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December 17, 2013

After spending most of his life playing minor roles in the best of company, Shuka (NZ) (Bachelor Duke) finally had the big stage all to himself with a stellar performance at Trentham yesterday.

The five-year-old was a deserved winner of the Group One Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes following a string of placed performances in Group events stretching back to his juvenile days.
“It’s great to see he’s finally got it,” said Dawn Williams, who trains the son of Bachelor Duke with husband Peter at Byerley Park. “He’s been hard work and one of those horses that has to be right on the day and happy.”

Shuka won the Group Two Wakefield Challenge Stakes as a two-year-old on his only previous visit to Trentham and finished fifth at the highest level in both the Diamond and Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes. His classic season produced a win in the Listed Ray Coupland Stakes, another Group One fifth in the Two Thousand Guineas and then placings in the Group Two Great Northern and Avondale Guineas and in the Group Three Waikato Guineas. Shuka started last season with four consecutive runner-up finishes, including in the Group Two Coupland’s Mile, before belated wins later in the term in the Te Aroha Cup and the Group Three Canterbury Gold Cup.

He kicked off this campaign with a sprint win at Ellerslie and headed to yesterday’s big mile at Trentham off the back of a fourth placing in the 1600 metre Group Three Tauranga Stakes.
Shuka shared his first Group One success with rider Danielle Johnson, who brought him with a well-timed finish to down the Lance Noble-trained stablemates Viadana (NZ) (Towkay) and Brave Centaur (NZ) (O’Reilly) with Survived (NZ) (Zed) a close fourth.
“Around the corner he felt a bit flat, but he worked very hard and won well,” Johnson said. “It was a great field and it showed the class of the horse.
“He felt great going down to the start and I always thought he would be in with a huge chance.”

Story from NZ Thoroughbred News