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Former Black Cap catches big race at Tauherenikau

Tabata, ridden by Danielle Johnson, winning the Wairarapa Breeders Stakes on Monday. PHOTOS/PETER RUBERY


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Former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum was one of an estimated 12,000 people on course to watch his progressive mare Tabata win her first stakes race when she prevailed in a desperate finish to the Listed Property Brokers Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Tauherenikau on Monday

The four-year-old daughter of champion stallion Savabeel looked a forlorn hope halfway down the home straight as she was giving the eventual runner-up Cruz Ramirez a four-length head start.

Cruz Ramirez kicked hard but couldn’t withstand an irresistible late burst by Tabata that carried her and rider Danielle Johnson to victory by the barest margin.

Wairarapa Racing Club general manager Matthew Sherry said McCullum spoke beautifully in the presentation room after the race.

“He was very complimentary to the club, the sponsors, and [trainer] Stephen Marsh, who he is obviously very good mates with, as well as the crowd and atmosphere around the course. It was great to see that result.”

Brendon McCullum [centre], trainer Stephen Marsh [2nd from right] and jockey Johnson [right].
Tabata’s win capped off a brilliant long weekend for Marsh, who won his third race at stakes level in 48 hours after securing a Group Three double on Saturday with Vernanme in the Gr.3 Taranaki Cup, and Belle Fascino in the Gr.3 White Robe Lodge WFA at Wingatui.

“To get any stakes win is always a thrill but to pick up three over the weekend is very satisfying,” Marsh said.

“Mind you, at the top of the straight I didn’t think we could win the race and I was just hoping that we could perhaps run into a place at that stage.

“That was the plan leading into today as she is still lightly-raced, but we were hoping to pick up some black type for her record when she eventually goes to the broodmares paddock.

“She has got a very good finish on her, and when she started to pick up halfway down the straight, I started to think we might snatch third. But her last 50m was just phenomenal.”

Marsh thought that from the way she handled the 1600m, a race such as the Travis Stakes [Gr.2, 2000m] in April might be an ideal target.

Bought by McCullum under his Vermair Bloodstock banner and Hughes Bloodstock for $100,000 from the Waikato Stud draft at the 2018 Book 1 sale at Karaka, Tabata hails from the extended family of Group One winners Xtravagant, Legs, and Sixty Seconds.

The victory also brought up four wins on the day for tearaway jockeys’ premiership leader Johnson, who now sits on 116 victories for the season.

Sherry was over the moon with the club’s success on Monday.

He estimated a crowd of about 12,000 that was bigger than the January 2 meeting, which traditionally attracts the larger attendance.

“There was a huge number of families, and man, there were some kids there. It was definitely bigger,” he said.

“Both stands were packed. The old historic stand was full, and the other was three-quarters full, the front lawn was full, and out the back was full.

“It’s hard to put a figure on it because you can’t get a figure from the gate, but Waitangi Day has certainly never been that big.”

The next race meeting at Tauherenikau will be the annual Masterton Racing Club’s meeting on March 28.

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