtain-raiser for what he did on Saturday.
Cameron guided One Bold Cat to a superb come-from-behind win in the Group 3 Counties Cup (2100m), then produced an even better ride 35 minutes later to win the Breeders’ Stakes with Campionessa.
In a race that was thrown upside down by a slow start by favourite Our Alley Cat, followed by a muddling tempo upfront, Cameron settled Campionessa in a midfield position along the rail.
A gap opened at the home turn and Cameron drove her through it, hitting the front with just over 100m remaining and turning back the challenges of Faraglioni and Malt Time to win by a long neck.
2023 Group 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes Replay – Campionessa | T: Mark Walker & Sam Bergerson | J: Matt Cameron
“It’s super,” Cameron said. “It feels great to be back doing this after a tough couple of years, and results like this are massive.
“It was good enough to get the Listed win last week and the Group Three earlier today, let alone to come out and win this race. It’s extra special that this win is for a stable that’s been amazing for me over the years.
“I was lucky enough to be the second pick to jump on this one today, with Opie (Bosson) choosing the stablemate. I’ll take what I can get at the moment, and I’m loving it.
“My horse is very good on her day. She jumped nicely, and Mark (Walker, co-trainer) told me she goes well fresh and on good ground. She’s a proven horse and she stuck on very strongly today.”
It was the eighth win of a 25-start career for Campionessa, who has banked more than $577,000 for the Te Akau Campionessa Syndicate. The daughter of Contributer was bred by Mapperley Stud’s Simms Davison and was bought for A$60,000 by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis as a yearling on the Gold Coast in 2019.
Campionessa stepped into stakes class last season with victories in the Group 2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) and Listed Metropolitan Trophy (2500m), along with placings in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2050m).
The six-year-old resumed with a fifth placing on the opening day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival, then was freshened after finishing second-last in the Group 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) in late September.
“Things didn’t quite go right for her during the carnival at Hastings, so we just gave her a bit of a freshen up,” Walker said. “I’d say the ride probably won the race today.
Matt gave her a perfect run and she got all favours. It’s great to have a quality rider like him back in the senior ranks.
“We thought about trialling this mare during the week instead of running in this race, but I thought she’d come on more with a run than from going around at the trials, and I also felt the field wasn’t quite as strong as I’ve seen for this race in other years. It’s worked out well and she got it done today.
“She’ll probably go to the Cal Isuzu Stakes (Group 2, 1600m) at Te Rapa next, and then on to the Zabeel Classic (Group 1, 2050m) back here on Boxing Day.
“She’s a good, honest mare, and she might be one of those mares that get so much better when they come into the warmer summer period.”