Collett establishing herself as the Cups Queen

A victory on rugged mare Robusto (NZ) (Zed) in Saturday’s Gr.2 Wallen Concreting Avondale Cup (2400m) added another chapter in a flourishing body of work being put together by jockey Sam Collett in New Zealand’s major staying events in the last few years.

The victory on Robusto was Collett's third win in the Avondale Cup after success aboard outsider El Soldado (NZ) (Colombia) in 2017 and again in 2019 on Glory Days (NZ) (Red Giant).

Glory Days winning the Barfoot&Thompson Auckland Cup
Glory Days winning the Barfoot&Thompson Auckland Cup Picture: Trish Dunell

Collett then piloted Glory Days to a special victory in the 2019 Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) for Waverley trainer Bill Thurlow and made it two wins in a row in the prestigious Ellerslie two-miler when successful aboard Tauranga galloper Roger That (NZ) (Shinko King) last year.

Throw in last month's Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) on Waisake (NZ) (Zed) and it is easy to see why the bubbly thirty-one-year-old is in hot demand when it comes to New Zealand's staying features.

Jockey - SAMANTHA COLLETT Picture: Trish Dunell

Collett is hoping to make it a three-peat in the Auckland Cup aboard the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Robusto, who she believes is well placed to challenge for victory in the race on March 13.

"I spoke to Murray Baker this morning to confirm the ride on Robusto for the Auckland Cup," Collett said.

"I know her two-mile form isn't that good, but it is very hard to get off her after what she produced on Saturday.

"She is rock hard fit, will only carry 53.5kgs and with her pattern of racing she will put herself in a good spot which makes life a lot easier in those staying contests.

"It was such a brave effort on Saturday as I wanted to get on the tail of Sound as I thought he could take me right into the race.

"I got a great run up but then it started to get a little tight against the rail, but my mare was so brave, she had a full head of steam up and she just burst through at the finish."

Collett has no real explanation for her success in the big Cup races but does have a formula she likes to use in any distance event.

"I can't put my finger on anything other than I have been very fortunate to get on the right horses for the right races," she said.

"I'm very thankful for that and I've managed to have some good success thanks to the efforts of those involved with the horses I've ridden.

"I think now that I have a lot more experience under my belt, one of the main factors is being able to get your horse in a comfortable rhythm that suits them in the first part of the race.

"Robusto likes to race handy so the goal on Saturday was to get there without spending too many pennies, whereas you couldn't hustle Glory Days who liked to get back, so you just had to ride a very patient race on her and to get moving at the right time.

"After that it is a matter of being alert to what is going on around you and taking the opportunities that present themselves in the race."

Collett was definitely in the groove on Saturday with Robusto the middle leg of a winning treble after scoring easily aboard Babylon Berlin (All Too Hard) in the first race on the day and closing out the card on Tia d'Or (NZ) (Tavistock) in the last.

She is looking forward to Auckland Cup Week in March where she has a number of rides already booked, while she is keen to see the connections of On Display (NZ) pay the late nomination fee for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) after the Showcasing three-year-old fought on strongly for third in Saturday's Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).

"I'm really looking forward to Auckland Cup Week and I'm hoping they will pay up with On Display for the Derby," she said.

"I had to make my run on him a little earlier than I wanted to on Saturday and he fought on very doggedly in the straight.

"He might not be a true 2400m horse, but he is a tough little bugger, a gem of a ride.

"Hopefully Levante might also have a run on one of the days while I have Robusto in the Cup and Babylon Berlin in the Mufhasa Stakes (Listed 1300m)."

Collett will also have at least two plum rides at Matamata next Saturday where she is booked aboard South Island filly Mozzarella (NZ) (Capitalist) in the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Limited Matamata Breeders' Stakes (1200m) and Coventina Bay (NZ) (Shamexpress) in one of the day's supporting events.
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