Diademe makes welcome return in Awapuni feature

Richard Edmunds from the THE INFORMANT writes: All eyes will be on class mare Diademe as she makes her first start in more than 10 months in tomorrow’s (Saturday) Gr. 3 Kamada Park Manawatu Challenge Stakes at Awapuni.

The Savabeel six-year-old has only raced 18 times but has made her mark in that time, winning the Gr. 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes and Gr. 3 Westbury Classic and placing in another five stakes races including the Gr. 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and NRM Sprint.

The NRM Sprint placing came at her most recent start. She overcame a taxing wide run to finish less than half a length from Viadana when third in the prestigious $200,000 feature on February 8. A subsequent hoof injury ruled her out for the remainder of last season and she is only now ready to return.

There have been encouraging signs at the trials, with a third placing at Rotorua in late November followed by a win at Cambridge on December 5.

“She’s trialled well,” co-trainer Andrew Forsman told The Informant. “She had a quiet one at Rotorua and came on well with the win at Cambridge this month.”

As is to be expected after such a long time on the sidelines, Diademe is expected to improve for her run in tomorrow’s race.

“She’s coming back from a long lay-off and she’s still a fair way off full fitness,” Forsman warned. “But there’s some good races coming up for her and we’ve just got to get her going.”

One of those upcoming features is the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile at Trentham on January 17, run under set weight and penalty conditions for the first time in 2015.

“The Thorndon is certainly one of the many targets we’ve got in mind for her,” Forsman said. “But a lot of that will depend on what she does on Saturday. We’ll know a lot more after the race.”

Opie Bosson has ridden Diademe seven times for four wins and two placings. He rode her in both trials and renews his raceday association with the mare tomorrow.

The Cambridge training team of Forsman and Murray Baker have formed a hugely successful combination with Bosson, including major victories in the last few weeks with Turn Me Loose in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas and Sports Illustrated in the Gr. 2 Cal Isuzu Stakes. The trainer-jockey pairing have won a total of 49 races together.

Diademe has a strong first-up record, racing six times in that state for a win and four placings. She has attempted the 1400-metre distance three times for a Group Three win in the Westbury Classic and a Group One placing in the NRM Sprint.

Class counts for a lot, and there is no doubting that Diademe has plenty of that. Warwick Farm trainer Bryce Heys will be hoping it runs in the family, having bought her two-year-old full brother for a sale-topping $460,000 at last month’s Ready to Run Sale.

But the Manawatu Challenge Stakes is a race mares have struggled to win in recent times, scoring just three victories since 1993. Country Rose won it in 2000, the three-year-old filly Il Quello Veloce in 2008 and Waikato Stud marvel I Do in 2013. Among the mares to have fallen short are Final Touch, beaten by Mufhasa and Better Than Ever in 2012, and Diademe’s stablemate Twilight Savings, second to Justanexcuse in 2011.

Leading the male charge in this year’s race is Windsor Park Plate winner Pure Champion. The eight-year-old entire may have been unplaced in two runs since tasting Group One glory at Hastings in September, but he has had a few things go wrong in the running. He was caught wide and refused to settle over 2040 metres in the Gr. 1 Livamol Classic, then over-raced in front in the Gr. 1 Captain Cook Stakes but still performed creditably.

“He was only about two and a half lengths from the winner after overdoing things in front,” co-trainer Andrew Scott told NZ Racing Desk. “We’re hoping he’ll improve rapidly.”

Pure Champion has had four starts over 1400 metres for just one placing, but that was a very strong third to I Do in the Gr. 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes in August. Craig Grylls retains the ride.

Scapolo was a major disappointment as the favourite in the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile last month, fading badly to finish 14th in the 16-horse field. He made amends with a late-finishing fifth behind Adventador in the Listed Levin Stakes and will benefit from the added distance tomorrow.

Both Scapolo and Ginner Hart are suited by the switch to weight-for-age conditions, having carried the equal 59-kilogram topweight in the Levin Stakes. Ginner Hart was a slightly disappointing eighth but raced in tight quarters in the last 200 metres.

Authentic Paddy and Iamishwara both performed with a lot of credit through the winter. Iamishwara proved he can handle a better track with a strong third in the Levin Stakes, but both runners would be suited by rain-affected ground tomorrow.

Eight Schillings fought nicely for fourth in the Levin Stakes, a hint of his peak form of earlier seasons that saw him win a Listed Lightning Handicap and run fourth in a Gr. 1 Telegraph. The seven-year-old O’Reilly gelding was placed in his only previous run at Awapuni, albeit in a four-horse field on November 11.

Highly promising mare Waikaha only has seven race starts under her belt but has already performed at this level, running third in the Gr. 3 Cuddle Stakes and fourth in the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile. She is a winner of her only start at the distance.

Cassie Anne comes into the race with a rating of just 72 but has been a winner of her last two starts. In her last start she beat the highly rated The Bold One and stakes performer Fascination Street in a time of 1:08.63 for 1200 metres.

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