Imperatriz Takes The Railway Stakes, First G1 of 2023 –

Imperatriz wins the Railway Stakes at Te Rapa Racecourse
New Zealand Racing's lynchpin owners Te Akau celebrated New Year's Day in style with a firework display from their runners at Te Rapa Jan. 1, capped by a third successive win for the tangerine army in the Railway Stakes (G1), the first group 1 on the world racing calendar in 2023. 
The David Ellis-owned operation, which has reveled in many a triumphant day on the biggest stage, both at home and across the Tasman, continued its dominance of New Zealand's New Year's Day feature, despite the departure of former head trainer Jamie Richards to Hong Kong and the meeting's exile this year to Te Rapa while renovation works continue at its traditional 132-year home at Ellerslie.

GAME ON 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣3️⃣

It’s still 2022 in parts of the world but the first G1 of the new year has already been won and run in New Zealand! 🇳🇿

Top @TeAkauRacing mare IMPERATRIZ lands her third G1 win with a last-stride success in the Railway Stakes! 🚊
This year it was the turn of Imperatriz to shine and claim the plaudits with her third group 1 success, in a race that has been won the last two years by high-class mares Entriviere and Te Akau's nine-time elite-level scorer Avantage
However, victory looked far from a foregone conclusion, as Babylon Berlin raced clear with 400 meters to run, holding a two-length margin over Imperatriz entering the final 100 meters. 
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But Imperatriz and Opie Bosson rallied in the final stages, cutting down her Ben Foote-trained rival in the final strides and winning by a head in a thrilling finish to begin the New Year. The time of 1:08.90 was the second-fastest in the last 10 years. 
Mark Walker, who returned from Singapore to take over as Te Akau's New Zealand head trainer following Richards' move overseas, was delighted to see the mare back in the winner's enclosure, having suffered shock defeats in the Tarzino Trophy (G1) and Arrowfield Stud Plate (G1) during the spring, which ended a run of five straight victories. 
"I think having her back on top of the ground today was key, and I'm very proud to see the mare come back like this," Walker said. "We've got a great team around us at Te Akau, including three or four who could be great trainers in their own right—and, in time, they will be. It's all come together today, and it's a very satisfying result.
"The other big part of it is Opie Bosson. There's no jockey quite like him in New Zealand when it comes to big races, and he's done it again today.
"When you've got Dave (Ellis) buying them it makes it easier. He heads to the Gold Coast next week, and I'm looking forward to see what he buys," Walker added.
Bosson, who rode the 4-year-old in both her trials having been afforded a spell, finishing second in a 1,000-meter hit-out at Matamata on Dec. 23, believed she was back near her best with her last-gasp display. 
"I thought she might not have been quite 100% in her trial, but she was very good today," the winning rider said. 
"The race worked out perfectly. I was able to find a good spot, and she was absolutely cruising when we turned in. She did it really well in the end."
Imperatriz was an AU$360,000 (US$247,283) buy for Ellis from the Bhima Thoroughbreds draft at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, with the Te Akau team set to return to Queensland for next week's season-opening yearling sale. 
She is out of the group 2-placed Berimbau, who foaled a colt by Capitalist in September before returning to I Am Invincible .
Either side of Imperatriz's gallant win in the Railway Stakes, Te Akau came away with quinellas in the Eclipse Stakes (G2) for 2-year-olds and the Rich Hill Mile (G2), as the powerhouse ownership group asserted its authority on a shining day at Te Rapa. 
The Eclipse Stakes was won by the Kermadec  colt Trobriand, who defeated his fast-finishing stablemate Talisker for what was a cozy three-quarter of a length victory.
Again partnered by Bosson, Trobriand increased his unbeaten record to three and earned a first-stakes success. 
"He just does what he has to as he is such a professional little horse," Bosson said.
"The blinkers helped him out today and although I had to work a little from the wide gate (8), he relaxed well outside the leader and did the job well. 
"He is such a laid-back type that the blinkers just sharpened him up that little bit. He was traveling nicely and had a good kick as the strong 1,200 meters was right up his alley." 
Trobriand was a NZ$260,000 ($178,078) buy for Ellis from the draft of Windsor Park Stud, who bred the colt in Australia, at last year's New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale. 
He is out of the Lonhro mare Arboreal, whose colt by Russian Revolution will be offered as Lot 39 during the Book 1 Sale at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka, which starts Jan. 29.
Te Akau's afternoon was completed by Campionessa, who led home Belle En Rouge when the pair completed the quinella in the Rich Hill Mile.
The winning treble lifted premiership-leading trainer Walker to 89 wins so far this season, including 15 at black-type level. 
"We're having a heck of a season, and we're starting 2023 in the same vein as 2022," Te Akau's Karyn Fenton-Ellis said. "Long may it continue! The Rich Hill Mile is a very special race on the New Zealand calendar that everyone wants to win, so we're delighted to have the quinella this afternoon.
"Mark Walker is such a master craftsman, and all of the team around him work extremely hard, and we're so proud of them all. Most importantly, we're so grateful to all of the owners that believe in Te Akau and buy shares in our horses. It means a lot to get results like these for them."
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