By Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
When Stars Align and Unbridled Joy kicked off their careers with a quinella in the Japac Homes (1100m) at Trentham on Saturday, adding their names to a bumper list of two-year-old talent in the Te Akau Racing stable this season.
Premiership-leading trainers Mark Walker and Sam Bergerson headed into the $40,000 race with half a dozen winners already among the 2023-24 juvenile ranks. Captured By Love was a dominant three-length winner of the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) earlier this month, while boom colt Move To Strike made a huge impression on debut at Te Rapa last weekend. Bellatrix Star, About Last Night, Dream Of The Moon and Maracatu have also recorded stylish victories.
On Saturday the spotlight shifted to When Stars Align and Unbridled Joy, who both arrived at Trentham as trial winners and dominated the betting at $2.10 and $2.20 respectively. When Stars Align narrowly shaded his stablemate for favouritism, and that was also how it played out on the track.
Ridden positively from the inside gate by Michael McNab, When Stars Align slid forward to take the lead in the early stages of the race. He dominated proceedings from there, accelerating impressively at the top of the straight and kicking clear.
Unbridled Joy emerged from the pack and was the only one to eat into the leader’s margin, closing to within a length and a quarter at the line, but there was no catching When Stars Align.
The Te Akau pair dominated the finish, with the third-placed The Tattler finishing another two lengths behind the runner-up Unbridled Joy.
When Stars Align is by Zoustar out of the Group Two-placed Darci Brahma mare Shenandoah. The colt was bred by the Hawkins family’s Llanhennock Trust and offered under their Wentwood Grange banner in Book 1 at Karaka earlier this year, where David Ellis purchased him for $400,000. Wentwood Grange will offer a half-brother by Almanzor in Book 1 of Karaka 2024 in late January.
Saturday’s debut win earned $23,000 in prize-money for When Stars Align, which puts him in seventh place on the order of entry for the TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 27. Te Akau has celebrated seven consecutive victories in the $1 million juvenile feature, and they also have Bellatrix Star, Maracatu and About Last Night among the top 10 in this season’s order of entry.
“It always comes around pretty quickly, but hopefully we’ll be there in force again,” Bergerson said. “We’ve got another couple of first-starters in on Boxing Day at Pukekohe who can hopefully put their hands up as well.
“We’re really happy with When Stars Align’s win today. Nabber (McNab) was pretty keen to find the fence. He worked the horse on Tuesday and said that he does have a bit of an awkward action and an awkward way of going, so he was pretty keen to find the rail and follow it. Thankfully he did.
“He’s still a pretty raw colt and doing a few things wrong, changing legs there, but it’s all in front of him. He looks like a nice type going forward.
“The Karaka Millions would be nice, but we’ll see how he comes through this. He’s a nice, big, strong horse. He’s still a bit immature, but it’s all in front of him.”
Bergerson was also more than satisfied with the performance of Unbridled Joy – a Snitzel colt bought by Ellis for A$650,000 on the Gold Coast.
“He got in behind them, relaxed nicely and was strong to the line,” Bergerson said. “He will have learned a lot from this race, I think. He’s another nice prospect.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk.