James and Wellwood Strike Again in TAB Karaka Millions 3YO

27 January 2024

The $1.5m TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) is becoming one of the brightest highlights on the New Zealand racing calendar, and now Roger James and Robert Wellwood have won it twice in a row.

Orchestral (NZ) 

The Cambridge trainers saddled Prowess (NZ) (Proisir) to defeat a star-studded field 12 months ago, and they repeated that result at Ellerslie on Saturday with the ultra-talented Orchestral (NZ) (Savabeel).

Bought by James and Wellwood for $625,000 from Book 1 of Karaka 2022, Orchestral has earned $876,550 with three wins and two placings from her six starts so far for owners Colin and Helen Litt. Haunui Farm will offer a full-brother as Lot 464 in Book 1 of Karaka 2024.

Orchestral burst to prominence with a runaway last-start victory at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day, but that was only the beginning of her rise to stardom. Taking on another elite Karaka Millions line-up on Saturday, she produced one of the best performances in the three-year-old race’s seven-year history.

Orchestral broke from the inside gate and was given a perfect midfield run by champion expat jockey James McDonald.

McDonald brought her out to the middle of the track with 300 metres remaining, and Orchestral went into overdrive. She powered past Pendragon (NZ) (U S Navy Flag) and Ethereal Star (Snitzel) and didn’t stop there, opening up a commanding margin of three and a half lengths.

Orchestral completed a dream homecoming for McDonald, who also won the $1m TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m) on Velocious (Written Tycoon).

Saturday’s big performance also reminded McDonald of a previous major Ellerslie winner he rode for James – the 2012 New Zealand Derby (2400m) heroine Silent Achiever (NZ) (O’Reilly).

“She’s a beautiful filly,” McDonald said. “I reckon Roger might have another Silent Achiever on his hands – she’s that nice.

“I’d love her to begin a little bit better, but we got away with it tonight. She switched off well and then accelerated when I asked her.

“What a brilliant night they’ve put on. I’m rapt I came back, and to get a couple of winners is even better. It’s been a fantastic day’s racing with some high-calibre horses. It’s great to be here.”

James took special satisfaction from a repeat Karaka Millions victory from a relatively select group of yearlings purchased by the stable each year.

“We buy only six or eight a year, and it means so much to have such loyal owners who are prepared to back us to buy the horses that we want,” he said. “To win New Zealand’s richest race two years in a row is something that dreams are made of.

“She didn’t just win – she bolted in. It was some performance and a great performance by James as well. It’s very special to see the reception that she’s getting from this crowd.

“Silent Achiever and Prowess were both multiple Group One winners, which is something this filly still has to do. But on what she’s done so far, there’s every reason to think that she can get there.”

Orchestral also completed a remarkable double on Karaka Millions night for Sarah Green and Ger Beemsterboer’s Barneswood Farm. They owned the $1m Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) winner Desert Lightning (NZ) (Pride Of Dubai), and they bred Orchestral.

The second-placed Pendragon (NZ) (U S Navy Flag) was a $110,000 purchase from Valachi Downs’ draft in Book 2 of Karaka 2022. He was bought by Paul Moroney Bloodstock and Ballymore Stables. Pendragon has had seven starts for three wins, a placing and $407,895.

The third-placed Just As Sharp (NZ) (Swiss Ace) was bought by Rogerson Bloodstock for $145,000 from Westbury Stud’s draft. His seven-start career has produced three wins, two placings and $188,635.

Vendor Haunui Farm
Purchaser Mr RA James/Mr R Wellwood (Waikato)
Breeding Savabeel – Symphonic
Sale Lot 635, Karaka 2022 Book 1, $625,000
Bred by Barneswood Farm Ltd