SUNDAY: July 5, 2020: MATT Vella is a man on a mission!
A two-track double at Newcastle yesterday and Mudgee today means this is now his most successful season with eight winners already, and there are still a few weeks left before the 2019-20 racing year ends.
Vella made it back to back wins with both talented youngster Blaze A Trail, who humped 61kg to land the 2YO Handicap (1600m) at Newcastle, and Wandjina filly Whitchety Grub, who overcame a wide draw to take the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1500m) at Mudgee.
But he is looking much further ahead – and daring to dream.
Both horses are raced by Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock Australia, and Vella manages the Glenn Haven Horse Farm facility adjoining Hawkesbury racecourse for the prolific breeder-owner.
Blaze A Trail, now unbeaten at two starts for Vella, is a son of the owner’s multiple Group 1 winner Criterion.
Unfortunately, Criterion sired only a number of foals before being declared infertile and now lives a life of luxury in retirement at Newgate Farm in the Hunter Valley.
Blaze A Trail’s Hawkesbury Maiden success over 1300m on June 7 (third and fourth placegetters Invictus Felix and Timely Shadow have since won to confirm the form) provided Criterion with his first winner.
“There are only three colts sired by Criterion which can race,” Vella said today. “I’ve got two of them (the other is unraced two-year-old Contreras) and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott have the other so far unraced two-year-old Yardstick, who won a Randwick trial last month.
“Every win I can get with Blaze A Trail is important to Sir Owen, and I’ll be doing my best to get Group status with him in the spring.
“I’ve put him on the float today to have a week away from the stables.
“He will most likely resume in a race such as the Listed Dulcify Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 12, and then hopefully we’ll have a crack at Group races such as the Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill and Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
“If Blaze A Trail shows us that he might not get a middle distance, the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in Melbourne is not out of the question.
“It would mean so much to Sir Owen to win a Group race with one of Criterion’s sons.”
Vella was understandably thrilled with the colt’s authoritative victory at Newcastle, carrying such a big weight for a two-year-old and clocking a faster last 600m sectional than the Benchmark 64 (1800m) and Class 1 (1500m) winners on the same program.
Whilst Vella broke in Blaze A Trail, he started his racing career with Peter and Paul Snowden at Randwick and on debut ran third to then stablemate Dame Giselle in the $1m Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill last November.
“I can understand why the Snowdens tried to qualify him for the Golden Slipper in the autumn because he has so much ability, and there’s more to come from him now that he is getting up in distance.
“He’s a good eater, but has been a bit quirky in that he has been lazy.
“Early on, I was flat out getting him to go three-quarter pace, but he has been a different horse since I took the blinkers off and started working him with a mate.
“Chad Lever said he could have won by double the margin yesterday, but there was no point punishing him under the big weight when the race was in his keeping.”
Whitchety Grub ($7) completed a great weekend for Vella, who won the opener at Newcastle yesterday with Blaze A Trail and the closer at Mudgee today with her.
The three-year-old filly began well for Mitchell Bell from an awkward draw, settled behind pacemaker and eventual runner-up Western Parade ($7) and was strong to the line to post her second win after breaking through at Bathurst last month..
. Chad Lever also helped another Hawkesbury trainer Tommy Wong win with heavily-backed Jin Chi Phantom ($7 to $2.80 favorite) at Nowra last Friday.
Lever gave the Tavistock four-year-old the run of the race and got him home in the Benchmark 58 Handicap (1400m).
It’s late in the season admittedly, but Wong hasn’t wasted any time getting back in the winning list after spending a lengthy stint on the sideline – courtesy of RacingNSW stewards over a cobalt irregularity returned by “winner” Story Of Tong Sai at Hawkesbury in September, 2018.
Wong has won three races recently – two with Jin Chi Phantom and another with Thrive In The Home.
Hawkesbury trainers have begun the last month of the season with a bang, preparing six winners in the first five days. The overall tally for the season now stands at 134.