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The Heckler franked his Karaka Million form in becoming New Zealand Bloodstock's fourteenth Group 1 winner for the season when running his rivals ragged in the Group 1 Ford Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes.
The Heckler returns
The Heckler returns to scale after winning the 2009 $1,000,000 Karaka Million
The brilliant bay son of NZ-bred Hong Kong Mile winner Lucky Owners (Danehill), The Heckler (ex Comedy Café, by Rory's Jester) led his rivals a merry chase over the 1400m journey of the Awapuni track. Jumping well, The Heckler was sent to the lead early to avoid the trouble he had encountered at his last start fourth in the Group 1 Diamond Stakes (1200m).
The Murray and Bjorn Baker trained galloper set a solid tempo in front, before kicking in the straight and holding out 2008 Karaka Ready to Run graduate St Fevre (Dehere - Miss Candy, by Canny Lad) by a short head in a time of 1.22.53.
His pilot on this occasion was Michael Coleman who took over the reins of New Zealand's star two-year-old from Michael Rodd after the gelding's one and a half length victory in the $1,000,000 Karaka Million on January 25.
Owned by Sir Patrick Hogan, Peter Walker, Tony Timpson, and Alistair Sutherland, The Heckler becomes the third Group 1 winning two-year-old to graduate from the first two runnings of New Zealand Bloodstock's National Yearling Sale incentive race.
These include last year's Group 1 Ford Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes winner Il Quello Veloce (Captain Rio - Nishaani by Gold Brose), who finished an unlucky sixth in the 2008 Karaka Million, and 2009 Group 1 Diamond Stakes winner Kaaptan (Kaapstad - Fanny Black, by Chem), who finished last in the 2009 Karaka Million after interference.
Such has been the dominance of Karaka Million race graduates that the only other Group 1 NZ two-year-old race that Karaka Million runners could have won was the 2008 Diamond Stakes (1200m), a race which was won by New Zealand Bloodstock Carnival Bonus winner Fully Fledged (Align - Fledged, by Bluebird), with Karaka Million graduates Raid (Pins - Vanilla Sky, by O'Reilly) and Il Quello Veloce filling the minors.
The Heckler, now the winner of $697,950, was purchased by Peter Walker from Alan and Gaylene Tait's Woodridge Farm at the 2008 Karaka Select Sale, with the aim of winning the Karaka Million. The top two-year-old could now be tested over the 1600m journey of the Listed Champagne Stakes at Ellerslie on April 11 with a view to the Group 1 NZ 2000 Guineas (1600m) in his three year old year.
On the same day on an Awapuni track rated good, racing purists were treated to a titanic battle in the Group 2 Lawnmaster Manawatu RC Awapuni Gold Cup. The race saw dual Group 1 winner MacO'Reilly (O'Reilly - Double Babu, by Centaine) and six-time Group 1 winner Sir Slick (Volksraad - Miss Opera, by Paris Opera) renew a rivalry which had seen MacO'Reilly win a ding-dong tussle in the Group 1 New Zealand Stakes by a neck, and on Saturday that winning margin was reduced to a short neck.
The two titans thundered the entire 2000m together with MacO'Reilly applying pressure to Sir Slick's outside. Sam Collett kicked with Sir Slick in the home straight and looked to have the race won, but 'Big Mac' was saved for a final dive at the line by Hayden Tinsley, which proved the winning move.
A $40,000 purchase from the 2005 Karaka Select draft of Ardsley Stud by his trainer David Howarth, Maco'Reilly has now won his last three races in a row over 2000m, including two at Group 1 level. His race time of 2.00.29 for the mile and a quarter suggests that his next big mission, the Group 1 Cox Plate during the Melbourne Spring Carnival, is not out of reach.
Sir Slick now heads across the Tasman Sea to contest the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap, a race in which he will carry 53.5kg and be partnered again by Samantha Collett.