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On the anniversary of her first stakes win in last year’s Listed Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m), classy New Zealand mare Belle Plaisir doubled her black-type tally with a powerful come-from-behind performance in Saturday’s Gr.3 R A Lee Stakes (1600m) at Morphettville.
A four-time winner from 19 New Zealand starts from the Awapuni stable of her part-owner Lucy Tanner, the daughter of Proisir was partially sold to Kildalton Park Racing last spring and crossed the Tasman to join the stable of Tony and Calvin McEvoy.
She has wasted no time in making her presence felt in Australia, never finishing further back than fifth in six starts to date. Along with a win at Oakbank and a placing at Cranbourne, she also finished fourth in the Gr.2 Queen Of The South Stakes (1600m) at Morphettville, fourth in the Gr.3 Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m) at Flemington and fifth in the Listed Black Pearl Stakes (1200m) at Geelong.
But it was Saturday's R A Lee Stakes at Morphettville that provided the black-type success Belle Plaisir's trans-Tasman connections had been craving.
Given a ground-saving rails run by jockey Barend Vorster, Belle Plaisir came from second-last with a determined surge down the straight. Cherry Tortoni loomed ominously out wide and appeared to be travelling the better of the two, but Belle Plaisir rose to his challenge and held him out in a driving finish.
Adding to the New Zealand flavour of the race, the fast-finishing third placegetter Excelida races in the colours of Cambridge Stud owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay.
Tony McEvoy has been delighted with Belle Plaisir 's performances since her arrival in Australia.
"God bless her – she's a really good little mare who came over from New Zealand," he said. "Lucy Tanner and her co-owner (Lance Hickman) sent her over to us, and she's raced really well for us. To win a Group Three with this mare today is very special.
"She was a Listed winner in New Zealand and also had form around some good-quality horses who had come across to Australia and run well, so we knew that she had what it took."
The stable will now consider a trip to Queensland for the A$500,000 Magic Millions National Classic (1600m) at Eagle Farm on June 4.
"She still, to this day, hasn't had track conditions to really suit her in Australia," McEvoy said. "She loves getting into the ground, and it just hasn't rained enough, so we'll see – we might take her north.
"It's raining a lot up there, and there's a fillies and mares' race worth half a million dollars in a fortnight, so we'll just see how she comes through this and then try to get her up there."
Belle Plaisir was bred by Fairdale Stud's Duncan Fell and was offered in Book 2 of Karaka 2018, where Lance Hickman secured her for $32,000. Saturday's win, the sixth of her 25-start career, raised her career earnings to A$226,566.Belle Plaisir added to a strong recent run in Australia for Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir, who was also represented by last week's Gr.3 Rough Habit Plate (2143m) winner Dark Destroyer.