It was a weekend of Group winning success for Highview Stud, and their stallion Bullbars in particular. It was also a weekend which whetted the appetite for what lies ahead over the next month as key races on the calendar will be run with progeny of Bullbars looking for more Group victories.
The highlights were:
- Contessa Vanessa winning the Group 3 Sunline Vase;
- Bullbars gelding Beauden breaking maidens very impressively at Awapuni;
- Comin'through running well in his final lead-up to the Group 1 Auckland Cup;
- The dam of the Derby winner Vin De Dance was sired by San Luis, who stood most of his career at Highview
Contessa Vanessa started favourite in, and won, the Group 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase over 2,100m at Ellerslie on Saturday. She was backing up after her victory over 1,400m at Matamata last weekend.
Chris Johnson took the ride and bounced Contessa Vanessa out of the barriers to initially take the lead but Blanco Belle took over as they left the straight. Contessa Vanessa settled into her work in the trail. As they turned for home, Blanco Belle rolled off the fence and left plenty of room for the Bullbars filly to issue her challenge. She collared the leader and put a length on her rivals which she held with a degree of comfort right to the line.
Contessa Vanessa will now head to the NZ Oaks at Trentham on 17 March as the second favourite, chasing both Group One glory and the NZB Filly of the Year title. Victory in the Oaks will also provide Bullbars with his first Group One winner; also having a Filly of the Year will be a huge achievement for the stallion and Highview Stud.
She will be without Chris Johnson in the Oaks as he has elected to ride the current favourite Savvy Coup. At the time of writing, no jockey had been confirmed for the Oaks ride but both Jason Waddell and Ryan Eliott have ridden Contessa Vanessa to victory this season.
Typical of the Bullbars stock, Contessa Vanessa has improved with age and continues to step up. She has now won five races from 17 starts and has earned $183,000 in stakes; she has only finished further back than fourth on three occasions.
Another of Bullbars progeny emerged as a horse to follow at Awapuni on Friday when Beauden (having his fourth start) won convincingly over 1,200m.
Like Contessa Vanessa, he is a three year old trained by Team Rogerson and was ridden by Chris Johnson. He was bred and is owned by Joan Egan who also has the smart sprinting Bullbars filly Akoya.
Beauden jumped well from the stalls and settled in fourth place behind the leaders. Johnson crept him closer from the 600m mark and turning for home he was able to issue his challenge three wide. He quickly put the race in the bag with Johnson riding hands and heels, winning by just short of three lengths.
Given the manner of his victory, it will be intriguing to see where he goes to next - he does look to have an exciting future.
Bullbars gelding Comin'through completed his preparation for the Group 1 Auckland Cup next Saturday with a good run over 2,200m at Ellerslie on Saturday.
In a slowly run race not suited to him, he battled on well to finish less than two lengths from the winner, Ladies Day.
His jockey Alysha Collett commented after the race "It was a really good run, they went along at such slow tempo and he is an out and out stayer and going forward to the Auckland Cup he is a really good chance."
He is listed at odds of $26 for the Cup.