IN Racing
Latta tackles Listed features
Lisa Latta’s 2023-24 season features an unusual statistic of seven Group wins and none at Listed level, but the Awapuni trainer has two opportunities to rectify that anomaly at Wanganui on Saturday.
Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | May 31, 2024
Connello (centre) will contest the Listed John Turkington Forestry Castletown Stakes. Photo: Race Images Palmerston North

Lisa Latta’s 2023-24 season features an unusual statistic of seven Group wins and none at Listed level, but the Awapuni trainer has two opportunities to rectify that anomaly at Wanganui on Saturday.

Latta’s black-type wins this season have come from Belclare in the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) and Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m), Lantern Way in the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m), Diss Is Dramatic in the Gr.2 Japan Trophy (1600m) and Gr.3 Thompson Handicap (1600m), and Belardo Boy in the Gr.3 Winter Cup (1600m) and Gr.3 Metric Mile (1600m).

Latta will be represented in both of Saturday’s Listed features at Wanganui, with last-start winner Connello contesting the John Turkington Forestry Castletown Stakes (1200m) while Belardo Boy and Chikira Lass line up in the AGC Training Stakes (1600m).

Connello is part-owned by David Woodhouse, whose black and white striped colours were carried to those Group triumphs by Belclare earlier in the season. That high-class daughter of Per Incanto was offered during the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast during the week, but fell short of her A$700,000 reserve.

Woodhouse paid only $10,000 to buy Connello from the 2022 National Weanling Sale at Karaka. The two-year-old Time Test filly showed some early promise with two thirds, a fourth and two fifths from her first five starts, but then took a big step forward when she returned from a freshen-up with an impressive last-start win at New Plymouth on May 11.

“That was a really good performance last start,” Latta said. “She’s always shown us quite a bit. We gave her a little freshen-up at the right time and she came back and won very nicely.

“She’s pleased me with everything that she’s done since then. The track is going to be a bit wetter on Saturday than the one she won on at New Plymouth, so we’ll have to watch and see how she handles that, but I’m hopeful that she’ll get through it okay.”

Belardo Boy hit career-best form in the early stages of this season, winning the Winter Cup and Metric Mile and finishing third behind Puntura and Belclare in the Gr.2 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m).

The five-year-old returned from a summer break with an eighth over 1300m at Te Rapa on May 18. He carried 61.5kg in that race and was beaten by five and a half lengths by Aris Aris, who had 53kg. The 94-rated Belardo Boy is suited to the weight-for-age conditions of this Saturday’s $80,000 race.

“He’s taken some good improvement from that first-up run and is going the right way,” Latta said. “He loves heavy tracks and gets on well with Joe (Doyle, jockey), so I’m expecting an improved performance from him at weight-for-age this week.”

Chikira Lass, who was a stakes placegetter in last year’s Listed ANZAC Mile (1600m), was sold for $30,000 on Gavelhouse in April and now races in the colours of Jamieson Park.

A five-time winner from 49 career starts, the six-year-old finished fourth over 2060m in her most recent appearance on May 9. The Proisir mare has a strong record at Wanganui, where her nine starts have produced two wins and two placings.

“Her best form is at a mile, and she does race particularly well at Wanganui,” Latta said. “She’s going up in class for this, but she’s in good order.

“We’re just trying to have a go at picking up some more black type before she goes off to stud.”

Saturday’s TAB Odds Surge (1200m) will be the second start of a new campaign for seven-race winner Old Town Road, who has recorded a win and three placings from his four starts at Wanganui. He is joined in the $40,000 open sprint by his resuming stablemate Make Time.

“Old Town Road has a run under his belt now and is building into his new campaign nicely,” Latta said. “He’ll appreciate the heavy track this week.

“Make Time is coming up nicely and I’d expect him to be doing his best work late in this race.”