Certainly wins Group 3 Mufhasa Stakes

Certainly wins Mufhasa Stakes.
Certainly drives over the top of Moet Down to claim the Group 3 Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie. Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

Te Akau Racing’s former trainer Jamie Richards had a stranglehold on the Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) on New Zealand Derby Day, and his successors Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson continued that tradition at Ellerslie on Saturday.

The runaway premiership leaders won the Group Three feature with classy Waikato Stud homebred Certainly, who became the fourth Mufhasa Stakes winner in the last five years to come from Te Akau’s Matamata stable.

Richards had previously won the race with Star Of Bombay in 2020, Need I Say More in 2021 and On The Bubbles in 2022, with Waikato Stud’s I Wish I Win finishing second for a stable quinella two years ago. Last year’s race was staged at Te Rapa while Ellerslie was closed for renovations, and it was won by the Andrew Forsman-trained The Intimidator.

Walker and Bergerson have always rated Certainly as one of the potential standouts of their three-year-old crop this season, eyeing the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) before a spring setback held up her preparation.

The Savabeel filly eventually kicked off her career at Te Aroha in late November, where she was a $1.80 favourite but had to settle for second behind upset winner Pendragon. That rival later boosted that form with three consecutive wins including the Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1400m), and he was runner-up behind Orchestral in last month’s $1.5 million Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) before venturing to Melbourne.

Certainly cleared maidens impressively at Matamata in her second career start, then flashed home from last for an eye-catching sixth in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham.

She was again a beaten favourite when third at Te Rapa in early February, but stepped back up into stakes class on Saturday and showed her true colours.

Delivering a first winner on Ellerslie’s new StrathAyr track for Walker, Bergerson and jockey Opie Bosson, Certainly settled in midfield but drifted back approaching the turn. At the top of the home straight, she was in tight quarters and had only a handful of horses behind her.

But Bosson weaved her through the traffic and into the clear, and Certainly stretched out stylishly to reel in Moet Down and score by a neck.

2024 Group 3 Mufhasa Stakes Replay – Certainly

“I’ve had a few goes, so it’s good to get my first win on this new track,” Bosson said. “She really showed some class today. She travelled beautifully throughout. We had to find a bit of a passage up the straight, but she kept coming up underneath me. She was really willing, and I think going up to a mile will be even better for her too.”

A half-sister to the multiple Listed-winning Ocean Park gelding Ocean Beyond, Certainly has now had five starts for two wins, two placings and $118,600 in stakes.

Walker and Bergerson will now consider adding her to Te Akau’s high-flying Victorian stable for a shot at the Group 3 Alexandra Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on March 23.

“That was a really good effort,” Bergerson said. “Obviously it wasn’t fun getting beaten as a $1.20 shot last start, but she got back that day behind a very slow tempo. She would have had to run home in 32 or 33 seconds, which it’s not easy to do at Te Rapa.

“But Opie gave her a lovely ride today. I thought we might be getting into a bit of trouble, but he was patient and the splits came in the straight. Fair play to the filly too – she was very good to the line.

“She’s shown us plenty at home and we’ve always thought a lot of her. Hopefully she can go on with it now.

“We could potentially head to Melbourne, where there’s a race for three-year-old fillies over a mile at Moonee Valley. But we’ll have a team talk with Mark, David Ellis, Mark Chittick and the rest of the team and make up a plan.

“It’s good to get this win, and it’s a pleasure to train lovely Savabeel fillies like her for Waikato Stud.”

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