La Crique (NZ) Dominates Desert Gold

31 January 2022

La Crique (NZ) wins the seventh leg of NZB's 2021-22 Filly of the Year Series. Photo: Race Images.

With a breath-taking performance in Saturday’s $80,000 Group Three New Zealand Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham, La Crique (NZ) (Vadamos) announced her late arrival as a contender for the 2021-22 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year title. 

The rising star filly had never contested a Filly of the Year Series race before Saturday’s seventh leg, but she went into the race as an impressive winner of three of her five career starts. The most recent of those came at the expense of Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) winner The Perfect Pink (NZ) (Savabeel), with the subsequent $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) winner Pin Me Up (NZ) (Pins) behind them in fourth.

The Simon and Katrina Alexander-trained La Crique stepped out on to Trentham as a commanding $2.20 favourite, and the race followed the expected script. Rider Craig Grylls settled her into a comfortable rhythm in midfield, and she began to creep closer as the proven Group Two performer Sassy Merlot (NZ) (Burgundy) swept to the front at the home turn.

Sassy Merlot went clear with a classy turn of foot of her own with less than 400 metres to run, but the result was beyond doubt as soon as Grylls pushed the button on La Crique. The favourite dashed past and charged ahead, opening up a commanding margin of four and a half lengths. Sassy Merlot held on for second, with Love Letter (NZ) (Wrote) finishing strongly from last to take third.

“It worked out perfectly,” Grylls said. “She lobbed into the one-one from a perfect draw, and she relaxed beautifully the whole way.

“She just jogged up to them turning in, and I was trying to wait and wait before I let her go. She showed a really good turn of foot and was strong all the way to the line. She’s beaten a couple of very handy horses impressively today.”

La Crique is raced by her breeders, John and Jan Cassin, who have also won four races from 12 starts with the filly’s four-year-old half-brother Bari (NZ) (Proisir).

“That was a brilliant win today,” Katrina Alexander said. “I was thinking, ‘Leave me some for next time, Gryllsy,’ but he had his game plan to have her thereabouts and then go at the 200-metre mark, and he rode to that really well.

“I’ve always known she will go this distance and further, but she is unique in that she has also shown she has brilliant gate speed, which probably had people thinking she might not get over a distance. I believe she will just go on and get better as she gets older.

“Now we will need to go back and look at the timing of everything for her, with the Derby (Group One, 2400m) high on the list as well as the Oaks (Group One, 2400m). We’ll have a talk with her owners and we could also look at overseas, although the logistics of that at the moment make it very hard.

“We’ll give her a bit of time, see what this big trip has done to her, and then make a plan from there.”

La Crique earned 6 points from Saturday’s spectacular victory, slotting into equal sixth spot on the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series points table. Runner-up Sassy Merlot earned 3 points, with 1.5 points for the third-placed Love Letter.

Belle En Rouge (NZ) (Burgundy) remains in the lead with 19 points, with The Perfect Pink on 12 and Self Obsession (NZ) (Shocking) 8.

But a total of 61 points are still up for grabs through the remaining four legs of the series, starting on February 12 with the $110,000 Group Two David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa.