Horse racing: Levante spell in star’s shock end to season

Sport

Horse racing Levante racing at Matamata. Photo / Trish Dunell.

Levante’s superstar season has come to an abrupt end days before her shot at a third Group 1 victory.

The Matamata mare is out of Saturday’s $220,000 NZ Breeders Stakes at Te Rapa and will head to the spelling paddock.

“She has a minor issue so she has gone for a spell,” says co-trainer Ken Kelso. “It is nothing major and not something I would expect to stop her from racing next season.
“But unfortunately we will miss the race this weekend.”

Levante was the likely favorite for the Breeders Stakes after huge wins in the Telegraph at Trentham and the BCD Sprint at Te Rapa were followed by a slightly luckless fourth in the star-studded Newmarket at Flemington last month, the race won by fellow Kiwi mare Roch ‘N’ Horse.

That performance in one of Australia’s great sprint races confirmed Levante has the motor to run with the elite across the Tasman and Kelso says that is the plan next season.

“There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before then but the plan at this early stage would be to take her back to Melbourne in the spring.”

With her ability to compete at the highest level from 1200m to 1600m and possibly even further, handle most track conditions and the advantage of being able to race her own sex, Levante looks one of the best New Zealand chances of Group 1 success in Australia next season after the retirement of Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel and The Chosen One all in the last year.

Many of the other stars out of last Saturday’s trial, held before the first race at Rotorua, are being aimed at Queensland winter campaigns, including Levante’s arch rival Entriviere and Sword Of State.

Two-time Group 1 winner Coventina Bay finished midfield in that same trial and now headlines the Breeders Stakes entries for Easter Saturday, although they were left open on Tuesday after attracting just six initial nominations.

Coventina Bay, who is also heading to Queensland for a campaign next month, is joined by fellow Group 1 winners Two Illicit and Imperatriz in the final Group 1 of the New Zealand thoroughbred racing season.

While the 1600m race may attract more entries what will be just as crucial to the outcome is the poor weather expected to hit the North Island in the middle of this week.

The Te Rapa track was a good3 yesterday but is expected to get at least some rain, with where the track conditions settle for Saturday wet to have a huge impact on not only the market but the result.

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