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Bonham's move pays off with Levin Classic win
Johno Benner admits turning his back on New Zealand racing's biggest payday wasn't easy with his exciting filly Bonham.
Michael Guerin | January 16, 2021

Johno Benner admits turning his back on New Zealand racing's biggest payday wasn't easy with his exciting filly Bonham.

But after she downed class colt Brando in the Levin Classic at Trentham on Saturday the Otaki trainer knows he pulled the right rein.

Bonham made it four wins from five starts in the three-year-old Group 1, overcoming a wide draw thanks to jockey Lisa Allpress being confident enough to move early when the race turned messy.

That gave her a winning break at the top of the straight and while Brando charged in the last 100m it was too late for favourite punters.

Benner, who trains with his partner Hollie Wynyard, could have easily have had Bonham aimed at next week's A$1million Karaka Classic Mile at Ellerslie, instead of today's race worth almost five times less.

But he knows long-term the fact Bonham now has a Group 1 next to her name is worth even more for her future broodmare career.

"Winning this means we made the right call," says Benner, one of the few trainers to win both Karaka Million night features.

"We know next week's race was worth a lot more but for her owners, who also breed horses, having a Group 1 filly is huge."

Benner and Wynyard could technically still send Bonham to Ellerslie next week for the Classic but he says that is not a realistic option.

"She raced last week and again today and we aren't going to ask her to race three Saturdays in a now," says Benner.

"It would also mean an eight-hour trip, racing right-handed and she doesn't really like the heat, which is why she was one of the horses sweating up today, so that wouldn't help with the travelling.

"So Ellerslie is a definite no."

What isn't a hard no yet but could end up being one is the New Zealand Oaks back at Trentham in March as Benner has his doubts.

"I am not sure she will handle an Oaks prep," he admits.

"Because of her confirmation we have to be careful how we train her and not gallop her too much on hard tracks so while I think she can win an Oaks it might not be the right race to aim her at."

Meanwhile, after completing an historic sprinting double, Avantage might have just one more trophy she needs to complete her career.

That would be one with the name of an Australian Group 1 etched into it.

The Matamata mare completed the great New Zealand sprinting double at Trentham, smashing her opponents in the $250,000 Telegraph under jockey Danielle Johnson.

She raced three wide with cover, the place to be as the Trentham track seemed off on the inside, and surged clear at the 300m mark to add the Telegraph to the Railway win she recorded at Ellerslie two week earlier.

It was also a title defence as Avantage won the Telegraph last season and she now has six Group 1 victories, with two more potential targets at Te Rapa and Otaki next month.

But trainer Jamie Richards is keen to take Avantage back to Australia to try and win a Group 1 there which would add enormously to her broodmare value when she is, as a syndicated horse, almost certainly eventually sold for a stud career.

Avantage is already a Group 3 winner in Australia and finished third to subsequent Everest winner Classique Legend in a Group 2 in Sydney as a three-year-old so an Australian Group 1, particularly against her own sex looks well within her grasp.

Earlier in the meeting Waisake guaranteed himself favouritism for the Wellington Cup on January 30 with a dominant mid-grade win while Super Strike stepped up to open grade with a win in the Group 3 Anniversary.