(By John Jenkins)
Nicoletta provided trainer Andrew Forsman with his 100th New Zealand stakes winner when she led all the way for a game win in today’s Group 1 $200,000 Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha.
The Savabeel five-year-old mare stunned punters when she won at odds of 37 to one but Forsman, who trains in partnership with one of the country’s best conditioners of thoroughbreds in Murray Baker, was confident she could test her rivals in the 1600m feature.
Forsman, who was in charge while Baker was looking after the stable’s horses in Sydney, said he gave jockey Jake Bayliss specific instructions before the start to dictate from the front and they proved to be inch-perfect.
Nicoletta took a clear the lead from the outset, established a break on the field rounding the home bend, and managed to stave off the late challenge from Supera to win by a long head. Australian-trained Luvaluva was three-quarters of a length back in third, with race-favourite Volpe Veloce a further 1-3/4 lengths back in fourth.
“He (Bayliss) rode her a treat,” Forsman said.
“She’s twice Group 1-placed and is deserving of a Group 1 win so I’m glad she’s got it.
“He timed it to perfection as I said just out-stay them as she won’t beat them in a sprint home.
“He took it to them and she was just the toughest, fittest horse. They were coming at her late, but he got it right.”
Forsman was pleased the mare had finally picked up some racing luck after things had not gone to plan in recent starts.
“She just hasn’t had anything go right,” he said.
“She hasn’t been going poorly and looked outstanding today.
“I said to Jake that she was hard-fit and ready to go so put her in the race and give her a chance.
“She is good enough to beat these types of horses and she showed that today.”
Forsman, 36, started out working part-time for Murray Baker’s Cambridge stable several years ago whilst doing a course at university in Auckland studying television photography. He spent a year behind a Trackside television camera before Baker offered him a training partnership when Baker’s son Bjorn left New Zealand to establish his own stable in Sydney.
Six years later Forsman has risen to the top of the ladder in the New Zealand training ranks yet still remains conscious of his humble beginnings and was delighted that his 100th New Zealand stakes winner was owned by Wellington’s Lib Patenga, one of the stable’s most loyal clients.
Forsman wrote on Twitter: “Thanks to Nicoletta and Lib Patenga for providing me with my 100th NZ stakes winner today. Very special that it was a G1 for an owner that has been such a big part of my career. Thanks also to Murray and family for giving me the opportunity!”
For jockey Jake Bayliss today’s success by Nicoletta was also another special moment in the Australian-born rider’s career.
“I gave her a little bit of a chance just because of the way she was going to be ridden although there were some quality horses in the field,” he said.
“When you lead like that you set it up for the back-markers but she stuck to her guns, it was just a brave brave run.
“It’s my third Group 1 win and Mum was here to watch it, so it’s something special,” Bayliss said.
He added that he will be returning to Queensland in two weeks time for a three month stint there before returning to New Zealand in August.
Nicoletta was a $90,000 purchase from the 2015 Karaka yearling sales and has now recorded five wins from 30 starts and amassed more than $384,000 in stakemoney.
Owner Lib Patenga’s day only got better at Te Aroha when his talented filly Santa Catarina scored a runaway win in the race immediately following the Breeders Stakes.
The Savabeel three-year-old, trained by Stephen Marsh started a warm favourite for the Rating 72 1400m race and proved a class above her rivals, taking control early in the home straight and racing right away in the final stages to win by 3-3/4 lengths.