Avantage and rider Danielle Johnson race away in the Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes.
With a dominant victory in today’s Gr. 1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, Avantage turned the tables on her stablemate and fiercest rival for this season’s champion two-year-old title, Sword Of Osman.
Avantage had won all of her first four starts, culminating in the Karaka Million at Ellerslie in late January.
Sword Of Osman was unplaced in the Million, but he bounced back to hand Avantage her first defeat in an all-Te Akau finish to the Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie earlier this month, setting up a series decider in today’s $225,000 feature at Awapuni.
It was a far from ideal build-up for either of the high-class pair. They drew poorly in gates 12 and 13, and suspensions and weight issues meant they each had first-time riders – Danielle Johnson on Avantage and Troy Harris on Sword Of Osman.
Harris had a torrid time on the gelding, jumping well but prevented from crossing to the rail by Bocce as a frenetic and energy-sapping speed duel developed.
In contrast, Johnson easily slotted Avantage across into fourth place, one off the rail. The Fastnet Rock filly was cruising approaching the home turn, simmering and ready to let loose as soon as Johnson gave the go-ahead.
Johnson pushed the button in the straight and Avantage immediately changed gears, careering past the tiring Bocce and Sword Of Osman.
Avantage opened up a commanding lead, which a fast-finishing Melt closed to two lengths at the finish line. Third-placed Sir Nate was another three lengths adrift.
“She gave me a feel I haven’t felt for a long time,” Johnson said. “She was very impressive. Coming around the corner, I didn’t think anyone in the field would be able to quicken enough to beat her. I’m very grateful to DC (Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis) and the team for putting me on today.”
Bred by Willie and Karen Calder, Avantage was bought by Ellis for $210,000 at the 2017 Premier Sale. She has now had six starts for five wins and a placing, earning more than $760,000 in prize-money for her owners the Te Akau Avantage Syndicate.
It was the second consecutive Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes victory for trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards, who won it 12 months ago with Melody Belle.
“Avantage is a super filly and was given a super ride today by Danielle,” Richards said. “She can be a bit of a handful, but gee, she’s very good on her day.
“Her work had pleased us through the week. The pattern of the day has shown that getting back and running home out wide has been the way to do it, and it worked perfectly.
“It’s great for the owners. She cost $210,000, but she’s got some real value now, and bring on the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton. She’s a lovely filly and a real pleasure to have in the stable.”
Richards believed Sword Of Osman was a victim of circumstances.
“It was a bit tricky for Troy, Bocce prevented him from coming across,” he said. “He’s the sort of horse where, if he’s stuck out in the open like that, he just doesn’t come back to the rider that well.”
Runner-up Melt redeemed herself after suffering her first defeat in the Sistema, where she finished outside the placings, and Sir Nate made up good late ground for third.