Johnson breaks through for first Group One triumph Sat, 07 Dec 2013
Pukekohe jockey Danielle Johnson was able to massively repay a favour when celebrating her first Group One success at Trentham today on Shuka for Byerley Park trainers Dawn and Peter Williams in the Rydges Captain Cook Stakes.
“In my first season when I used to go down south Peter and Dawn gave me 20-odd wins,” recalled Johnson. “This is my first Group One and doing it for them is great.”
Johnson picked up the ride on Shuka at Tauranga last month when finishing fourth behind Survived and she was thrilled to be retained for the Group One mount.
She settled Shuka well back in the field as Brave Centaur worked to the front with Zennista tracking and the Survived enjoying a good run in third spot, just ahead of Postmans Daughter. The favourite, Final Touch, had soon worked up into fifth spot.
Brave Centaur kicked strongly in the straight, but the challengers started to come and over the final stages the action really hotted up. However, it was soon evident Final Touch wasn’t going to be in the finish as rider Noel Harris was easing the mare down, with her having appeared to be galloped on.
Meantime, Matamata trainer Lance Noble looked a big chance to provide the quinella as Viadana burst through near the inner to head Brave Centaur. But then Shuka finished powerfully down the outer to grab the race by a head.
Viadana wound up second, a neck in front of Brave Centaur, who shaded Survived with Zennista fighting along the inner for fifth. Nashville, who had settled last, made ground wide out for sixth, while Final Touch tailed the field home.
Shuka has now won seven races for owner Eric Parr and Dawn Williams was so thrilled for the horse to finally break through for a Group One win.
“He’s been placed in so many Group races and to finally get one is great,” said Williams. “He had to work hard for it and it was a good ride.
“I was watching and thinking if he runs a place it would be lovely then when it got close to the finish I got a bit excited. It’s great for him.”
Shuka won the Gr. 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes at Trentham as a two-year-old and was a stakeswinner as a three-year-old. the same season in which he was runner-up in the Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas and Gr. 2 Championship Stakes and third in the Gr. 3 Waikato Guineas.
Today he turned the tables on Viadana, who had beaten him in the Gr.3 Eagle Technology Stakes at Ellerslie last season, and Nashville, his conqueror in last year's Gr. 2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile at Riccarton.
His wins last campaign included a treble, culminating with siuccess in the Gr. 3 Coca-Cola Canterbury Gold Cup at Riccarton.
Shuka is likely to now chase another Group One win when he heads to Ellerslie on Boxing Day for the Zabeel Classic and his opposition will included many of his rivals from today.