Hometown Heroine Legarto (NZ) Shines in Matamata Cup

9 October 2023

Saturday’s $80,000 Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m) may have been an unexpected stop for local mare Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) this spring, but the superstar four-year-old put on a show for her home crowd with a superb performance.

Legarto (NZ) pictured as a yearling. 

It was the seventh win of a nine-race career for Legarto, who was bought for only $90,000 from the Book 2 draft of Highline Thoroughbreds at Karaka 2021. She has earned more than $1.174m in prize-money.

Legarto is now a five-time winner at stakes level, having previously won last season’s Group One Australian Guineas (1600m), Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), Group Two Eight Carat Classic (1600m) and Group Three Soliloquy Stakes (1400m).

“She should probably be unbeaten, she had some bad luck in those two defeats,” co-trainer Ken Kelso said. “But that’s racing. They don’t race in lanes.

“She’s an excitement machine and it’s a privilege to train her for nice people. Bev and I are getting to the stage where we’re close to retirement, but when you get a horse like this, you can’t really do that. It’s a big thrill for both of us. We’re slowing down numbers-wise, but we’ll keep going for a while yet when we have a horse like her.”

Legarto had kicked off her four-year-old season with a booming finish into third in last month’s Group One Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings, having been squeezed back into an awkward position at the home turn. She had been expected to carry on to the Group One Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at the same venue on September 30, but was scratched on the morning of the race due to the deteriorating track.

Her home track was the big beneficiary of those weather woes, with Legarto changing tack and lining up as a $1.60 favourite in the Matamata Cup seven days later.

Kept away from the rail and well out of trouble by jockey Ryan Elliot, the freakish mare settled in seventh spot before advancing ominously out wide as the field made their way down the side of the track.

Legarto swooped to the front rounding the home turn and asserted her superiority in the final 200 metres, pulling clear to win by three-quarters of a length from the strong-finishing stayer Aquacade (NZ) (Dundeel). Fellow Group One winner La Crique (NZ) (Vadamos), who held the lead until Legarto swept past at the top of the straight, was another three lengths away in third.

“I just told Ryan to ride her like the best horse in the race – give her clear air and she’ll do the rest,” Kelso said. “And he did. He gave her plenty of room, got her into the clear and it was very pleasing.”

The Warwick Jeffries-bred Legarto is now being aimed at the A$10m Golden Eagle (1500m) in Sydney on November 4.

“We’ve got a month now between this race and the Golden Eagle, so we’ll probably give her an exhibition gallop or a trial or something in between,” Kelso said. “We’re pretty well on track again now, I think.”

Elliot is in no doubt about Legarto’s Golden Eagle credentials.

“She got a nice drag into the race today and has done it easily enough,” he said. “She’s had a really good blow, so this should clean her up nicely.

“I’ve never ridden another horse like her, and I think she’s a lot stronger now than she was as a three-year-old. She can carry herself properly now, and she’s so switched on. The penny has finally dropped. Onwards and upwards for her.

“Just wait until she hits a good track. Watch out, Aussie.”

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