Excitement is building at Ellerslie, with racing set to return to the Auckland venue following its first set of official trials on its new StrathAyr track on Monday morning.
The first heat was taken out by Group 1 performer Babylon Berlin by three lengths and trainers Ben and Ryan Foote couldn’t have been happier with the new surface.
“It was a nice trial today. All reports were good, Courtney (Barnes, jockey) said she felt great and having the first use of that track was pretty cool too. Everybody is really excited about racing there again,” said Ben Foote, speaking from Hong Kong.
Babylon Berlin finished runner-up in the Group 1 Railway (1200m) and Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) earlier this year and she will attempt to shed her bridesmaids tag when she tackles the sprint features next month.
“She will go straight into the Railway and then the Telegraph. We have just taken our time with her this time in so she will be ready to rock and roll come January 1,” Foote said.
The daughter of All Too Hard takes good form into the Railway on New Year’s Day, having won fresh-up in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint (1200m) at Te Rapa last month before finishing runner-up in the Group 2 Counties Bowl (1100m) at Pukekohe a fortnight later.
Foote is currently in Hong Kong where he attended the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday to watch his former purchase Golden Sixty claim his third Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) scalp.
Foote, under his Enigma Farm banner, purchased Golden Sixty as a yearling with Riversley Park’s Sam Beatson out of Element Hill’s 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale draft for A$120,000.
They then sold the son of Medaglia d’Oro through Riversley Park’s New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft later that year to trainer Francis Lui for $300,000.
He has gone on to win 26 races and more than HK$165 million (NZ$34.7 million) in prizemoney.
Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year has been a dominant force in the leading racing jurisdiction in recent years and boasts 10 elite-level victories to his name.
“I bought Golden Sixty as a yearling so to see him win like that yesterday was a huge buzz. That turn of foot was amazing,” Foote said.
The Cambridge horseman was taken by Golden Sixty when inspecting him as a yearling, but said he had a few faults that may have deterred other buyers.
“He was an athletic type of horse,” he said.
“He had a couple of little things that maybe people didn’t like and he was quite weak as well. At the Magic Millions they tend to go for the bigger, stronger types.”
The HKIR meeting had added Kiwi flavour, with New Zealand-bred Lucky Sweynesse taking out the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Bred by Luigi Muollo, Allan Sharrock and Paul Dombroski, Lucky Sweynesse is another New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run graduate, having been purchased by J&I Bloodstock out of Woburn Farm’s 2020 draft for $90,000.