New Zealand Preview: La Crique can win New Zealand Stakes

March 10th, 2023

It’s a massive day in New Zealand, with two Group 1 races and a rich two-mile handicap at Pukekohe Park. Some of the runners may well appear in the Sydney autumn carnival in the next month.

We will focus on the New Zealand Stakes (G1), and offer spot plays for the other two features.

Race 8, 10:47 p.m. ET: New Zealand Stakes (G1), 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), 3yo plus

New Zealand Stakes Selections

  • #7 La Crique
  • #8 Prowess
  • #1 Defibrillate
  • #5 Asterix

New Zealand Stakes Wagers

  • $20 win: #7 La Crique
  • $2 trifecta: 7, 8 with 7, 8 with 1, 3, 5, 6

Plenty of interest has been added with the inclusion of leading three-year-old filly #8 Prowess. She’s in great form, and two starts back she beat an outstanding field in the Karaka Million 3-Year-Old Classic. As New Zealand Derby (G1) winner Sharp ‘N’ Smart subsequently showed when beating #6 Campionessa in the Herbie Dyke (G1) last month, this three-year-old crop is a good one.

However, two of last year’s best three-year-olds could have a say. Last year’s NZ Derby runner-up #7 La Crique has been plagued by wet tracks this season, but her Arrowfield Plate (G1) success in spring was one of the best performances this season. She was brave when second to Levante in wet ground Feb. 25, and back on likely good ground, she is an outstanding chance.

Don’t write off the horse that beat her in the Derby, #5 Asterix, either. His form can be up and down, but he’s unbeaten in three starts running clockwise, which he gets here.

The other two key chances are Campionessa and #1 Defibrillate. The latter was out of luck when forced into setting the pace in the Herbie Dyke; if he can get his normal run off the speed, he is a winning chance as well. #3 Chase is also worth including in exotics.

Race 5, 9:06 p.m. ET: Sistema Stakes (G1), 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), 2-year-olds

#1 Tokyo Tycoon will be all the rage here, and with good reason. He came from last on the turn on this track to win the Karaka Million 2-Year-Old from #4 Ethereal Star, with #5 Ulanova fourth. Tokyo Tycoon has since won again, and from barrier three he will be hard to topple.

Ethereal Star may have some hope if the pace is very slow, but otherwise the best chance could be the promising #7 Tulsi, who won her only start Feb. 6. The form out of that race has proven highly respectable, so don’t be surprised if she runs boldly.

  • $2 trifecta: 1, with 4, 7 with all
  • $1 trifecta: 7 with 1, 4 with all

Race 9, 11:26 p.m. ET: Auckland Cup (G2), 3,200 meters (about two miles), 3yo plus

Understandably, #13 Aquacade is the popular fancy. She scored a decisive victory in the Avondale Cup (G2) on this track Feb. 18, and her breeding suggests she will stay two miles. The question is whether likely odds around 2-1 in a 14-horse field represent good value.

Perhaps the best chances of beating her are topweight #1 Ladies Man and Aussie visitor #6 Nerve Not Verve.

Ladies Man is a half-sister to previous Auckland Cup winner Ladies First and his preparation for this race looks very sharp. Nerve Not Verve was good enough to win the Chairman’s (G2) in Sydney in April last year, and she looked to be coming back into form when second in the Torney Cup in Melbourne Feb. 17.

Given that level of form, I’m going to support Nerve Not Verve.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #6 Nerve Not Verve