A last-start winner over 1300 metres at the same course, the Dalghar filly stepped up to the longest two-year-old race of the New Zealand season today and ran her rivals into the ground with a dominant front-running display.With a record-breaking performance in today’s Listed Auckland Co-Op Taxis Champagne Stakes at Ellerslie, Astara sent a loud warning to her prospective rivals in next season’s three-year-old fillies’ races.
She stopped the clock at 1:34.32, a new race record and the fastest 1600-metre time ever run by a two-year-old in New Zealand. The previous best was Fast Dragon’s 1:36.03 in the 2013 Champagne Stakes.
“1:34? Jeez, it felt like we were going slow,” rider Sam Collett exclaimed.
Astara sprung out of gate five and went straight to the head of the eight-horse field. It was a position she never relinquished, turning up the tempo from the 600 metres and turning for home with a daunting four-length advantage.
Eleonora and Family Secret tried to bridge the gap, but Astara had enough petrol left in the tank to hold on and win by a length and three-quarters.
“I thought the key to winning the race would be to jump out, go straight to the lead and make them chase her down,” co-trainer Donna Logan said. “Sam did a perfect job.
“When she started to turn up the wick, I thought, ‘Gee, she’ll take some catching from there.’ It was a very good performance.
“She’s a filly who’s just stepped up and stepped up all the way through this campaign. I think she’ll be even better as a three-year-old.”
Astara has now had four starts for two wins, a second and a fourth placing in the Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes in February.
The filly is bred and raced by Neven Botica, who also owns the Brighthill Stud-based stallion Dalghar. Astara became the freshman sire’s first stakes winner.
“This is great for the sire, his first black-type winner,” Logan said. “The owner will no doubt be ringing me shortly. I think Dalghar’s a promising sire and I’ll see a lot more of his progeny in years to come.”
Botica was represented on course by Brighthill Farm Owner-Manager Nick King. A stakes-winning half-brother to multiple Group One winners Daylami and Dalakhani, Dalghar stood at Brighthill for a fee of $6,000.
“Dalghar’s only had three runners in New Zealand so far for a stakes winner and two placegetters,” King said.
“They’ll be even better at three than they have been at two. This is just icing. I think we’re going to have some fun with this filly next season!
“Donna and her team have done a great job with her.”
Runner-up Eleonora charged home from near last in an eye-catching performance. The Makfi filly, a granddaughter of the champion stayer Ethereal, has been placed in all three appearances.
The third placegetter was Family Secret, a Lisa Anderson-owned and trained daughter of Sakhee’s Soldier and the multiple stakes winner Sista. Family Secret has been placed in two of her three starts.