In-form Grylls making every post a winner

Bonny Lass
Craig Grylls winning the Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) aboard Bonny Lass. Photo: Trish Dunell

There aren’t many better ways for a jockey to celebrate buying a new home than riding a treble the next day.

Craig Grylls did exactly that at Matamata, his three winners including Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) victor Bonny Lass.

It came a day after he and his wife Milou secured a lifestyle block on the outskirts of Matamata.

“We recently bought a 12-acre block and we moved in there on Friday, so that will keep us busy now,” he said.

“We might run a few beef cattle on it but it’s mainly a little lifestyle block. We’re really happy with it.”

Grylls said he was especially happy that two of his three winners – Bonny Lass and Light Brocade, winner of a rating 65 event – were for the stable of Graham Richardson and Rogan Norvall.

“Richie has been one of my best supporters right through my career, and the first stakes winner I rode was his horse Fiorenza, when I was 16 or 17,” Grylls said.

“It was cool to get that winner for Rogan too, because he’s always been a good mate through the riding ranks. He’s had a good kick-start with Richie as a trainer.”

The victories on Light Brocade and Hasabro, both at double figure odds, came with front-running rides, and the latter was a result of Grylls’ initiative.

“I’d seen in the first four races that being in front was a big advantage,” he said.

“I thought I was going to be able to sit outside the leader on Hasabro but I ended up three deep early on, and as they weren’t going overly hard I thought I’d kick on and lead. He had a really good kick in the straight.”

Saturday’s treble was no great surprise given that Grylls currently sits second on the jockeys’ premiership. He’s ridden 56 winners in 2020-21, nine of them stakes winners, and is on track to top his previous season bests of 78 wins and 10 stakes wins.

Grylls could equal that stakes win tally when he partners pre-post favourite Rocket Spade in Sunday’s Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m).

“He’s really exciting. He feels like a proper horse should when you’re riding him,” Grylls said.

“He can get a little bit keen and over-race if you dig him too much, but apart from that he’s pretty push-button and can travel into the race when you want him to.

“Nobody knows if any of them are going to get the 2400m until the actual day, but you’d think at this point he would.”

Rocket Spade won’t be his only potential big race chance during the Auckland Cup carnival.

Bonny Lass is a potential candidate for the Group 1 Sistema Stakes (1200m), while he is also set to partner Tiptronic in the Group 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) and Star Tsar in the Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m).

“Star Tsar was really good in the Avondale Cup (Group 2, 2400m),” Grylls said. “He’s a big brute of a horse who feels like he will get two miles without any problem. I’m really looking forward to riding him.”

Grylls also has a couple of potential candidates for the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) in Needle and Thread and Lily’s Lady, who finished first and second respectively in the Group 2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

Both fillies are trained by Stephen Autridge and Kris Shailer and are owned by Kevin Hickman of Valachi Downs, for whom Grylls is the retained rider.

Needle and Thread has since finished third in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa behind Oaks favourite Amarelinha. Lily’s Lady finished well back in the Listed Fasttrack Oaks Prelude (1800m) at New Plymouth but she gets a chance to redeem herself in the Group 2 Lowland Stakes (2000m) at Hastings on Wednesday.

“Needle and Thread has been going really well, and though Lily’s Lady hasn’t won a race yet she is a progressive filly so we’ll just have to assess them after the Lowland.”

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