Star Shadow out to set new mark for Walker and Bergerson

Star Shadow (outside) will contest the Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe on Saturday. Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)

Promising filly Star Shadow has the chance to break new ground for New Zealand’s leading stable when she lines up as a hot favourite in Saturday’s Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Pukekohe.

Te Akau trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson have already celebrated no fewer than seven black-type wins with their two-year-olds this season.

Move To Strike won last month’s Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), while Captured By Love took out the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m), Group 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) and Group 3 Taranaki 2YO Classic (1200m).

Other feature victories have come from Bellatrix Star in the Group 2 Eclipse Stakes (1200m), Nucleozor in the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m) and Discretion Rules in Riccarton’s Listed Champagne Stakes (1200m).

Those seven black-type juvenile wins have equalled the mark set by former Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards in 2020-21.

That season’s triumphs came from star juvenile performers such as Group 1 winners Sword Of State and On The Bubbles, plus a highly promising Eclipse Stakes winner named Imperatriz.

Now Star Shadow will give the powerhouse stable a shot at an extraordinary eighth juvenile stakes win for the season.

Surprisingly, the Fortuna filly could also become the Te Akau team’s first winner of this race, which is traditionally run at Ellerslie.

Walker and Bergerson have won a total of 23 races with their team of two-year-olds this season.

Star Shadow joined that list with an impressive come-from-behind performance on debut at Otaki on April 13.

In her only start since then, the daughter of Reliable Man produced an eye-catching finish into fifth behind the highly impressive Super Photon in the Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on May 4.

“She worked home well in that race at Te Rapa and didn’t have a huge amount of room in the straight either, so we were pleased with that performance,” Walker said.

“We’ve been really happy with her since that race as well. She’s in terrific order. She had her final gallop right-handed on Wednesday morning.”

The 1600m distance of the Champagne Stakes makes it a unique test of stamina on the New Zealand two-year-old calendar, and the heavy track conditions at Pukekohe will only add to that challenge this weekend.

But Walker believes Star Shadow will be up to the task.

“We have no doubt that she’ll handle the step up to 1600m,” he said.

“She relaxes beautifully in her races and then finishes them off strongly. Her debut win was on a Heavy8 at Otaki, so we know she gets through wet ground too. I don’t think we’ll have any worries about the track at Pukekohe this weekend.”

Star Shadow was a $35,000 purchase by David Ellis from Book 2 of Karaka 2023.

She will be ridden by Wiremu Pinn in Saturday’s $100,000 feature and is bookmakers’ $1.40 favourite.

Star Shadow headlines a six-strong team at Pukekohe on Saturday for Walker and Bergerson, who hold a runaway premiership lead with a total of 151 wins for the season.

Zantabulous has been a strong performer in Rating 75 company in recent weeks, headlined by a win at Te Rapa on April 14, and she is expected to be highly competitive again in Saturday’s Thanks Peter & Dawn Williams (1600m) with premiership-leading jockey Warren Kennedy in the saddle.

Baronet and Devoted bring solid form credentials into their assignments in the Ellerslie Events (1400m) and TAB NZ (2100m) respectively, where apprentice jockey Tayla Melvin’s 4kg claim brings them down to ideal positions in the weights.

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