IN Racing
Liffey lands deserved win in North Island Challenge Stakes
The winning run of the progeny of former Haunui Farm shuttle stallion Belardo continued on Saturday when his three-year-old son Farravallo took out the opening event over 1000m at Trentham.
Kevin Robertson, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | June 16, 2024
Farravallo sprints to victory in the three-year-old 1000m event at Trentham on Saturday. Photo:Race Images

Under-rated mare Liffey stepped down from stakes company scored a tenacious win in the $40,000 Neteffext Payroll North Island Challenge Stakes (1300m) at Trentham on Saturday.

After collecting the sixth win of her career with a stylish performance at Wanganui in early May, the six-year-old daughter of Niagara took on the big guns with a seventh in the Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m) and an eighth in the Listed AGC Training Stakes (1600m).

Liffey was beaten by only 2.6 lengths by the Rangitikei Gold Cup winner Islington Lass on May 18. She finished five lengths adrift of Belardo Boy in the AGC Training Stakes, but was less than half a length from the sixth-placed Turn The Ace, who was a strong winner at Te Rapa earlier on Saturday afternoon.

Liffey stepped out as a $7.40 third favourite for Saturday’s North Island Challenge Stakes, and she produced an irresistible finish down the Trentham straight in the hands of rider Kate Hercock.

There was a changing picture out in front as firstly Chajaba, then Old Town Road and then Rocababy took turns in the lead through the first half of the race. Hercock was happy to bide her time aboard Liffey, who settled in second-last until around the 800m mark.

Hercock then brought Liffey to the outside and began to improve her position around the outside of the field. She was well within striking distance coming around the home turn, and she found the better footing down the extreme outside lane of the home straight.

Liffey moved through her gears and quickly drew up alongside the Lisa Latta-trained stablemates Old Town Road and Prioress, who both fought back gamely. That trio drew clear of the rest of the field to fight out a tight finish, but Liffey kept lifting and edged ahead to win by three-quarters of a length.

Liffey is trained in Foxton by Jim Sweetensen, who also bred her and races her with the Sweetensen Racing Syndicate. Her 38-start career has now produced seven wins, four placings and $124,847.

“I’m very happy with that, she won well today,” Sweetensen said. “She’s been racing in strong company lately and performing well. But when you’re racing against those sorts of horses, you really need to have everything go your way, and she just wasn’t quite getting that luck in the running. So I think she deserved it today and it was a very good performance.”

Liffey has proven to be particularly effective at distances around the 1300m of Saturday’s race. Her two starts over 1300m have produced two wins, while she has also been a winner over 1340m and 1360m at Wanganui.

Saturday’s win was a career-best third victory of the season for Liffey, who had previously won twice in both the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons. Sweetensen will now give her some deserved winter downtime.

“She’ll go to the paddock now,” he said. “We’ll bring her back and race her again later in the year, but she can have a nice break now. She’s earned it.”