Chris Johnson guides Matchbreaker to a front-running win in the Wellington Stakes.
For the second time in less than a week, Marton trainer Fraser Auret has teamed up with jockey Chris Johnson to snare a black-type feature.
At Pukekohe last Saturday they combined to win the Gr. 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes with Sensible Princess, and today they won the Gr. 3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes at Otaki with Matchbreaker.
“It’s been a wonderful run – I just hope no one pinches our bubble now,” Auret said. “We all know what an outstanding jockey Chris Johnson is, and this was another great ride.”
The two wins were achieved in contrasting style. While Sensible Princess downed Francaletta with a late surge, Matchbreaker led throughout the 1600 metres of today’s Wellington Stakes.
The Makfi gelding showed impressive grit in the straight, firstly shaking off the challenge of Divine Power before withstanding a late charge from Trail Blazer.
Owned by his co-breeder Gavin O’Dea, Matchbreaker finished second on debut in October and has won both subsequent starts for just under $50,000 in prize-money.
He is a half-brother to the Listed Welcome Stakes winner Dancer’s Tale, from the family of Dopff, Octapussy, Pussy Willow, Pussy O’Reilly, Valpolicella and Vavasour.
“It was hard to get a line on him coming into a race like this, with so many different form lines coming into it,” Auret said.
“But I remember his very first trial as a two-year-old. He ran second, with Hard Merchandize winning it and Waldorf third. We’ve nursed him along a bit, but he’s always had the goods. It’s great to have a Group Three in the bank now and he’s a beautiful horse going forward.”
Matchbreaker holds a nomination for the Gr. 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie in March, for which he is now rated a $21 chance.
“We’ll work towards that, although he raced a bit keenly today and there might be a bit of work to do to stretch him out over further,” Auret said.
Trail Blazer, trained by Robert Priscott for owner-breeders The Oaks Stud, made up huge ground in the straight to finish a close second with Divine Power third.
Well-backed runner The Boy Wonder clipped heels in the last 200 metres of the race, dislodging visiting Australian jockey Patrick Moloney. Horse and rider escaped injury.