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The first race of the season for the recently turned two-year-olds heralds the start of the exciting build up to New Zealand's richest juvenile race: the one million dollar 'Karaka Million'.
A field of eight runners will start in the Ford 2YO 800 metre race at Wanganui tomorrow, set to jump at 11:50am. Included in the field are three runners eligible for the Karaka Million in January.
Trainers and part-owners of the inaugural Karaka Million winner, Vincent Mangano, Peter and Kim McKay are hoping to repeat their winning formula with Sacramento (No Excuse Needed x Lodore Mystic by Centaine) lining up on Saturday. By the same sire as last year's winner, and a half-brother to top performer Alamosa, the $480,000 yearling purchase has had two trials, winning the first and finishing second in the other.
Vincent Mangano will be having his first start as a three-year-old on the same card in the Listed HS Dyke Wanganui Guineas (1340m).
Shaping up as race favourite is the Mark Walker trained Regal Flame (Not A Single Doubt x Marina Miss by Grand Lodge) ridden by Opie Bosson. He's the winner of two trials at Whakatane, the last being on 19 August. Te Akau Racing Stables principal David Ellis bid to $45,000 to secure the colt from Wentwood Grange's Select Sale draft.
Winner of his first trial at Waipa on 26 August Murray and Bjorn Baker's hope The Heckler (Lucky Owners x Comedy Café by Rory's Jester) will be ridden by Leith Innes. Offered by Woodridge Farm at the Karaka Select Sale, he was bought by Peter Walker for $70,000.
The Baker-Innes-Walker combination tasted success earlier today with an impressive first-up seven length win by Fully Fledged (Align x Fledged, by Bluebird) at Te Rapa. Thwarting his chances of a start in the Karaka Million earlier this year by jumping the rail in the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes, he redeemed himself by winning New Zealand Bloodstock's $100,000 Carnival Sale Bonus. On the same card Walker also had Cross Roads (Cape Cross x Toonsie by Affirmed) win first up.
The Karaka Million, for graduates of the 2008 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales Series, is set to be contested at Ellerslie on Sunday 25 January, the eve of the Karaka Premier Sale.
CLICK HERE for the full list of two-year-olds eligible to contest this season's one million dollar prize pool.