There is set to be a strong Kiwi invasion at this year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival with a talented contingent of New Zealand-trained mares heading towards the 2011 Myer Classic at Flemington, including the Shaune Ritchie-trained Keep The Peace.
Cambridge-based Ritchie is planning an ambitious spring carnival campaign for his rising Keeper five-year-old, Keep The Peace already a triple Group 1 winner at home in New Zealand.
After victories in the 2010 NZ Oaks and Mudgway Partsworld Stakes, Keep The Peace added a third elite level to her increasingly impressive record winning the Group 1 Haunui Farm Otaki Classic (1600m) in February.
Ritchie, who also has a stable base at Rosehill in Sydney, has bought Keep The Peace to Australia three times previously but is confident this will be her year to break the drought down under.
Keep The Peace was disappointing in her Australian race debut when finishing a distant 12th to Shoot Out in the 2010 AJC Australian Derby, the flop coming just one run after her Group 1 New Zealand Oaks success.
Having shown a nice return to form that spring, Keep The Peace racing in three Group 1’s in New Zealand for a win and two thirds, Ritchie bought her over for last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival.
She had just one start at Flemington in November on Emirates Stakes Day when finishing a game third behind Well Rounded in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m).
The most recent run on Australian shores for Keep The Peace was during this year’s Sydney Autumn Carnival, when she failed to beat home any runners in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) on a slow Rosehill track.
At her last start, Keep The Peace ran three lengths away ninth in the Group 1 Breeders Stakes (1600m) and has been enjoying a break in the paddock since.
She will be given a barrier trial run at home in mid-August, a good performance in which will guarantee her a trip to Melbourne for the spring instead of staying home to defend her Mudgway title.
“Winning the Mudgway again is not going to help her as a broodmare whereas winning a Group race in Australia will,” Ritchie said.
All going to plan, Keep The Peace will race first-up in the $200,000 Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on September 3 with the main aim being the $500,000 Group 1 Myer Classic (1600m) on Victoria Derby Day, Saturday October 29.
“Keep The Peace is very good fresh and also in the wet so it might give her a bit of an edge first-up in the Let’s Elope Stakes,” said Ritchie.
“From there she can follow the fillies and mares series through to the Myer Classic.”
Other Kiwis set to take on Keep The Peace in both the Let’s Elope and Myer Classic are Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes champion Barinka and leading Victorian trainer Peter Moody’s recent stable acquisition King’s Rose.
Barinka is prepared in Otaki by Karen Zimmerman and will resume racing at Te Rapa on August 13 in the Group 3 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) before travelling to Australia.
After the Let’s Elope, Zimmerman has pencilled in the $200,000 Group 2 W.H. Stocks Stakes (1600m) a fortnight later at Moonee Valley as Barinka’s second-up Melbourne run, after which the rising seven-year-old will return home to be served by top stallion Zabeel.
Depending on how she travels and whether she goes into foal, Barinka is a chance to return for a tilt at the Myer Classic but may be saved for the Group 1 races in New Zealand during the summer.
Meanwhile, Moody is preparing King’s Rose for a spring carnival assault, the well-bred daughter of Redoute’s Choice having recently been transferred to him from Matamata-based trainer Jason Bridgman.
A rising four-year-old, King’s Rose has had 12 starts to date for half a dozen wins and a minor placing, a purple patch seeing her salute in four successive black-type victories during the latest spring-summer season including the Group 1 NZ Thousand Guineas at Riccarton.
Her most recent performance was a credible seventh to Midnight Oil in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) in March.
While the Paul Duncan-trained Midnight Oil will miss their chance at Group glory in Australia this spring having recently undergone an operation on her hind leg to remove a bone chip, King’s Rose is already in Melbourne with Moody and ready to make her mark.
Moody has scheduled her first-up run to be the Let’s Elope, followed by the $350,000 Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 8 and then the Myer Classic.