Another chapter in Rangitikei Gold Cup history

By Dennis Ryan

25 May 2022

Another chapter in Rangitikei Gold Cup historyVerry Elleegant’s brother Verry Flash (Faye Lazet) adds another chapter to Rangitikei Gold Cup his

The Rangitikei Gold Cup holds a position as one of the longest-standing feature races on the annual calendar, and the combined results of the last two editions have added another chapter to that history.
The first running of what is now known as the Listed James Bull Holdings Rangitikei Gold Cup dates all the way back to 1875 and was the headline race when the Rangitikei Racing Club celebrated its sesquicentenary in 2007. As the passage of time is wont to do, various changes have taken place around the race itself and more significantly the host club.
The Rangitikei Racing Club’s original base was the racecourse on the northern outskirts of the north Manawatu town of Bulls, named after the pioneer family whose name is still associated with its flagship race. Along with the likes of the Marton, Feilding, Manawatu Hunt and Ashhurst-Pohangina clubs, regional racing activities are now centred on Palmerston North’s Awapuni racecourse.
Each club still has its day in the sun, and for the 2022 edition of the Rangitikei Gold Cup, that took place last Saturday at Trentham due to renovations connected to the Polytrack installation at Awapuni. The winner was the Kevin Myers-trained Verry Elleegant, a horse that has his own claims as the year-older brother of Australian Horse of the Year Verry Elleegant.
Both were bred by Auckland octogenarian Don Goodwin, by Zed from Opulence, and Verry Flash can now stand alongside his 11-time Group One-winning sister as a stakes-winning member of a family that boats a double-ups of Hall of Fame broodmare Eight Carat and breed-shaping stallion Danehill.
When Dutch-born apprentice jockey Faye Lazet brought Verry Flash down the outside for a half-length win in the Rangitikei Gold Cup, a smile that had been missing for the previous week returned to his breeder and co-owner’s face.
Goodwin and fellow members of the Ellee partnership had owned 20 per cent of Verry Elleegant when she went to Australia as a spring three-year-old. The joy of their involvement with the freakish mare over the ensuing three and a half years turned sour earlier this month when it was announced that the remaining 80 per cent ownership group had decided to transfer Verry Elleegant from Chris Waller to French trainer Francis-Henri Graffard and set her for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“Yes, it was very disappointing the way it all happened, to be presented with a fait accompli,” Goodwin said, “so it was good to see Flash win and put a smile back on our faces.”
Goodwin has confirmed that agreement has been made on exiting the partnership, but he and his partners, who include Verry Elleegant’s original trainer, Nick Bishara, still want to see Verry Elleegant succeed.
“An offer for our share was mad and we accepted it, but even though I’ll no longer be part of it, I’ll still be cheering for her in every race she runs in.”
Goodwin and Bishara still have a lot to gain if Verry Elleegant can add a European feature to her record. Goodwin is still breeding from the champion mare’s rising 16-year-old dam Opulence, who produced a Zed colt last spring and is back in foal to the Grangewilliam stallion. “How I’d love her to have a filly,” is Godwin’s succinct comment.
Bishara and fellow Ellee group member Matt Duffie, own Verry Elleegant’s half-sister Black Lace, who is now in Australia where she produced a Zed filly last spring and is in foal to Dundeel.
The smiles have been a near-permanent fixture on the faces of Palmerston North identities Lucy Tanner and Lance Hickman in the 25 years they have raced horses together. Twelve months ago they shared a Rangitikei Gold Cup win with Belle Plaisir, and last Saturday they were in celebration mode again when their Proisir mare marked the anniversary with victory in the Gr. 3 R A Lee Stakes at Adelaide’s Morphettville racecourse.
After Belle Plaisir’s 2021 Rangitikei Gold Cup, Tanner and Hickman decided to chance their arm in Australia, which led to connecting with dual-state trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy. Through them they arranged the lease of a 20 per cent share in Belle Plaisir and the partnership has since been rewarded with wins at Oakbank and now Morphettville.
“It’s been great,” said Tanner with understandable pride in the horse she and Hickman bought for $32,000 from Fairdale Stud’s Karaka 2018 yearling draft. “The plan now is to fly her up to Brisbane and run her in the in a $500,000 fillies and mares mile on June 4. Lance and I have booked our airfares, so it’s all very exciting.”
Despite the red-hot market in Australia for well-credentialed fillies and mares, Tanner is adamant that Belle Plaisir is not for sale. Tanner combines a small racing team at Awapuni with her day job as a site administrator at the Te Apiti windfarm east of Palmerston North, while Hickman is well-known for his years as a driver for Majestic Horsefloats.
“She never was for sale and she’s not for sale,” says Tanner with conviction. “Lance and I have both worked hard all our lives and our plan with her is to enjoy her racing career and then breed her to the right stallions.”