Richards a force to be reckoned with in features

Brando (pictured) will be one of three runners for trainer Jamie Richards in Saturday’s Group 1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki. Photo: Trish Dunell

Jamie Richards will be attacking this weekend’s main events in equal measures of quality and quantity with a trio chasing top-flight honours at Otaki and three youngsters lined up for the Matamata conditioner’s home track juvenile feature.

Te Akau’s head trainer will be represented by Amarelinha, Brando and Markus Aurelius in Saturday’s Group 1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m) while Hanalei, I Choose You and Maven Belle will go head-to-head in the Group 2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m).

Amarelinha will trek south to make her second appearance this preparation and all the better for her resuming fourth in the Group 2 Westbury Classic (1400m) at Ellerslie and a subsequent trial victory over 1200m at Te Rapa.

“She did trial very well and I’m happy with her, it looks a nice race for her,” Richards said. “After Otaki, she will probably go to Ellerslie for the Bonecrusher Stakes (Group 1, 2000m).”

The Savabeel mare enjoyed a lucrative three-year-old campaign with victory in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) off the back of success in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Stakes (2000m) and the Group 3 Sunline Vase (2100m).

Amarelinha was also fourth in the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m), but failed to fire in three starts when she returned to Australia in the spring.

Brando claimed an open handicap at Ellerslie at his latest outing and he too won his 1200m heat at the Te Rapa trials earlier this month.

“I’m not entirely sure what we do with Brando after Otaki, but we will keep him to 1400m or a mile as that suits him best,” Richards said.

Markus Aurelius landed the Group 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) in November before a break and was unplaced when he missed the jump when resuming in the Group 3 Concorde Handicap (1200m). Last time out, he finished off well for fourth in the Group 1 BCD Sprint (1400m).

“He’ll be suited by the mile at Otaki and he’ll probably go on to the Bonecrusher as well,” Richards said.

The stable’s three-pronged attack on the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes will be a formidable force to be reckoned with Hanalei and Maven Belle both last-start winners and I Choose You also in excellent form.

Further success for Hanalei off the back of her Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m) triumph would again be especially sweet for Richards as the daughter of Darci Brahma was bred by his parents Paul and Leanne with friends Bill and Sandra Duell and the quartet retaining ownership of the filly.

Maven Belle is unbeaten in two appearances after she followed up her debut win with success in the Group 3 Platinum Homes 2YO Classic (1200m) and is a true-blue Te Akau product.

The Burgundy filly was bred by David Ellis and wife Karyn with Mark and Julia Walker and the Maven Belle Racing Partnership-raced youngster is out of the stakes placed mare Doyenne, a half-sister to Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) winner Levante.

I Choose You was successful at the first time of asking before the I Am Invincible filly overcame a wide passage to finish a close third in the Group 2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and has since won a 1000m trial at Te Rapa.

“All three are in good shape and very happy with them ahead of Matamata,” Richards said.

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