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26/2/2020 Te Akau duo primed for Sydney tests

Probabeel will contest the Gr.1 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday. Photo: Darryl Sherer

The tangerine and blue army of Te Akau Racing will launch their Sydney assault on Saturday when Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle) and Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) line-up in their respective Group One assignments at Randwick.

Both horses are undefeated this campaign, with Te Akau Shark putting in an impressive performance to win the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa earlier this month, while Probabeel has won both of her assignments, including a last-start victory in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).

She has since gone on to finish fifth in a 1000m trial at Randwick last week and trainer Jamie Richards is pleased with the filly heading into the Gr.1 Surround Stakes (1400m) on Saturday.

“She is in good shape, she trialled well and worked nicely on Saturday and again this (Tuesday) morning,” Richards said. “She is a stronger filly than she was when she was here in the spring.”

The Surround Stakes is shaping to be a formidable race with the quality of opposition nominated, including the Chris Waller-trained Funstar (Adelaide) who beat Probabeel in both the Gr.2 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) and Gr.1 Flight Stakes (1600m) last year.

“It’s got some great depth to it,” Richards said. “She was competitive here in the spring, but we think she has to step up again in the autumn because the fields do get stronger and the quality gets a bit deeper.”

The track was rated a Soft5 on Tuesday and Richards said with the fine weather forecast, the footing should be perfect for Probabeel on Saturday.

“She does appreciate the better stuff and it looks like the weather will play its part this week.

“We could be on a nice track, which I think is important for her. She was very good in the Tea Rose on good ground and then was caught wanting a little bit in the wet ground in the Flight Stakes. So a good track will help her cause.”

Richards will also be looking to secure Te Akau Shark’s first Australian Group One victory after the son of Rip Van Winkle recorded his first win at elite-level in emphatic style last start.

The five-year-old gelding travelled over with Probabeel and Richards said the extra time to acclimatise to his new surroundings has been a great assist.

“We like to get him over a little bit earlier and get him settled because he is a not a horse with a great appetite,” Richards said. “He takes a little while to settle in. It worked in nicely with Probabeel trialling that they came over together.

“He has tightened and looks a fitter horse, not that he wasn’t a fit horse in New Zealand. He’s in good shape.”

Richards was pleased with Te Akau Shark’s work on Tuesday morning and he is looking forward to lining him up in the Gr.1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) in front of a group of his Sydney-based owners, including former Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks captain Paul Gallen.

“I am very pleased with his condition. He looks in good shape, good in the coat, and he worked nicely here this morning,” Richards said.

“He worked on his own over 1200m and quickened well and looked well. The report from the rider was encouraging.

“We are happy with where he is at. The nominations look good and hopefully we can draw a barrier and don’t have to go back near last. He’s ready to run.”