Horse Racing
Top mares may continue great record in Otaki-Maori WFA Classic

22/02/2024 12:13

Saturday’s (24 February) G1 Otaki-Maori WFA Classic (1600m), which will be simulcast before selected races from Caulfield’s G1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) race meeting in Australia, has been dominated by mares in recent years and that trend may well continue in 2024.
The 1600 metres weight-for-age contest, run at Otaki racecourse in New Zealand, is open to all-comers but mares have won five of the past six editions from Devise (2018), Melody Belle (2019), Avantage (2020, 2021) to Levante last year.
Simon and Katrina Alexander trained five-year-old La Crique, runner-up to Levante in 2023, may be best placed to continue the trend in 2024 after a pleasing return in the G2 Westbury Classic (1400m) at Ellerslie on 27 January at her first run since October last year.
La Crique, a Group 1 winner at Saturday’s distance, is expected to have come on from her seasonal reappearance and ready, this season, to reproduce something of her best for the husband and wife training partnership.
“I’m very pleased with how she came through that run,” said co-trainer Katrina Alexander after nominations were taken on Tuesday (20 February), “I was happy with how she found the line and she’s trained on super from that race.”
Lisa Latta-trained Belclare is another mare in legitimate contention for the Otaki-Maori WFA Classic after beating home La Crique when successful in the Westbury Classic while Puntura, who had previously beaten Belclare, and in-form Desert Lightning will be strongly fancied.
Four-year-old gelding Desert Lightning is the highest-rated runner in the line-up and goes to Otaki on the back of successive 1600m wins; having taken the G1 TAB Classic (1600m) on 9 December before outpointing high-class Legarto in the Aotearoa Classic (1600m) on 27 January.
Veteran galloper Callsign Mav will also be fancied after a sound third in the G1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on 10 February. Significantly, the past five winners of the Otaki-Maori Classic have graduated from a top-four finish in that race.
Otaki is a left handed track and it has a 400m home straight.