The Oaks Stud and trainer Shaune Ritchie will attack Saturday’s Group 1 meeting at Te Rapa with class mares Zurella (Zabeel) and Artistic (Darci Brahma).
Zurella will contest the G1 Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) and Artistic the G1 Darci Brahma International Stakes (2000m). Ritchie took the opportunity to gallop the four-year-old mares between races at Te Rapa last Saturday and the pair finished on terms over 1000m in 60.95s.
“They just had a day out,” the Cambridge conditioner said. “Hopefully, it will sharpen them up for the big races here on the weekend.”
Artistic defeated Zurella for a memorable The Oaks Stud – Ritchie quinella in last year’s G1 New Zealand Oaks and since then both have performed in stakes company in Australia. Artistic was second in the G3 Doomben Roses and fourth in the LR Cranbourne Cup while Zurella landed the G2 Let’s Elope Stakes at Flemington.
“Zurella won the Let’s Elope Stakes fresh in the spring although I don’t think she’s as tuned up for the Waikato Sprint,” Ritchie continued. “But Ocean Park and Veyron won’t be there and (King) Mufhasa might not be there, either. We want to win a Group 1 with her this campaign and we are better off trying to achieve that this side of the Tasman rather than going over to Australia.”
Ritchie is thrilled with Artistic’s progress and said she had thrived since a first-up third at Awapuni last month. “She’s a lot stronger now than I ever thought she would be. And it would be nice to see a Darci Brahma mare win the Darci Brahma International.”
The Oaks Stud stands Darci Brahma and sponsors the weight-for-age middle distance feature. The stud’s general manager Rick Williams will use the day to unleash a strong team with Devour, Passionate, Skysoblue, Somerset Rose, Roman and Bravado all in action on Saturday.