Levante on track for next Group 1 challenge

Levante winning the Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m). Photo: Trish Dunell

Two days after her superlative win in the Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m) at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night on Saturday, exciting four-year-old Levante was enjoying a relaxing morning in her paddock at the Matamata property of her trainers Ken and Bev Kelso.

Ken Kelso cut a relaxed figure at the National Yearling Sale at Karaka on Monday, as he discussed the victory and future plans for the Proisir mare who electrified the large on-course crowd at Ellerslie with her last to first performance.

“She has pulled up very well after travelling home and heading out to her paddock on Saturday night,” Kelso said. “It is always an advantage if you can get them out in the paddock and she licked her bowl clean on Sunday morning. “She will have a couple of days off as she doesn’t run again for three weeks, but she seemed to have come through it very well.”

While Kelso was delighted with Saturday’s result, he and most racing fans weren’t feeling as confident halfway through the race as Levante struggled to keep in touch with the field and looked in a world of trouble. “I think that was as good as I’ve seen from her in the end, but I made it pretty clear I was worried when she couldn’t seem to go with them early on,” he said.

“I think with the pace on she got out of her ground and was flat on the corner, so I had my eyes closed and I thought we were in deep trouble. “When she got a flick with the stick, she just got lower and lower and it was almost like hitting the turbo button in a car. “She’s gone to the line with her ears pricked and has done it pretty easily in the end.”

Kelso will now turn his attention to a rematch with class racemare Avantage in the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 13 after Levante finished third to the six-time Group 1 winner in the Group 1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day. “I think the Group 1 at Te Rapa is next for her,” Kelso said.

“She’s at that point now where you can’t avoid the good ones, so we’ll take them on there. “The three-week gap from her last run is ideal and the 1400m suits. “We haven’t got any plans past that as we have always said we take one race at a time with her.

“I think she still has some maturing to do and will be a better horse for her next campaign, but she has a few options for us to have a look at. “I do think she will be very effective at a mile, especially with some pace on, so we could possibly look at the Breeders’ Stakes (Group 1, 1600m) at Te Aroha in the autumn.”

While Kelso will continue to adopt a patient approach with his charge, the lure of an Australian campaign is on his mind. “I think she would be suited in Australia with the way their races are run, but we would love to get a Group 1 with her here before we think too much more about heading over there,” he said.

“We haven’t discussed anything past here, but I know that conversation will come up at some stage. “The owners are having a great ride and getting a real thrill out of her, so long may it continue.”

While the Kelso’s are thriving on the challenge of developing the career of their stable star, they are also enjoying a strong run with other members of their boutique team including promising Redoute’s Choice mare Les Crayeres.

“We’ve got some nice horses around us including Les Crayeres, who is a lovely mare,” he said. “She got beaten the other day, but I think she will go through the grades, while Shoshone and Limentis are both nice horses. “We don’t have a big team, normally about twelve or so, but they keep us busy which suits us just fine.”

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