Astonishing Legarto (NZ) Adds to NZB Filly of the Year Series Lead

27 December 2022

Legarto (NZ) remains unbeaten after and heads NZB's Filly of the Year Series leaderboard. Photo: Trish Dunell.

With a performance in the $150,000 Group Two ATR Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day that had to be seen to be believed, superstar filly Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) has kept her unbeaten record alive and added to her lead in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series. 

A graduate of Karaka 2021, where she was bought for $90,000 from Book 2, Legarto was already a clear table-topper through the first four legs of the series. Her perfect four-start, four-win record included dominant performances in the Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and Group Three Soliloquy Stakes (1400m), and she had 18 Filly of the Year Series points to her name.

That total went up to 26 with another victory in Monday’s fifth leg of the series, although this was a very different race to the 1000 Guineas or Soliloquy. While the biggest question in those two races seemed to be what margin the Ken and Bev Kelso-trained filly would win by – eventually three lengths in the Soliloquy and just under five in the Guineas – this time she had to snatch an extraordinary victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ridden by her regular partner Ryan Elliot, Legarto drew the second-from-outside gate and settled back near the tail of the field through the early stages of the race. That was no different to her usual racing style, but this time her task grew more and more difficult by the second as the field headed down the side of the track towards the home turn.

Cambridge filly Wessex (NZ) (Turn Me Loose) took the race by the scruff of the neck, charging ahead and going 10 lengths clear of the rest of the field by the time she reached the top of the long Pukekohe straight.

Legarto had a mountain to climb, and her prospects still looked bleak with only 200 metres remaining.

But, like only very special horses can, Legarto kept finding more and more. With Skew Wiff (NZ) (Savabeel) gamely sticking by her side, she slowly but steadily ate into the daunting deficit.

By the final 100 metres, time was rapidly running out and she still had plenty to do, but Legarto lifted again. She swept past a tiring Wessex and fought off Skew Wiff, drawing clear to win by a length and a quarter.

“Phenomenal effort from my filly,” Elliot said. “That one in front gave us something to chase, and she just kept giving. Every time I asked her, she kept finding lengths. She gave me an unbelievable feel.

“The scary thing is she is just starting to get better and better in her trackwork, and it’s starting to show out on the track now.”

The Kelsos are aiming Legarto at the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) over the same course and distance on January 21, for which she is now a commanding favourite.

“There were a lot of anxious moments today – I didn’t think we could pick that horse up,” Ken Kelso said. “I had pretty much given it away, but she is something special. She’s very smart and just has that will to win.

“She had a good look around Pukekohe, and that was part of the exercise today. I couldn’t be happier with her – although you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get nervous before a race like this. Now I’m just very relieved.”

Bred by Bay of Plenty farmer Warwick Jeffries, Legarto carries the colours of Phillip Brown’s Ancroft Stud and is owned by a similar syndicate to the one that races her multiple Group One-winning stablemate Levante (NZ) (Proisir). In winning all of her five starts to date, Legarto has banked $389,095 in prizemoney.

In addition to Legarto’s 8 points for winning the Eight Carat Classic, the placegetters Skew Wiff and Wessex joined the table for the first time by picking up 4 points and 2 points respectively.

The NZB Filly of the Year Series action comes thick and fast this week, with the sixth leg set to be run at Te Rapa on Sunday – the $140,000 Group Two Elsdon Park Royal Stakes (2000m).

Vendor Highline Thoroughbreds
Purchaser Ancroft Stud (Waikato)
Breeding Proisir – Geordie Girl
Sale Lot 804, Karaka 2021 Book 2, $90,000
Bred by W E Jeffries