Australian Stakes Win on Melbourne Cup Day for Atacama


05 November 2014

The blue and white silks of Sir Peter Vela were made famous on Melbourne Cup Day in 2001 through the deeds of the great Ethereal and they were once again in the winner’s circle on Australia’s biggest day of racing with Atacama (Pentire x Almaviva) triumphant in the Listed A$150,000 James Boag’s Premium Stakes.

Atacama gets her head down to win the
Listed James Boag's Premium Stakes.

In 2001, the Pencarrow bred and raced mare Ethereal won the holy grail of Australasian racing, the Group 1 Melbourne Cup. . The win completed the illusive Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double in the same season, that no horse has been able to replicate since her.

In 2014, a flying visit to Flemington for the raceday that stops two nations was planned by Pencarrow Racing and trainer Shaune Ritchie for Atacama, and yesterday the plan came to fruition.

“It’s obviously nice to win a race on Melbourne Cup Day because everyone is watching the big race and the aftermath and our race rolled in after that,” commented Ritchie. “It’s good publicity for Pencarrow and myself.

“I think it was a well-planned race for her. Her two runs in New Zealand this campaign were superb but it is very hard to line the form up. I felt like the race we ran in, on the minimum weight, was not trying to bite off more than we can chew.

“She is not a great eater when she travels away from home so it was handy it was a hit and run mission. I feel if we stayed here she would probably lose weight and our next result wouldn’t be as satisfying.”

Atacama earned her trip across the Tasman with two wins from two starts this season including victory in the Listed Matamata Cup at her last start.

Kiwi jockey James McDonald, the champion rider in Sydney last season, donned the Pencarrow silks to ride Atacama. McDonald and Pencarrow Racing enjoy a close relationship that dates back to when he was an apprentice and given the opportunity to be the stable rider for Pencarrow Racing. The team have enjoyed great success together including a Group 1 victory with Guiseppina.

McDonald gave Atacama the perfect ride, positioning her fourth in the running with an economical run. It was then a perfectly timed finish that saw Atacama put her nose in front at the right time for the victory.

“She is a little bulldog, she is as tough as they come,” said Ritchie. “James’ ride was a ten out of ten, he judged it to perfection. He had the rest of us in the grandstand worried but he clearly knew what he was doing.

“She puts her head down and really has a go, you have to admire the size of her heart.”

Atacama will travel back to New Zealand today and have a short freshen-up before targeting more black-type races in her homeland.

“I think a race like the Rich Hill Mile and even the Thorndon Mile a little later on looks good for her. She races well fresh so I will have a talk to Gary (Cossey) and he will in turn talk to Sir Peter and we will come up with a bit of a plan.”

Yesterday’s victory was Atacama’s seventh win from 18 starts. The five-year-old mare has earned NZ$214,512 for owner Sir Peter Vela.

Bred by Sir Peter Vela and Philip Vela, Atacama is out of Almaviva (Catbird), the dam of three horses to race who have all been winners. Almaviva is out of dual Group 1 Oaks runner-up Pavan (Centaine) and is a half-sister to the stakes performed Let Loushe (Black Minnaloushe). She is also from the family of Group 1 winner Allez Suez (Canny Lad).

Almaviva has a colt by first season sire Reliable Man at foot and has a yearling colt by Savabeel that will be offered at the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales Series by Pencarrow Stud.