Campionessa sheds bridesmaid tag in Zabeel Classic

Campionessa (inside) winning the Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2050m) at Pukekohe on Tuesday.
Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

Campionessa shed her Group One bridesmaid’s tag at Pukekohe Park on Boxing Day when recording a well-deserved victory in the Zabeel Classic (2050m).

Previously runner-up in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 New Zealand Stakes (2050m) earlier this year, Campionessa returned in the spring where she disappointed in her two outings at Hastings and the decision was made to put her aside for summer racing.

That decision by trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson has proven to be a masterstroke, with the daughter of Contributer recapturing form with a first-up victory in the Group 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe last month before winning the Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa 10 days ago.

She was duly backed into $3 favouritism for Tuesday’s Zabeel Classic and didn’t disappoint her backers. After jumping away well for jockey Opie Bosson, she was settled in the trail behind pacemaker Kelly Coe and enjoyed an economical passage throughout.

Entering the straight, the pair had to fight for room in between the leader and Mazzolino and eventually found a passage. In the centre of the track, Sydney raider No Compromise was full of momentum and loomed like the winner at the 200m, but Campionessa was able to fight back and hold on for a neck victory.

2023 Group 1 Zabeel Classic – Campionessa

Her handlers were proud of her winning effort and the tenacity she showed in the concluding stages to score her first elite-level victory.

“Things didn’t go right in the early part of the spring and we gave her a break and she has come back in such great form. When a mare gets in form they tend to hold it,” Walker said.

“She deserved that. She has had a couple of seconds in Group Ones. She dug deep to win, which was great.

“It was great for the ownership group as well, not one of them moaned when we pulled stumps in the spring when things weren’t going right. They supported us and got the rewards today.

“It was brilliant for the mare and Contributer is a very underrated stallion.”

Campionessa will now likely be set to try and avenge her defeats in the Herbie Dyke Stakes and Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes, however, Walker said she is a chance of heading across the Tasman to join Te Akau Racing’s Cranbourne barn.

“We will let the dust settle, but she is nominated for all of those big races. Now she has got a Group One on her CV we probably need to look at something in Australia as well,” Walker said.

Bosson was full of praise for Campionessa’s brave performance.

“We didn’t spend a penny throughout,” he said. “I tried to come out in the better ground and the horse in front (Kelly Coe) rolled out in front of me as well and we just had to push our way through.

“It was a good effort, she is tough, she picked herself up from that and fought off the other challenger. She deserved that Group One.

“She got a lot of confidence back after that win two starts back and it showed last start. She is just on the way up, she is full of confidence, and she is booming.”

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