Te Akau Shark could provide NRL legend Paul Gallen with a brief focus away from his hefty league schedule with Cronulla Sharks next autumn if he lives up to expectations at Riccarton on Wednesday.
Gallen, the veteran back-rower who is set to undergo his record-breaking 19th consecutive season with Cronulla Sharks, is a part-owner of Te Akau Shark, who will start an odds-on favourite in the Group 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m).
Gallen has watched on from Sydney as Te Akau Shark, a son of Rip Van Winkle, has amassed a record of four wins from five starts, with his only defeat being when fourth to stablemate Embellish in last year’s Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
Te Akau Shark goes into Wednesday’s feature with a last-start win in the Group 3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) at Hastings on October 6 and if he shapes up again he will be set for a campaign in Gallen’s backyard of Sydney.
“I believe he (Gallen) is coming over to see him run at Riccarton,” trainer Jamie Richards said.
“Te Akau Shark will be going over there for the Sydney Autumn Carnival if he does well on Wednesday. “He’ll have a break after this one then we’ll set him for Sydney. He’s a pretty exciting horse and I’d like to think he’l be competitive at Group 1 level over there.”
Gallen, the former New South Wales State Of Origin captain, was brought into Te Akau Shark by his friend, Steve Mace, a Cronulla Shark’s sponsor who has a 35 percent interest in the Group 3 winner.
Te Akau Shark has made positive progress since his two wins this season. “He had a gallop over 1200m at Ellerslie on the 27th (October) and he’s done his normal work since then,” Richards said.
“He went down last Thursday and has settled in well. We’re all happy with him.”
Te Akau Shark will be reunited with Opie Bosson on Wednesday, while Jason Laking will partner Unfazed, Te Akau Racing Stables’ hope in the Group 3 Valachi Downs Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m).
“Unfazed was very disappointing on Saturday,” Richards said.
“It was partly the way the race was run and she got very fired up. She’ll have to do things a lot better to be any chance on Wednesday.”
Conclusion, part-owned by Richards’ parents Paul and Leanne, won well for the stable at Riccarton last Saturday and will back up this coming weekend in a Rating72 1200m, while Richard Of Yorke, a disappointing ninth in last Saturday’s Listed Metropolitan Trophy (2500m) at Riccarton will start in the Group 3 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup (3200m).
“His run was very ordinary last Saturday, but he’s a dead-set stayer and the extra distance should help him,” Richards said.
Stablemate Swing Note will not take her place in the New Zealand Cup, despite a useful fourth to outsider Dee And Gee in the Metropolitan Trophy.
“She ran well but is still immature so we’re going to take a bit more time with her,” Richards said.
“She can have a break then there are some nice targets after Christmas.”