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  • Dennis Ryan

Carston up for Breeders' Stakes challenge

Andrew Carston will return to familiar territory on Saturday in an attempt to notch a notable first for the South Island.

No horse trained south of Cook Strait has been successful in New Zealand’s highest rated race for two-year-old fillies, the Gr. 2 J Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes, but Carston believes he has the firepower in talented filly What Choux Want to address that situation.

Although Canterbury-born and bred and these days based at Riccarton, Carston spent several years in Matamata, most of that time as travelling foreman for Te Akau Stables and then as foreman for John Sargent. He also managed Sargent’s Riccarton satellite stable before relocating to Sydney and playing a key role in Sargent establishing himself there before eventually heading back home.

It was inevitable that Carston should take out his trainer’s licence and he initially spent a brief period in partnership with Ashburton trainer Jan Hay before setting up on his own account at Riccarton and has made great strides this season with 14 wins.

What Choux Want, a Jimmy Choux filly he paid just $14,000 for at last year’s Karaka Select Sale, has been a stable flag-bearer in her brief career. After scoring a debut win followed by two second placings from three starts on her home track, Carston bit the bullet and sent What Choux Want north on a Karaka Million mission.

In her first start at Ellerslie two weeks out from the Karaka Million, she was an unlucky third and put in a brave effort to finish fifth, beaten two lengths, in the big one. Carston then made the decision to keep What Choux Want in the north and target the Matamata feature. After a period working on the Kendayla Park water-walker, she has been back in full work at Cambridge.

“I’m very pleased with where she’s at,” Carston told “She’s very well, doing everything right, and while I realise it will be a good field I think she’s up for it.”

Carston’s attraction to What Choux Want in the sale ring was based largely on her being a daughter of the talented racemare Bankside Belle, the winner of eight races and fourth to her Mark Walker-trained stablemate Te Akau Coup in the 2008 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.

“I was at Te Akau then and had a bit to do with Bankside Belle,” Carston recalls. “She was very genuine with her share of ability and I guess that’s why I went for this filly.

“I actually think I got her for unders but as john Thompson (of Rich Hill Stud) said at the time, he was happy to let her go at that price as a way of spreading Jimmy Choux’s progeny around.”

The closest that the South Island has come to winning the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes was in 1991 when the Peter Williams-trained Richfield Lass finished an unlucky third. The Grosvenor filly was sold to clients of the Bart Cummings stable as an early three-year-old and went on to win the Gr. 1 Thousand Guineas and VRC Oaks.

After Williams had notched his 1,000th win at Ellerslie on Saturday, it was interesting to hear him refer to Richfield Lass as potentially the best horse he ever trained.

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