Pukekohe Dress Rehearsal Clears Karaka Million 2YO Picture

10 January 2023

Karaka graduate Dapper (NZ) won Sunday’s crucial Norwegian Park 2YO (1200m). Photo: Trish Dunell.

Every year, one of the most vital lead-up races for the $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) is the one run 13 days beforehand over the same course and distance. The redevelopment of Ellerslie Racecourse has given things a different look in 2023, but that tradition remains the same. 

Pukekohe is stepping up to the plate to host the Karaka Million for the first time on January 21, and the South Auckland circuit also staged Sunday’s crucial Norwegian Park 2YO (1200m). This race has been won by three Karaka Million winners since 2018 – Avantage (Fastnet Rock), Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) and On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau).

With a stake of $35,000, the race gives a crucial late opportunity to earn prizemoney and move up the order of entry. It also provides a valuable chance to have a look around the Karaka Million course and to make a bold statement in the countdown to the big race. On Sunday, both of those last two boxes were impressively ticked by Otaki raider Dapper (NZ) (Shooting To Win).

Patiently ridden by Ryan Elliot, the colt sat in midfield before finishing over the top of Believe In Magic (NZ) (Not A Single Doubt) and Farravallo (NZ) (Belardo) to win by half a length.

Previously sitting in ninth place on the Karaka Million 2YO order of entry, Dapper has now moved up to fifth with earnings of $46,415. His five-start career has produced two wins and two placings, including a third in last month’s Group Three Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m).

Dapper is trained by Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard, who have already been there and done that in the Karaka Million 2YO. They won it in 2014 with Vespa (NZ) (Elusive City), and they have also picked up third placings with Touche (NZ) (Thorn Park) and Kingsman (NZ) (Darci Brahma).

“He is quite a gross sort of colt, and we had a horse called Touche who was pretty similar,” Wynyard said. “We did the same thing with him, running him two weeks before. It just tightens them up, and now we can take him home and we don’t need to do much to get there.

“It has been a long time between runs, so he is going to take improvement out of the run. He is big, he is very laid-back and he is always carrying too much condition, whereas Vespa was very athletic and we were always trying to keep weight on him. They are very different horses, but both pretty good.

“I was quite surprised that Dapper jumped out of the gates first today. He is not usually great away from the gates, and he is the sort of colt that gets back and follows them around and finishes off strongly. That was always the plan, and as always, Ryan executed it to perfection.

“He is really straightforward and is a typical boy. Nothing worries him – he just worries about food and sleeping.”

Dapper is raced by one of Benner and Wynyard’s biggest clients, Gary Harding, who bought him for $150,000 from the draft of Milan Park in Book 1 of Karaka 2022.

Sunday’s runner-up Believe In Magic was already safely in the Karaka Million 2YO field, sitting in sixth place with $34,040 in stakes. Although she was leapfrogged by Dapper on Sunday, her move up to $40,515 has allowed her to remain in sixth spot on the order of entry.

Third-placed Farravallo remains on the fringes of the field. His previous earnings of $9,050 had him in 15th place before Sunday’s race, and he has now crept up two places to 13th with $12,200.

The order of entry continues to be headed by Group Two winners Trobriand (Kermadec) and Impendabelle (Impending), who have earned $117,090 and $95,200 respectively. Listed winner Ethereal Star (Snitzel) sits in third spot with $57,300, with impressive Boxing Day winner Tokyo Tycoon (NZ) (Satono Aladdin) on $48,650.

Final opportunities to make last-minute moves into the Karaka Million 2YO field are coming up at Tauranga and Trentham this weekend. Tauranga hosts a maiden two-year-old race worth $15,000 on Friday, while Trentham has the $80,000 Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m) on Saturday – a mere seven days out from the Karaka Million.

View the Karaka Million 2YO Order of Entry here.

View the Karaka Million 3YO Order of Entry here.