Mo’unga (NZ) Goes to Next Level in Winx Stakes

23 August 2021

Mo'unga (NZ) claims the A$500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. Photo: ATC

Karaka graduates won 11 Group One prizes on Australian soil last season, six of them with a stellar group of three-year-olds. In the very first opportunity of 2021-22, one of those stars returned and struck gold again in Saturday’s A$500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. 

Mo’unga (NZ) (Savabeel) has emphatically taken the next step in his four-year-old debut, triumphing over elite weight-for-age opposition and headlining a New Zealand-sourced trifecta in first major showpiece of the Sydney spring carnival.

Bought for $325,000 from Book 1 of Karaka 2019, Mo’unga narrowly got the better of champion Kiwi-bred mare Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed), while the fast-finishing third placegetter She’s Ideel (Dundeel) was offered at Karaka 2017 and was passed in with a $100,000 reserve.

Bred by Waikato Stud, Mo’unga had already earned more than double his purchase price with four previous victories, headed by blockbuster performances in last season’s Group One Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Listed Dulcify Quality (1500m). He was also a close second in the Group One Randwick Guineas (1600m).

Those performances made Mo’unga a key part of a remarkable group of Karaka-sourced three-year-olds in Australia last season. Explosive Jack (NZ) (Jakkalberry) won the Group One Australian Derby (2400m) and Group One South Australian Derby (2400m), Johnny Get Angry (NZ) (Tavistock) captured the Group One Victoria Derby (2500m), Kukeracha (NZ) (Night of Thunder) scored in the Group One Queensland Derby (2400m), and Lion’s Roar (NZ) (Contributer) won the Randwick Guineas. Every Derby in Australia last season was won by a New Zealand-bred.

A clash with top-level older horses at level weights in Saturday’s Winx Stakes presented a new challenge for Mo’unga, but he passed that stern test with flying colours – further enhancing his growing stallion credentials.

Ridden by Tommy Berry, Mo’unga took up a midfield position out wide but with cover, keeping a close eye on the favourite and defending champion Verry Elleegant. When the great mare made her move and surged to the front, Mo’unga was right on her back and poised to pounce.

The two went to war down the Randwick straight, with Verry Elleegant refusing to lie down despite Mo’unga throwing everything he had in her direction. But the up-and-comer gradually gained the upper hand over the eight-time Group One winner, determinedly edging ahead to score by a half-neck in a superb finish.

Mo’unga has now had 10 starts for five wins, two placings and just over A$1.05 million in stakes – more than three times his purchase price at Karaka. He races in the colours of Aquis Farm’s Fung family, but he is also part-owned by his namesake, All Blacks star Richie Mo’unga.

“I’m a bit emotional actually,” trainer Annabel Neasham said. “When he came up outside Verry Elleegant, I knew he was going to be in for a tough battle, as she’s such a fighter. But it was a superb ride.

“This horse has improved a hell of a lot from three to four. I was really confident looking at him in the parade ring today – I just thought he looked quite fit.

“He’s in for a great prep. I don’t know where we will go from now, but I think we are going to have a fun spring.”

Possible upcoming targets for Mo’unga include the A$1.5 million Group One Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick on 2 October, for which he is now the favourite, while he also holds nominations for the Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne later that month.

Third-placed She’s Ideel, meanwhile, looms as a potential spring staying star after producing a barnstorming finish from last over a distance well short of her best. The daughter of Dundeel failed to meet her $100,000 reserve at Karaka, but she has now had 21 starts for five wins, 11 placings and more than A$885,000 in prizemoney, including two placings at the highest level. She ran second in the H E Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill earlier in the year.

Vendor Waikato Stud
Purchaser Aquis Farm (Queensland)
Breeding Savabeel – Chandelier
Sale Lot 631, Karaka 2019 Book 1, $325,000
Bred by Waikato Stud