Trainer Jamie Richards breaks New Zealand record as Avantage takes her ninth Group 1

April 22, 2021

Avantage won the ninth Group 1 race of her illustrious career to date with a victory at Te Rapa, New Zealand.

The Jamie Richards-trained 5-year-old produced a powerful display in taking the Group 1 NZD$200,000 (US$143,368) Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes over a mile.

Avantage, a daughter of Fastnet Rock, and stablemate of the incredible Melody Belle, a winner of 14 Group 1 races, may one day break her more famous stable companion’s New Zealand record according to Richards:

“We just have to keep her happy, healthy and sound so I don’t see any reason why she couldn’t. She’s been able to do a few things Melody Belle couldn’t, like winning the Telegraph and the Railway.”

Ridden by Danielle Johnson, NZD$210,000 (US$150,539) Karaka Sale graduate Avantage was ridden strongly early doors to ensure she was well positioned in the race. The mare made her decisive move in the home stretch as she took the lead before digging deep when coming under pressure.

Coventina Bay and Travelling Light, who battled strongly to the finishing line, could not be separated by the judge, with a dead-heat called for second place, with Levante the next horse home. 

“Avantage is a hard horse to get past and when she heard the other horses she kept digging in,” said Johnson, who has ridden Avantage 10 times for six wins, four of them at the highest level.

The winning rider paid tribute to the Fastnet Rock mare that has had a large impact on her career as a jockey.

“Every time she heard the horses come around her, she just fought that little bit more. She didn’t win by much, but she still had plenty up her sleeve. She has been just a horse of a lifetime for me. I was lucky enough to get on her as a two-year-old and developed a relationship from then on.”

The Te Akau Racing-owned Avantage has completed a remarkable campaign which has seen her claim Group 1 wins in the Railway Stakes, Telegraph, BCD Sprint and the Otaki Weight-For-Age Classic, with her only defeat coming when finishing runner-up to Melody Belle in the Group 1 New Zealand Stakes.

Jamie Richards has been making much positive news in New Zealand racing this season, and Avantage’s most recent win saw the Matamata-based handler break the New Zealand record for wins in a season. Avantage became win 144 of the current season for the Te Akau Racing stable, surpassing the previous national record of 143 victories set by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman during the 2017-18 season.

Avantage’s victory was also a 35th stakes win in New Zealand this campaign for Richards, who has also won four stakes races across the Tasman Sea in Australian this season. Unbelievably, Richards has won 13 of the 21 Group One races run New Zealand, with Avantage taking five of his total.

In her career, the mare has won three Group One races over 6 furlongs (plus a NZ$1m (US$716,851) Karaka Million 2YO), two over 7 furlongs, three over a mile and one over 1 mile 2 furlongs. She has won 16 of her 27 starts overall, earning NZ$2.16m (US$1,548m) – more than 10 times her purchase price.

Avantage is one of 40 Group 1 winners and 171 stakes winners for Coolmore Stud’s sire Fastnet Rock. The son of Danehill has sired 15 stakes winners between Australia and New Zealand this season, with Avantage, Personal and Rocket Spade all winning Group 1 races this term.

Avantage now sits second place on the all-time list of the most Group 1 wins in New Zealand, and is currently four behind her stable companion Melody Belle. 

The Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes win also moved Avantage into the top five on the all-time list of the most Group 1 wins by a New Zealand racehorse in any country.

Photo: Courtesy of Te Akau Racing (@TeAkauRacing)

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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