It's all Te Akau in the 2000 Guineas as Embellish (Opie Bosson) leads home a one-two-four finish.
New Zealand 2000 Guineas day has always been a special time of year for Te Akau Racing, but the 2017 edition at Riccarton this afternoon took that to an entirely new level.
Three runners carried the famous tangerine and blue colours as they stepped out on to the track for the classic, which was sponsored for the first time by Al Basti Equiworld and carried an increased stake of $500,000. Those three horses finished first, second and fourth.
Embellish led the Te Akau charge, living up to his $775,000 price tag as a Karaka yearling and taking a big step towards the stallion career that the 2000 Guineas is forming a reputation for producing.
Age Of Fire was a fast-finishing second, with Te Akau Shark fourth – a mere nose behind the third-placed Ever Loyal.
“This is one of New Zealand’s iconic races,” Te Akau principal David Ellis said. “To have three runners in the race is a big thrill in itself, but to see them all run the way they did today is just amazing.
“That takes our total number of Guineas wins at Riccarton to 10 – we’ve won the 2000 Guineas six times and the 1000 Guineas four times.”
Previous 2000 Guineas victories came with King's Chapel (2003), Darci Brahma (2005), Tell A Tale (2008), Rock 'N' Pop (2011) and Xtravagant (2015).
It was the second 2000 Guineas win in the last three years for Te Akau and its training partnership of Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards. Their 2015 win with Xtravagant came less than six months after the Autridge-Richards partnership began.
Embellish ran second in his only two-year-old appearance earlier this year, and he made a big impression with stylish victories at Ruakaka and Trentham in his two starts this spring leading into the 2000 Guineas.
The flashy brown son of Savabeel was the chosen mount today for stable jockey Opie Bosson, who could also have gone to Melbourne to ride Gingernuts in today’s Emirates Stakes, and he started as the clear $3.70 favourite.
Bosson found the perfect position in third place, just behind the leading pair of Ever Loyal and Upperhand, then presented the colt at the top of the straight to make his run. Embellish cruised to the lead and never looked in doubt from there, crossing the line a length and a quarter ahead of Age Of Fire.
A full-brother to the Group One-winning mare Diademe, Embellish has now won three of his four starts and more than $315,000 in prize-money.
“Whatever happens with Gingernuts later today, it doesn’t get much better than this,” Ellis beamed. “I bought Embellish to win this race, and everything we’ve done with him has been with the 2000 Guineas in mind.
“Dan Miller and the staff down here have done a great job leading into the race, some of them have been here for up to three months. Jamie Richards has been coming down here weekly for the last two and a half months, which is an unbelievable effort. I’m so proud of them all.
“What a great ride from Opie Bosson! You’ll never see a better Group One ride than that. He chose Embellish and his judgment was spot-on.
“They’re also an amazing bunch of owners, and a lot of the syndicate are also in the ownership of Age Of Fire as well. I think you’ll see a lot more of that colt too – he could be a Derby horse in the autumn.”
Bosson has now ridden an extraordinary seven New Zealand 2000 Guineas winners – Danske (1998), Buzz Lightyear (1999), King’s Chapel (2003), Katie Lee (2009), Atlante (2013), Turn Me Loose (2014) and Embellish.
The champion jockey, who is due to marry his fiancée Emily Murphy later this month, avoided handshakes during post-Guineas celebrations due to a thumb injury suffered during the race. He was subsequently stood down from his remaining mounts on today’s programme, but took the time to go over and offer a congratulatory pat to Embellish and his strapper Teina Walters.
“Teina’s done a great job with this horse, he kept him nice and calm,” Bosson said. “I could feel that he was beautifully relaxed and ready to go when I got on him.”
It was another proud homecoming for Richards, who was born and raised in the South Island.
“This is the sort of day that you think about when you’re going through all those early starts,” he said. “It’s a credit to the whole team, and I’m still so grateful to David and the Te Akau team for giving me the greatest opportunity in my life.
“Opie gave the horse a super ride in the trail, that was the place to be. A jockey like him is what you need in these big races.
“People kept asking me which one of our three was the best chance, but all of them were going so well and it was hard to separate them. It’s so great to see them all run so well.”