Despite the limited crowd on course due to COVID protocols, there were still plenty of joyous scenes in the Te Rapa grandstand as the connections of outstanding racemare Levante celebrated her second consecutive Group One win with victory in the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m).
Touted as a match race between the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained five-year-old and fellow superstar mare Entriviere, the race lived up to its billing as the pair set down to fight out the finish over the final 300m.
Despite having to sit three wide with cover aboard Levante, rider Ryan Elliot had taken a tactical advantage over rival jockey Opie Bosson on Entriviere by swooping into contention on the point of the turn as Entriviere was held up in a pocket for several strides.
That proved the difference as Levante shot to the front with Entriviere in hot pursuit and despite a valiant chase Entriviere had to settle for a gallant runner-up, finishing half a length in arrears.
“I didn’t quite know what was going on with her out wide like that, but she did have some cover,” Ken Kelso said.
“I thought he had pressed the button too early, but she has held them out and in her career, nothing has ever passed her in the straight when she has been in front.
“It was just another real good, tough effort.
“This is huge for us and the owners are such great people and have let us do what we wanted to do with her.
“It’s a big thrill for Bev and I and all the staff at home.”
Levante is raced by a syndicate that includes Ancroft Stud’s Philip Brown and his wife Catherine, along with former Waikato Racing Club Chief Executive Tony Enting and his wife Mary and former professional golfer Mark Tapper. The syndicate had also included Michael Stedman, a respected bloodstock agent who sadly passed away in August at the age of 73.
Brown put the ownership syndicate together for Levante after he had foaled her down for her breeder Scott Williams, who is also Brown’s accountant.
Rider Ryan Elliot has forged a remarkable record aboard the mare, with the victory his seventh on her to go with two minor placings from just the nine rides.
“She jumped really well and I could see that Opie was in a pocket,” Elliot said.
“I just had to hold my ground and let him sit in that pocket for as long as I could.
“I knew Entriviere would come shooting through the middle like she did, so I had to get going early enough without doing too much and she has hit the line really well.
“It’s just great to get back on her and I’m glad I can repay the owners and Ken and Bev.”
Levante has now added a second Group One title for Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir, with the exciting Choisir stallion the sire of seven stakes winners to date.
A total of 23 yearlings by Proisir will be under offer during the upcoming New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka from March 7-12.