Levante’s domestic racing season isn’t over just yet with confirmation the high-class mare will be given the opportunity next month to add to her record at the elite level.
Trainer Ken Kelso, who prepares the five-year-old with wife Bev, is keen on a crack at the Group 1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa on April 14.
“She’s all good and we’re looking to press on to the Breeders’ Stakes. At this stage, we’re boxing on and we’re looking to get a trial into her, but I’m reluctant to run her on a synthetic track so she’ll have to have an exhibition gallop somewhere,” Kelso said.
Levante triumphed in the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) and the Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) before her maiden trip to Australia earlier this month for a tilt at the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
It was a fact-finding venture to see how the daughter of Proisir fared in top company and she delivered a positive answer with a bold showing for fourth.
“It was a hit and run mission to see how she coped with the trip away and how she would measure up. She’s proven herself now and handled it all brilliantly,” Kelso said.
“We were very proud of her, unfortunately we just got on the wrong side and it was quite a strange race really.
“We won the race on the outside and didn’t get taken into the race either. I think she was almost last at the clock tower so she did us proud and proved she can measure up.”
Levante’s performance convinced connections to look forward to a return trip to Victoria later in the year with the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) during the Melbourne spring carnival an attractive target.
There is also an AUD$1 million bonus on offer to the winner of the Empire Rose if they have previously been successful in one of 12 selected races for the fillies and mares, among them is the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes.
“Even before we knew about the bonus it was always an option and we didn’t want to go to Sydney because it’s too wet. We didn’t want to go to Adelaide and there was nothing left for her in Melbourne,” Kelso said.
“If she travelled home well and we were happy, it was always the intention to go to the Breeders’ Stakes and at this stage everything looks positive and on target.”
However, Kelso was critical of the approach currently being taken with course closures and synthetic tracks.
“I would love to find a nice (grass) trial for the mare, but it’s a mess up here and why did they close down Te Aroha while they were doing Ellerslie,” he said.
“Money should be spent on getting the grass tracks right and closing Te Teko was a disaster, that was our go to track in the spring and autumn. People are now carting horses all the way up to Ruakaka.”