While he may not have witnessed a winning run, it was hard to take the smile off trainer Shaune Ritchie’s face after his gutsy two-year-old filly Bella Mente picked up an invaluable placing at Group One level when finishing third in Saturdays Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni
The nuggety El Roca filly had entered the race as one of the outsiders for the contest despite a tidy form-line that included a fourth placed finish in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at her most recent start.
Ritchie and Bella Mente’s large group of owners took the option to forego a start in the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie in favour of Saturday’s event and that judgment was well and truly vindicated as she fought bravely in the home straight to finish within half-a length of eventual winner Yourdeel.
A delighted Ritchie admitted he was starting to get more than a little excited at the 150m when Bella Mente hit the front for a brief moment.
“She looked like the winner momentarily, so the excitement levels were right up there,” he said.
“She was really kicking strongly at that point, but I looked across and saw the good horse (Yourdeel) coming and I knew we were in trouble then.
“She didn’t give it away at any stage, so to pick up a Group One placing at just her fourth start is fantastic for everyone involved in her.”
Despite starting at long-odds for the contest Ritchie believed the market price ($37) didn’t reflect the true chances of his charge.
“I think she might have been overlooked by many and we thought she was a much better chance than what the tote was saying,” he said.
“She went a terrific race at Matamata as she was wide most of the way while the first two home got inside runs.
“We missed Ellerslie and the heavy track that day, so she was the fresh horse on the scene and we knew she was at her peak for this one.
“She certainly did us proud and I can’t wait to see how good she can be for her three-year-old campaign.
“She will go out for a good spell now and we will bring her back with the intention of getting her to the One Thousand Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) at Riccarton.”
Ritchie was also pleased to see talented stayer Excalibur make a solid return to the track when running on nicely over 1400m at Ellerslie.
“He didn’t really come up as well as we would have liked and wasn’t finishing his races off that well, so we tipped him out for a freshen-up,” he said.
“I thought he went quite a cheeky race on Saturday so, if he can make some progress from there, we will have some nice options with him including some races over in Australia over the next few months.” – NZ Racing Desk