Exciting performances at the Te Teko trials on Tuesday have put Matamata trainer Stephen Autridge back on the road towards the 2000 and 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November. With more than 1000 training successes in New Zealand to his name, Autridge has returned to training in his own account after a hugely successful three-year Te Akau partnership with Jamie Richards that produced more than 250 winners.
The major spring features in Christchurch became familiar territory during that time, winning the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) with Xtravagant in 2015 and Embellish in a remarkable first-second-fourth sweep in 2017. They also claimed the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in 2015 with Risque.
In July of last year, Autridge was appointed to a key training role for Kevin Hickman’s rapidly growing Valachi Downs operation. “I’ve got about 35 in work now, and most of them are young ones,” Autridge said. “A lot of them have only trialled so far. “It’s probably going to take a year or so to really consolidate, but the talent’s there and things are looking good.”
The first of his impressive trials performers on Tuesday was Woodcote Lass, who produced an eye-catching finish for a close second in an open 1040m heat. “I was really happy with that trial against older horses,” Autridge said. “She goes very well and her work had been good leading into that.” Bred and raced by Hickman, Woodcote Lass is by Showcasing out of a British-bred half-sister to Group 1-winning sprinter Maarek.
In two autumn two-year-old appearances, Woodcote Lass finished third at Matamata before winning at Rotorua. That victory came at the expense of the highly rated Quick Thinker, who later won the Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m). “Woodcote Lass is likely to start off in the three-year-old fillies’ race at Taupo on August 21, and then we’ll just work out what we do from there, with the idea of trying to get her to Christchurch early in the spring for her Guineas build-up.”
Next up was Kurt, a colt by superstar galloper Kingman out of a half-sister to the dam of Humidor. He scored a dominant three-length victory in his trial, having made two starts last season for a sixth on debut and a close and unlucky fifth in the Listed Waikato Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes (1100m). “He’s a very promising colt,” Autridge said. “We’ll pick out a few races in the northern region for him early on, and the end goal for him is certainly the 2000 Guineas. I think he’s got a lot of potential.”
The very next heat was won by the unraced Last Hoorah, by No Excuse Needed out of a stakes- placed mare. Having been unplaced in her previous two trials, she took a big step forward in defeating the stakes-performed Long Jack by a nose. “She surprised us a little bit, although her work had improved leading into that,” Autridge said. “She’ll have a maiden race up here, and then we’ll see where we go from here. “With Mr Hickman being based in the South Island and keen to see his horses race as much as he can, she may well join Woodcote Lass in heading down there quite early on.”