Masetto stretches out in fine style as he delivers a victory at Tauranga Photo: Race Images (Kenton Wright)
David and Elizabeth Olsen want to keep the Waikato Cup in the family.
The Hauraki owners won the 2009 Waikato Cup with Passchendaele and this weekend will get a chance to celebrate the 10th anniversary by winning the 2019 edition with Passchendaele’s son Masetto.
“Wouldn’t that be amazing if he could win,” Elizabeth Olsen said. “We didn’t think he would even make the field.”
Masetto, a rating 75 horse, is stepping up in class but has had only 10 starts and will be getting 6kg from the topweight and fellow four-year-old In A Twinkling.
Masetto tuned up for the 2400m Te Rapa feature by running third, behind Dezella, in a rating 82 2300m at Otaki on November 29. Dezella, who has won her last three starts, will be a rival again on Saturday.
Masetto was at $21 in the early fixed-odds market but looks a lightweight chance. He will meet Dezella 2kg better off at the weights and should improve with the Otaki run, which was only his third in a new campaign. In addition, the Cape Blanco gelding had not raced for a month and was stepping up in distance, after winning over 1600m at Te Rapa at his previous start.
“We have taken our time with him and we think he’s going to be a stayer,” Olsen said.
Masetto is bred to be a middle-distance performer. Passchendaele, a Montjeu mare, was unbeaten from two starts at 2400m and Masetto’s grandam, Classic Babe, who was also raced by the Olsens, won the 2500m Metropolitan Trophy at Riccarton and ran fourth in a New Zealand Cup.
Passchendaele, who was trained by John Sargent, had her race career restricted by injury and had only 14 starts. She won five and never finished further back than fifth, and in addition to her victory in the Group II Waikato Cup, was twice placed in the Group I International (Herbie Dyke) Stakes.
Masetto won his first two races from the Rogerson stable and has had a win and two placings from his three starts since being transferred to Pam Gerard at Matamata. His first two wins came over 1400m and he has had just two starts past 1600m, the first being when he tackled the Avondale Guineas last February.
Elizabeth Olsen, an opera buff, has named many of her horses after opera characters, with Masetto coming from Don Giovanni.
The Olsens, who farm at Kaiaua, have been racing horses for about 20 years and have had their share of good ones, with their other black-type performers including Flying Babe, Mandela, Shadowfax Babe and Comme Tu Veux.
Flying Babe was the Two-Year-Old of the Year in 2001, winning the Classique at Te Rapa – the forerunner of the Karaka Million – as well as the Matamata Breeders Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and Great Northern Foal Stakes. She won the Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings at three and ran fourth in the One Thousand Guineas.
Mandela, who became a million-dollar earner, was a particular favourite for Elizabeth Olsen, who bought the horse for just $1750 as a yearling.
Mandela had to overcome injury and illness during his career but proved to be both tough and versatile and was Group I placed at 1600m, 2400m and 3200m.
He showed some of his best form in Australia, where he won the Geelong Cup, Werribee Cup, Seymour Cup and the Chairman’s Cup in Brisbane, and contested the 2006 Melbourne Cup.
He was a leading three-year-old at home, winning the Wellington Guineas and Avondale Guineas and was runner-up to the outstanding galloper Xcellent in the New Zealand Derby. Mandela was also placed in the Captain Cook Stakes and Auckland Cup.
“He was a wonderful horse to us and he’s still over there in the paddock,” Olsen said. “He goes to Moira Murdoch’s for six weeks, once a year, in January, and he loves it. When his shoes go on, he just goes bananas, because he knows he’s going to the beach.”
Masetto is among four horses his owners bred from Passchendaele, before selling the mare to Rich Hill Stud. The Olsens also retained Iago, an older half-brother to Masetto by Savabeel, who is an acceptor at Ellerslie, for both the Thursday and Sunday meetings, this week.
Iago’s career was interrupted by a suspensory ligament injury and he has had only eight starts.