Son of El Roca Encierro's winning form has earned him a tilt at the Group 2 Rich Hill Mile on New Year's Day. 

Photo Credit / Lesley Warwick

El Roca’s Son in Line for Higher Honours

Westbury Stud graduate Encierro has been set for a feature summer event on his favourite course.

The Gerry Harvey-bred’s run of sparkling form this preparation has earned him a tilt at the G2 Rich Hill Mile on New Year’s Day.

It will be run at Te Rapa where Encierro has won three times from his last four appearances and also posted a sound fourth placing in the G3 Eagle Technology Stakes.

Trained by Stephen Marsh, the five-year-old son of El Roca delivered his latest success there at the weekend with a comfortable defeat of his open class rivals over 1600 metres.

“We were looking at the Taupo Cup, which is a $70,000 race, but the way he won on Saturday and given the Rich Hill Mile is a handicap and he should get in well at the weights, you really have to have a crack,” Marsh said.

Making Encierro’s run of form all the more meritorious is that he has come back to fulfil his potential after suffering a serious setback.

“It was quite a bad tendon injury. It was pretty much a retirement job, but we gave him plenty of time,” Marsh said.

“He now just swims every day. He has probably only had a saddle on his back twice in the last three months beyond race days and he does a lot of treadmill work.”

“He seems to love Te Rapa and there is always a perfect race for him there. He has been the easiest horse to program because there is always a good race there for him. “

Marsh purchased Encierro out of Westbury’s draft at Karaka in 2019 for $110,000.

He is a son of Conferre, who was successful four times up to 2400 metres, and she is a daughter of Encosta De Lago and the Danehill mare who was placed at Group 1, 2 and 3 level.

Meanwhile, progressive Reliable Man mare Lekvarte furthered her record at Randwick on Saturday with a tidy second-up victory over 1400 metres and a performance that suggested black type awaits.

Trained by Joseph Pride, she had finished runner-up when resuming and had no trouble going better in the hands of Chad Schofield to post her second win from 12 starts which have also yielded six minor placings.

“She has always promised a lot and it was disappointing last preparation to be disadvantaged by so many wet tracks,” Pride said.

“I think now as a four-year-old and being by Reliable Man she will really train on.

“She is more than capable. While it is her first Saturday win, she is still only lightly raced and there is really good upside to her.”

Schofield was also suitably impressed by Lekvarte, who rounded off strongly in the run home.

“We hoped for a bit of speed and Joe was quietly confident before the race,” he said.

“We got the pace up front and I cut the corner because I was going so well. She came off the bridle really sharply and had a very good turn of foot.

“It is only an off-season race but she won very, very well. It was quite easy. She will obviously get a bit further and is in for a good preparation.”

Lekvarte was bred by Westbury client Stewart Hume and sold through the Karaka nursery’s draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale to for $210,000 with BK Racing & Breeding and Andrew Williams Bloodstock signing the ticket.

She is a daughter of Encosta De Lago’s daughter Plumm, who was a Group placegetter from the family of the G2 Autumn Classic winner and two-time Group 1 runner-up Extra Zero.

Another notable recent performance came at Geelong where a bold showing was expected from former Kiwi Belthil and the son of Telperion didn’t disappoint.

The three-year-old was forced to race three wide without cover from a wide barrier, but showed his quality in the straight to score over 1209 metres.

Belthil made two juvenile appearances from Carl Henderson’s stable and ran fourth on debut at Pukekohe before finishing runner-up at Ruakaka.

Out of the Testa Rossa mare Testa’s Big Lassie, he was subsequently purchased by OTI Racing and placed in Andrew Bobbin’s stable.

OTI’s familiar colours were also carried to victory over 1710 metres at Geelong by Redwood’s son Dyerville.

The winner of two of his eight starts, the Matthew Williams-prepared Dyerville is out of the Savabeel mare Scarlet Tiger and he’s bred on the same cross as G2 Waikato Guineas winner Tokorangi.