A past visit to the Karaka Million evening at Ellerslie won Henry Dwyer over and convinced the Victorian trainer he had to become more involved in the NZD$1 million two-year-old feature.
His wish has now been granted and while he can’t be in attendance on Saturday, he will be closely following the fortunes of the Tony Pike-trained Pacific Dragon.
Dwyer purchased the Charm Spirit filly out of Windsor Park Stud’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale for NZD$70,000 specifically to target the Karaka Million 2YO and the in-form youngster has fulfilled her part of the bargain.
“I went to the Karaka Million evening six or seven years ago and after that I always wanted to have a runner in the race because it was such a good night out and a good party,” he said.
“We bought a Tarzino filly a few years ago, but she wasn’t sharp enough. She was with Tony Pike and he said she wasn’t going to make it.”
At the same Book 1 Yearling Sale at Karaka in 2020, Dwyer purchased Pacific Dragon’s sister for NZD$90,000, but she too wasn’t the right early material. As Paper Dragon, she has been successful as a three-year-old.
“She showed us a lot as a two-year-old, but mentally struggled to put it together. She’s starting to calm down now and won her maiden quite well at Geelong a couple of weeks ago,” he said.
“She’ll be running again at Yarra Valley on Saturday, she’s no star but her sister has got the ability and natural aptitude to cope with it all.”
Pacific Dragon carries the colours of Adam Sangster’s Swettenham Stud and, with Dwyer, might have hit the jackpot this time around.
“We decided to go again last year and bought Pacific Dragon after we had bought her sister the year before and Swettenham is involved with her too,” Dwyer said.
“Adam Sangster liked the Karaka Million idea too – he likes a party as well – but unfortunately we can’t get there so I’ll be in Ballarat watching online.”
It’s not the first time the Swettenham Stud colours have chased a feature two-year-old race in New Zealand.
Those with long memories may remember a Godswalk filly named Glorious Way, part-owned by Sangster’s late father Robert and trained by the late Colin Hayes. She was sent to New Zealand in 1987 for the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).
Off the back of a stakes win at Morphettville and a couple of black-type placings, Glorious Way was second at Awapuni in the hands of Noel Harris behind the Wanganui juvenile Satisfy.
Pacific Dragon finished runner-up in her first two appearances before breaking through at Pukekohe.
She was then first past the post in the Group 2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) on New Year’s Day, only to be relegated to second behind Wolverine.
“The filly is raced by Adam and some Swettenham Stud syndicate members and the idea is that she will come over here at some stage,” Dwyer said.
“If she hadn’t measured up for the Karaka Million she would have been here already, but Tony has done a great job with her.
“It would have been good to get that Group Two win, but we didn’t after the inquiry. Win, lose or draw in the Karaka Million, she will stay in New Zealand until she can win a stakes race and then come here.”
Should Pacific Dragon not bank the thick end of the stake at Ellerslie, Dwyer is determined to continue his chase for a Karaka Million title and is keen to be at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale in March.
“The one year we get a runner I can’t be there, but I’ll be over for the sale if I can get there. If I have to isolate I’d have to think again, but hopefully by that stage we might be right, fingers crossed,” he said.