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GROUP TWO WINS SETS CAMPIONESSA UP FOR GROUP ONE GOAL

A commanding victory in Saturday’s Gr.2 Cal Isuzu Stakes (1600m) at Te Rapa completed a rare fillies and mares’ feature double for Campionessa (NZ) (Contributer).


The Te Akau Racing mare became only the fourth horse to win the Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) and the Cal Isuzu in the same season, joining Just Apollo (1995), Calveen (2004) and Ruud Van Slaats (2008).


Campionessa was bought by David Ellis in Australia as a yearling in 2019, and her 26-start career has now produced nine wins, eight placings and more than $677,000 in stakes for the Te Akau Campionessa Syndicate.


“She’s come back from a short freshen-up in fantastic form,” said Sam Bergerson, who trains the six-year-old in partnership with Mark Walker. “She’s back in the groove.


“She was aided by a fantastic ride from Opie (Bosson), who got her into a lovely spot. She relaxed beautifully, was presented at the right time and was strong to the line.”


Campionessa was runner-up in two Group One races last season, chasing home Sharp ‘N’ Smart (NZ) (Redwood) in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Prowess (NZ) (Proisir) in the New Zealand Stakes (2050m). Now the Contributer mare’s connections are keen to try to go one better, with the Gr.1 Zabeel Classic (2050m) on Boxing Day firmly in their sights.


“It’s all systems go for the Zabeel Classic now,” Bergerson said. “As long as she comes through today well, we’ll press on for that. Going up to 2000m will be ideal for her and she finished so strongly today, so all being well, she should be bang on.”


Saturday’s Cal Isuzu was viewed as a two-horse race, with Campionessa facing off against the well-credentialled Pencarrow Stud homebred Pearl Of Alsace (NZ) (Tavistock). But from the moment the gates opened, it was all Campionessa.


Wearing blinkers for the first time, Pearl Of Alsace was slow to leave the starting gates and settled near the tail of the field behind a pedestrian tempo. Her task was an uphill one from the outset, and it was close to insurmountable by the time she reached the home straight.


In contrast, Campionessa landed in third behind Pride Of Aspen (Pride of Dubai) and Madame Le Fay (Smart Missile). Bosson settled the six-year-old into a smooth rhythm, and she cruised up to the turn breathing down the necks of the first pair and poised to pounce.


Bosson released the brakes soon after straightening, and the race was all over within a few powerful bounds. Campionessa exploded away with a quality turn of foot, and by the time she reached the finish line, she was still two lengths clear of the strong-finishing Zaila (Street Boss) and Polygon (NZ) (Highly Recommended).


“We got into a good spot and she travelled beautifully throughout the race,” Bosson said.“Mark and Sam have done a great job with this mare. She lost her mojo there for a little bit, but that win in the Auckland Breeders’ Stakes the other day gave her a lot of confidence.


“Even in her trackwork, she’s been stepping up and really wanting to do it. Today she came out and showed how good she is.


“This was a perfect trial for the Zabeel Classic. She’s on the way up, full of confidence and you can’t knock her on that win today.”


Campionessa is now rated a $3 chance in the TAB’s fixed-odds market for the Zabeel Classic at Pukekohe, sharing favouritism with Aegon (NZ) (Sacred Falls). Aquacade (NZ) (Dundeel) is the third favourite at $6, followed by One Bold Cat (NZ) (The Bold One) ($8) and Desert Lightning (NZ) (Pride of Dubai) ($10).


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