Christmas Carnival Shines Spotlight on TAB Karaka Millions 3YO Contenders

4 January 2024

Molly Bloom (NZ) (Ace High)

The star-studded Christmas Carnival at Pukekohe on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day produced a number of highly impressive three-year-old winners who may be pointed towards the $1.5m TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) later this month.

Proven Group One star Molly Bloom (NZ) (Ace High) solidified her place at the top of the tree with an outstanding come-from-behind win in the Group Two Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day. She became only the fourth filly in the last 30 years to win both the Eight Carat and the Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m).

Bought for $150,000 by Wexford Stables from Seaton Park’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2022, Molly Bloom has now had six starts for three wins and a placing, earning $439,050 in stakes.

“It was a good performance to come from off the speed, because there wasn’t a lot of it,” co-trainer Andrew Scott said on Boxing Day. “She had to be tough to do what she did today. We had a feeling there was further improvement in her, because she had done really well after getting back from Christchurch. She had to guts it out, and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

“She is a beautiful type with length and strength, and we had Blake (Shinn, jockey) on today to tell us where we might go with her. I would imagine we will be heading towards the Karaka Millions 3YO now, and then we will take stock after that.”

Molly Bloom’s Boxing Day heroics prompted the TAB to tighten her Karaka Millions 3YO odds to $3, holding clear favouritism for the race.

The Boxing Day card also featured the Group Two Auckland Guineas (1400m), which was won impressively by the rapid improver Pendragon (NZ) (U S Navy Flag).

Pendragon (NZ) (U S Navy Flag) 

“He has been good right from the word go, although he probably needed gelding as a two-year-old,” co-trainer Pam Gerard said.

“Credit to the horse. He did this to them last start as well, and he has gone under the radar a little bit. He is just a gorgeous horse to look at, he is flying and he deserves it.

“We buy these horses at the sales and we want to get them to the Karaka Millions races. He has stepped up from 1200 metres, and now we will see if he can step up to the mile. We will put him in and find out.”

The Guineas was the third win in succession for Pendragon, who was a $110,000 purchase from Book 2 of Karaka 2022. He has now earned $182,895 from his six-start, three-win career, and his rating of 80 puts him in second on the Karaka Millions order of entry behind Molly Bloom (84).

The other notable three-year-old performer during the carnival was Orchestral (NZ) (Savabeel) in the $80,000 Barfoot & Thompson (1600m) on New Year’s Day. A powerful finish carried her straight past the highly rated Karaka Millions 3YO contender Lupo Solitario (NZ) (Satono Aladdin) and to a convincing victory by two and a half lengths.

Orchestral was a $625,000 purchase by trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood from the Haunui Farm draft in Book 1 of Karaka 2022. She has now had five starts for two wins and two second placings, with $80,800 in stakes and safely assured of a Karaka Millions start with a rating of 74.

“I think this filly is pretty special and she has got so much improvement in her physically,” Wellwood said. “Next year is probably when we see the real best of her, but it is lovely seeing her putting it together now.

“We will have to sit down with the owners and work out what we do next. There is a reason to go to Wellington for a Group One, but there are one million reasons to go to Ellerslie.”

Others who are prominent in the order of entry include Group winners Tokyo Tycoon (NZ) (Satono Aladdin), Impendabelle (Impending), Quintessa (NZ) (Shamus Award) and Lupo Solitario, Group One-placed Talisker (NZ) (Embellish) and To Catch A Thief (U S Navy Flag), and the Eight Carat Classic runner-up Mary Shan (NZ) (Almanzor).

The TAB Karaka Millions 3YO will be run at Ellerslie on January 27, as part of a blockbuster twilight programme that also features the $1m TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) and the inaugural running of the $1m Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic 4YO (1600m).