The Oaks Stud and Kilgravin Lodge celebrated a near perfect result in the Group One New Zealand Oaks when the Dick Karreman-owned fillies Artistic (NZ) (Darci Brahma) and Zurella (NZ) (Zabeel) crossed the line locked together.
While a dead-heat would have had the Cambridge farm in dreamland, it was an outstanding classic for them with Artistic (NZ) getting home by a nose from her more-fancied stablemate.
“Halfway down the straight I was yelling for Zurella – that shows I’m a bad tipster,” trainer Shaune Ritchie said.
“She (Artistic) has been giving them some big starts in the miles and she’s always looked like running the Oaks distance. She’s a real sweetheart.”
Artistic (NZ) had finished in the money in the Group One NZ 1000 Guineas, Group Two Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic and the Group Three Desert Gold Stakes before she stepped up to a middle distance to win the Listed Sunline Vase at Ellerslie.
Ritchie, who also celebrated his birthday on Saturday, had said pre-race there was little between the top fillies and the Oaks may well come down to the best ride and Michael Coleman’s performance aboard Artistic (NZ) was a gem. He had her lobbing along on the pace and set her alight soon after they had straightened.
“It was beautiful and one of the races I’ve always wanted to win,” Coleman said. “She had a lovely run and relaxed, but at the 100 I thought the other filly may get me, but she (Artistic) ran it right out and was pretty strong on the line.”
Zurella (NZ) lost no caste in defeat and her effort to back up from her fifth placing in the Group One New Zealand Derby was full of merit. “She lets herself down a bit, but with maturity I’m sure she will be a top-class mare,” Ritchie said.
A daughter of The Oaks Stud’s Darci Brahma (NZ) (Danehill), Artistic (NZ) is out of Artless (Dahar), who is also the dam of the Group One Epsom Handicap winner Excellerator (Marscay) and his stakes-performed brother Consolidator.
“This is the biggest thrill I’ve had in racing,” said the stud’s general manager Rick Williams, who also oversees the racing arm of Karreman’s operation. “We’ve had some big wins with Seachange, but to quinella the Oaks is something I’ll never forget and I only wish Dick was here.
“It’s certainly the biggest thrill I’ve had in my life as far as racing and breeding goes.
“What Dick’s done has been remarkable and he doesn’t have to do it. Racing and breeding’s not his core business.”
Williams said no decision on either filly’s immediate future would be made for at least seven days. “We’ll get them home and give them a week off before we decide whether to carry on or look toward Melbourne in the spring.”
Third home in the Oaks was Quintessential (NZ) (Fast ‘N’ Famous), who turned in a terrific effort to come from well back in the field and Poste Restante (NZ) (Postponed) also hit the line strong from the tail-end for fourth.