On his first start since his gallant second in the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m), Te Akau Shark (5 g ex Bak da Chief by Chief Bearhart) clinched a much deserved first Group 1 success in the Waikato Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday handing Windsor Park Stud-based sire Rip Van Winkle (Galileo) with his second elite level winner.
Ridden by regular partner Opie Bosson, the five-year-old gelding showcased a potent turn of foot to make up ground in the straight to beat longtime leader The Mitigator (Master Of Design) by two and three quarter lengths.
"I'm so happy for him as the monkey is off his back now and there are plenty more Group Ones to come for him," Bosson said.
"I hit a little bit of a flat spot turning in but once he changed legs, I thought wow, what a turn of foot and I had a heap of horse under me.
"It's exciting as I didn't knock him around and the improvement that will be in him will make him a horse to watch out for.
"He is right up there with the best I've ridden."
Trainer Jamie Richards said he was never concerned during the race, despite the gelding having a lot of ground to make up with 600 metres left to run.
"I watched it live and didn't really see the hustle and bustle," Richards said.
"When they straightened and he changed legs and exploded I thought that was pretty good.
"He's the best we've had I think and he will go to Australia now and be competitive in whatever we run him in, so we're really looking forward to it.
"He's a naturally fit horse and doesn't take a lot," he said.
"He was pretty ready for today and we know what he is capable of.
"I'm really looking forward to getting him back to Australia and to knock off one of those good races as I really think he deserves one."
An ambitious Australian campaign has been mapped out for the son of Rip Van Winkle, with the gelding likely to tackle the Chipping Norton Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) on February 29, George Ryder Stakes (Gr 1, 1500m) on March 21 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) on April 11 during his Sydney campaign.
He has now won six of his 11 career starts for earnings in excess of NZ$1 million after being bought by Te Akau principal David Ellis from the Lyndhurst Farm draft for NZ$230,000 during the 2016 Ready To Run Sale of 2YOs at Karaka.
He is the best-performed and first stakes winner from three to race for the Group 2 successful mare Bak Da Chief, who is a half-sister to Bak Da Princess (Danske), herself the mother of Group 1 winner Ponderosa Miss (High Chaparral) and Ecuador (High Chaparral).
Bak Da Chief has a yearling colt by Redwood (High Chaparral), who will be offered at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale in April and will go through the ring catalogued as Lot 343.
Bak Da Chief is currently carrying a sibling to Te Akau Shark.
Te Akau Shark joins Dick Whittington as the Rip Van Winkle's other top-level winner.