SA Jocks Bank The Millions In New Zealand

Two good mates celebrate

South African jockeys Warren Kennedy aboard Prowess and Craig Zackey on Tokyo Tycoon enjoyed a night to remember at the Karaka Millions.

Saturday’s 16th running of the NZ$1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO was a Karaka Million like no other – the first million-dollar race ever run at Pukekohe, with regular venue Ellerslie closed for redevelopment.

Craig Zackey steers Tokyo Tycoon to victory

Syndication powerhouse Te Akau Racing won New Zealand’s richest two-year-old race for the seventh year in a row, with Tokyo Tycoon (NZ) (Satono Aladdin) extending his unbeaten record to three out of three. Bought by David Ellis for NZ$125 000 from Book 1 of Karaka 2022, he has now earned NZ$599 150.

Tokyo Tycoon earned his place in the Karaka Million line-up with stylish victories in his first two starts, including a powerful performance at Pukekohe on Boxing Day that made him one of the favourites for the big one. Remarkably, by the time he stepped out on to the track for Saturday’s Karaka Million, he was one of seven runners for Te Akau Racing among a well-credentialled 14-horse field.

An elated Craig Zackey returns to the winner’s box

A horror gate of 13 in Wednesday’s barrier draw appeared to have dealt a severe blow to Tokyo Tycoon’s chances, and his prospects looked even bleaker when he stumbled in the first couple of strides.

But jockey Craig Zackey bided his time at the tail of the field, then found a way into clear air halfway down the straight.

“Wow,” Te Akau Racing’s Karyn Fenton-Ellis said. “Winning this race for the seventh year in a row, it really takes a team, and my goodness gracious, does Te Akau Racing have a magnificent tangerine team. They’re such dedicated people.

“It all begins at the top of the business with my wonderful husband David Ellis, who selected and bought this horse as yearling at Karaka, as he’s done over many years.

“We believe in the New Zealand racing industry, we want people to be involved and have the opportunity, and gosh we love winning this race.”

Tokyo Tycoon is trained by multiple premiership winner Mark Walker, who replaced the Hong Kong-bound Jamie Richards partway through last year.

Tokyo Tycoon delivered an extraordinary moment for Zackey, a former champion apprentice in South Africa who only arrived in New Zealand late last year.

“It’s unexplainable,” he said. “To have only come to New Zealand a few months ago and to be winning one of the biggest races here is overwhelming. I think it’ll take a day or two to hit me!”

It was then SA Champion jockey Warren Kennedy’s turn.

The super-talented filly Prowess (NZ) (Proisir) was slightly under the radar as she arrived at Pukekohe on Saturday to face one of the strongest fields in the history of the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), but she stepped out of the shadows and stole the show.

Many had expected a match race between prolific winners Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) and Wild Night (NZ) (Vanbrugh), but the favourites were upstaged by a brilliant performance from Prowess. Bought by trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood for $230,000 from Book 1 of Karaka 2021, she has now had six starts for four wins, two placings and $693,240 in stakes.

Warren Kennedy glances across as Prowess powers home

Prowess has always looked like a special talent, winning her only two-year-old start by nine lengths and scoring again when she kicked off her three-year-old season at Cambridge in September.

She rounded out her spring preparation with a pair of third placings in the Group Three Soliloquy Stakes (1400m) and Group One New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), but then a bold win in the Group Two Auckland Guineas (1600m) on New Year’s Day hinted that she might be about to scale greater heights. She could have chosen no better moment to do it than at Pukekohe on Saturday.

“It’s pretty special,” James said. “I think this is certainly the best field of three-year-olds that we’ve seen assembled in New Zealand in quite some time.

“I truly believe that a number of these horses – hopefully us included – will be able to go and fly the flag for New Zealand racing and breeding in Australia, where it really matters.

“The ownership group is headed by Dean Skipper, who had his first horse with me 30 years ago. He later went off to make his fortune, but he said he would be back, and when that happened, we went to Karaka and bought this filly. He and his family have been just a joy to have on board. Normally people have to race a few slow ones before getting a filly like this!”

Kennedy had Prowess positioned in midfield, sitting just on the outside of Wild Night up to the 700-metre mark. She started to stride forward purposefully coming up to the home turn, then took the lead with ease at the top of the straight.

Wild Night and Desert Lightning (NZ) (Pride Of Dubai) gave it all they had to try to reel her in, with Legarto charging home late after struggling to find clear air. But there would be no catching Prowess, who took the win by three-quarters of a length.

It also completed a Karaka Million double for South African jockeys.

“We’re good mates but also very competitive, so I was happy to see him win the two-year-old race – but even happier that I’ve managed to win this one,” Kennedy said.

“The two South African boys winning the million-dollar races is just fantastic. We’re delighted to be able to deliver results like this for all the owners and trainers who have put their support behind us.”

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