Ritchie Devising Boxing Day plan

HIGHLY-TOUTED mare Devise’s connections are hoping for a late Christmas gift on Boxing Day.

The daughter of Darci Brahma finished runner-up behind Bonneval in last season’s Group One New Zealand Oaks and the horse will get its chance to go one better at the top level in the Group One Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie.

Trainer Shaune Ritchie said the horse is one of the most promising gallopers in the country.

“She’s a fantastic mare and her form is right up there with the best in New Zealand,” Ritchie said, who trains the mare for The Oaks Stud.

“We’ll probably run her in a Rating 85 mile on Waikato Cup day and then the Zabeel Classic, it’s a race we think she can be very competitive in.”

Devise, which also placed at group two and Three level last term, was spelled after an unsuccessful tilt at the Group One ATC Oaks in the autumn and two runs this preparation have been encouraging

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The half-sister to the group one performer Zurella resumed on a top note when defeating a Rating 85 line-up over 1400m at Ellerslie and was then third over the same trip behind the highly-regarded Love Affair at Pukekohe.

“In her first-up run she sat three wide all the way and then second-up over 1400m again was trainer error, she was looking for a mile,” the trainer said.

Ritchie has also welcomed an old favourite back into the stable with Sultan Of Swing returning from his brother Craig’s Warwick Farm yard.

The Bachelor Duke five-year-old won three times for Ritchie before he crossed the Tasman where he was a minor placegetter in all three of his starts.

“He’s back from Sydney and we’re starting to pick up the pace with him,” he said.

“He’ll trial pre-Christmas and then we’ll give him a run, he could be ideal in some nice mile races off the minimum.”