Legarto (NZ) Lands Third Group One

11 February 2024

Legarto. Photo: Race Images NZ

Superstar Karaka graduate Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) added another string to her bow at Te Rapa on Saturday, stretching out beyond 1600 metres for the first time and scoring a superb win in the $600,000 Group One Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m).

With her victory in New Zealand’s richest weight-for-age race, Legarto improved her career record to 13 starts for nine wins, two placings and $1.8m in stakes. She was bought by Ancroft Stud for $90,000 from Highline Thoroughbreds’ Book 2 draft at Karaka 2021.

An outstanding winner of last season’s Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) and Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), Legarto had struck more than her share of bad luck as she compiled a two-from-five record through the early stages of her four-year-old year.

But she stepped up to a middle-distance at Te Rapa on Saturday and made a bold statement for Matamata trainers Ken and Bev Kelso. Given a dream ride by Ryan Elliot, Legarto broke from the inside gate but got away from the rail to sit in fourth and one off the fence going down the back of the Te Rapa track.

Legarto tracked last year’s winner Sharp ‘N’ Smart (NZ) (Redwood) all the way to the home turn, then changed gears in the straight.

The toughest challenge came from Group One-winning fellow Karaka graduate Campionessa (NZ) (Contributer), but Legarto had enough up her sleeve to hold out that rival’s strong finish by half a length.

“Everything went to plan,” Elliot said. “I said to Ken that I would just let her hold her spot, and if I could get her one off, I’d do so. Everything worked out perfectly and there was just no trouble.

“She came around the corner and I wasn’t going for her yet – just holding her together. She started pricking her ears and just waiting for them a little bit. But once Campionessa came up to her, she really fought hard, as she does.”

Saturday’s performance confirmed Ken Kelso’s long-held belief that Legarto would be suited by a step up in distance.

“I’m elated,” he said. “There’s only one downside to it – that Bev can’t be here to witness it. Her health hasn’t been the best. But I’m sure she gave that couch a bit of a hiding at home. It’s just a shame that she can’t be here to enjoy it.

“Lovely ride by Ryan. He got her off the rail early on. I thought he might have gone a bit early, but she won well.

“We never had a chance to try her over 2000 metres last year, because she had a big season and ended up winning the Guineas in Australia, but it was always the plan to go further.

“She can do things other horses can’t, and she has all the class, and today she showed the staying qualities to knuckle down and win.

“Onwards and upwards from here. It opens up a few avenues, knowing she can go over ground, so it’s very, very pleasing.”

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