Matamata owners Mark and Cath Lupton are hoping their dream run will continue in Saturday’s Group 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa. The Luptons’ quality mare Yearn will chase back-to-back stakes wins in the fillies and mares’ feature, having claimed a career-best victory in the Group 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Pukekohe on November 23.
In between times, the Luptons celebrated a victory in Saturday’s A$300,000 Pakenham Cup (2500m) as co-breeders and part-owners of Etah James. “It’s been a bit of a shock, I keep pinching myself,” Mark Lupton said. “It’s unusual enough to have one high-quality horse performing strongly in these sorts of races, but two at the same time is just unbelievable. We can’t really believe it, but we just hope it continues.”
The Pakenham Cup was the seventh win in a 26-start career for Etah James, who has now earned more than A$450,000 in stakes for the Luptons, Terry Reid and Gary Howes. The Raise the Flag mare is trained by Matt Cumani at Ballarat, but returned to New Zealand for four starts from Lupton’s Matamata stable earlier this year. “The win on Saturday really vindicated what we did,” Lupton said.
“We decided to bring her home for a few months and sort out a few little issues that she had. It’s nice when a plan comes off so well, it doesn’t always happen. “But she’s a good staying mare. She deserved another good win, and it was a terrific performance on Saturday. “We’re having a lot of fun racing her with Terry Reid and Gary Howes, two friends of ours who actually went through law school together. Terry’s a businessman in Sydney with the Asian Development Bank, doing a lot of work with governments around the Asia-Pacific region, while Gary is a pharmaceutical lawyer in London.”
There is a chance that Etah James may return to this side of the Tasman later this season, with a nomination for the Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on March 7. “It’s an option, but we’ll see what happens,” Lupton said. “We’ll definitely go for the Bagot Handicap (2800m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day, and then we’ll make a plan from there. “We could come back for the Auckland Cup, but Adelaide might be more likely – races like the Lord Reims Stakes (2600m), which she won in 2018, and Adelaide Cup (3200m). “On her performance on Saturday, we think she’s got even more ahead of her over these longer distances.”
Etah James is not the first horse the Luptons have raced successfully in partnership with Reid and Howes. They also won eight races with her close relative Tickle, headed by the Group 3 Rotorua Challenge Plate (1900m) and BTC Labour Day Cup (2020m). “The dam of Etah James is a full-sister to Tickle, who we raced,” Lupton said. “Unfortunately she broke down in the Doomben Cup (Group 1, 2000m) and we lost her. “Not long after that, I saw that Jim Barlow was selling some of his stock at the broodmare sale at Karaka. I ended up being able to buy Etah, in foal to Alamosa, for $10,000. That’s turned out to be incredible value.”
Etah James is among a quartet of winners for the Danasinga mare – all of her four foals to race. Amuse, by Savabeel, won twice, while Alamosa gelding Sniper collected three wins. Redeemer, by He’s Remarkable, has been a winner in Australia this season. “She’s been great, producing four winners from four to race,” Lupton said. “We’ve now got a really nice Reliable Man three-year-old in work, and an Alamosa two-year-old. “She has a full-brother to Etah James at foot, a lovely foal by Raise the Flag, and she’s had a positive test to U S Navy Flag.”
Now the focus switches back to Yearn, who is heading into Saturday’s Te Rapa feature in outstanding order for trainer Karen Fursdon. “She seems to be thriving,” Lupton said. “She was flying in her work last week. Karen is rapt with her, and from what I’ve seen myself, I think she’s actually improved since Counties. “It doesn’t sound like the placegetters in that race, Media Sensation and Princess Kereru, will be there this time, but I’m sure there’ll be some others in the field who will be hard to beat. These sorts of races are never easy to win, but hopefully our luck will continue.”