The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association (HTBA) has announced the nominees for its 27th Annual Awards Night to be held at Australia's Horse Capital in Scone on Wednesday 9 May. The nominees from the major categories are:
At Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, Darley's former Champion Australian Sire & 11-time Gr1-winning World Champion Miler Lonhro (Octagonal-Shadea, by Straight Strike) added a Group race success when 2YO Australian-bred colt Encryption (Lonhro-Guelph, by Exceed And Excel) secured a maiden stakes win and an automatic entry into Saturday week's Golden Slipper when saluting in the $300,000 Gr3 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) for 2YOs, defeating Sizzling Belle & Bondi. A homebred for Darley and Godolphin, Encryption is out of 4-time Gr1-winning filly Guelph and hails from the brilliant Jesmond Lass family of Golden Slipper winner Canny Lad and Darley's Golden Slipper & Blue Diamond Stakes winning stallion Sepoy. Godolphin trainer James Cummings refused to commit Encryption to a Golden Slipper start, saying he believes the blue blooded colt could follow in his talented mum's footsteps. "His mother won a Sires' Produce Stakes [Gr1] and I think he could potentially be that kind of horse," Cummings told Sky Racing. "He's got heaps of speed but he's got a wonderful nature and a pedigree to get seven furlongs so we'll keep all that in mind."
At Caulfield racecourse in Melbourne, Coolmore's former Gr1-winning Champion Australian Sire Fastnet Rock (Danehill-Piccadilly Circus, by Royal Academy) added a Group race success when 2YO Australian-bred filly Ennis Hill (Fastnet Rock-Hips Don't Lie, by Stravinsky) opened her stakes account with a dominant front-running win in the $150,000 Gr3 Chairman's Stakes (1000m) for 2YOs, defeating Encryption & Prairie Fire. Retained to race by her breeder Coolmore Stud, Ennis Hill - who is named after British Heptathlon Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill - is out of Gr2 Reisling Stakes winner Hips Don't Lie and is a full-sister to Gr1 Blue Diamond Stakes & Gr1 Golden Slipper placegetter Lake Geneva. She improved her record to 1 win from 2 starts for $95,750 in earnings. Ennis Hill will now be given the chance to go one better than her sister Lake Geneva when she contests the $1.5 million Gr1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on 24 February. "We will go straight to the Blue Diamond now," co-trainer Ben Hayes told racing.com. "She's super exciting and it's nice to have another live chance in the Diamond." Ennis Hill is the 128th stakes winner for her sire Fastnet Rock.
At Flemington in Melbourne, former Westbury Stud triple Gr1-winning shuttler Makfi (Dubawi-Dhelaal, by Green Desert) added a Group race success when 2YO bay colt Run Naan (Makfi-Raneen, by Perfectly Ready) maintained his perfect record when powering to an impressive win in the $150,000 Gr3 Maribyrnong Plate (1000m) for 2YOs, defeating Encryption & Belzella. A homebred for Sheikh Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, Run Naan extended his unbeaten record to 2 wins from 2 starts for $103,600 in earnings. Run Naan is the first foal to race of the Perfectly Ready mare Raneen, a direct descendant of champion Australian mare Emancipation (4th dam). Emancipation, a six-time Gr1 winner and Australian Horse of the Year, has been just as influential off the track with her daughters and granddaughters producing numerous stakes performers including Gr1 winners Railings, Virage de Fortune and Rumya. Trainer Tony McEvoy said Run Naan had a bright future. "He will grow up," McEvoy told racing.com. "I want him to settle down because I need to keep him as an entire." He added: "He's a pretty good colt this fellow and I'll pop him aside now and we'll come back in the autumn and we'll have a look at him then."
At Caulfield racecourse in Melbourne, Arrowfield Stud's multiple stakes-winning stallion Not A Single Doubt (Redoute's Choice-Single's Bar, by Rory's Jester) added a black-type success when 2YO bay filly Qafila (Not A Single Doubt-Zighy Bay, by Tapit) ran home powerfully from midfield to win the $120,000 Listed Debutant Stakes (1000m) for 2YOs, defeating Sacred Sword & Encryption. A $450,000 purchase by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stud Australasia at the 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale from the draft of Attunga Stud, Qafila improved her record to 1 win from 1 start for $72,500 in earnings. Co-trainer Tom Dabernig said Qafila would be pointed at the Magic Millions 2YO Classic at the Gold Coast in January.