Family rivalry will be in play on Saturday when Wakari makes his bid for Group One glory in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
The son of Vespa is trained by Roydon Bergerson, whose son Sam is assistant trainer to Jamie Richards, with the Te Akau operation represented by the pre-post favourite Noverre and I Wish I Win in the three-year-old feature.
“Sam’s doing really well and is loving it at Te Akau and we’ve been jibing at each other all week,” Bergerson said.
Noverre was a last-start winner of the Group 3 War Decree Stakes (1600m) while I Wish I Win was placed in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at his most recent appearance.
Wakari also brings an impressive form line having won the Listed El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m), finished runner-up in the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) and was again second in age group company on the final day of the Hastings carnival.
He will be having his first start beyond 1400m on Saturday, but Bergerson is confident the distance won’t be any problem for his charge, who will again be ridden by Danielle Johnson.
“He’s going super and hasn’t had all the luck in the world either,” he said. “A lot of people say the Vespas probably won’t go over a bit of ground, but I think he will.
“Danielle got off him at Hastings last time out and said he would eat up the mile.”
Wakari, who will be Bergerson’s first New Zealand 2000 Guineas runner, has bloomed this campaign after suffering a life-threatening injury after he had bolted in at Awapuni at his second start as a two-year-old.
“He must have struck himself turning in at Palmerston that day and when he got back to scale he could hardly walk,” Bergerson said.
“We had an x-ray done and a good-sized chip had come away from the sesamoid and the tendon had come away as well. It didn’t look very good.
“The x-rays were sent to Waikato and they said it probably wasn’t worth operating on, with a poor prognosis survival wise, and his racing days were over by the look of it.
“We just persevered and put him in a box for two months. Then he went to Chris Rutten’s to a small paddock for another two months before he was x-rayed again. The vets couldn’t believe that it had healed so well.”
Bergerson had also hoped to have Reign It In at Riccarton, but following a smart debut win at Waverley his manners let him down when subsequently unplaced.
“He got it all wrong at Hastings, he was earmarked for the Guineas but he just did too much wrong,” he said. “We’ll try and get his confidence back, if he gets wound up he can over-race and get on the wrong leg.
“We took him to the trials at Woodville yesterday and he performed pretty well. He’s a big, dumb kid, but he’s starting to get his head around it all.”
Bergerson has another promising three-year-old in the stable in Nest Egg, who has been tagged as Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) prospect.
The son of Reliable Man has yet to win, but showed his potential when placed in last season’s Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m).
More recently, Nest Egg was out of the money in the Hawke’s Bay Guineas and then had an interrupted run at Awapuni before charging home late.
“He jarred up a bit at Hastings and went on the walking machine for a few weeks. He’ll be prepared for the Derby and looks like he’s going to make a nice staying horse,” Bergerson said.
“He hasn’t had any luck in his races and at Awapuni the other day he got shuffled back to last, got run off at the corner and then stormed home.”