American actress Halle Berry is admired by many, but she’s probably not aware that this admiration has extended to one of the stars of this year’s Spring Carnival.
Imperatriz, or ‘Berri’ as she’s affectionately known by her owners, recently made the new Te Akau stables at Cranbourne Turf Club her home after coming across from New Zealand.
Since ‘crossing the ditch’ earlier this year, the five-year-old mare has been in outstanding form running second in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick followed by three sensational wins at The Valley in the Group 1 William Reid (1200m), Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) and last Friday’s Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m) where she broke her own track record.
Victorian owner Jelena Milenkovic was thrilled with the recent results which saw ‘Berri’ beat the likes of Giga Kick and Rothfire.
“Her wins have been amazing- both times I’ve been left just speechless,” she said.
“For her to win so easily in the McEwen was just unimaginable and standing in the winner’s enclosure afterwards was just unforgettable and my husband and I are just so happy to be a part of this ownership experience.
“Unfortunately, we were not at the Moir, but we enjoyed the moment in a small pizza restaurant in Manly jumping for joy as she crossed the line first- it was such an awesome feeling.”
Fellow owner and New Zealander Jill Anderson who has made the trip across the Tasman to watch Berri race has been equally delighted with her success.
“Berri, who we consider to be very beautiful and named after the equally beautiful Halle Berry, is a very special horse that you have to pinch yourself that you are involved in,” she said.
“We were heading up to Auckland for the New Zealand Horse of Year Awards when she ran in the McEwen. We were way out in the back blocks when we got cell phone coverage and sat in the dark watching her run. It was just as well no one was around as we were yelling, screaming, laughing and crying all at once. It’s all very exciting and we are so proud of her.”
Imperatriz, who was originally purchased by Principal of Te Akau, David Ellis CNZM at the Magic Million's Sale in 2020, is one of seven horses to be currently stabled at the new Te Akau set up at Cranbourne and Te Akau director Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM is thrilled with the project in its initial stages.
“Cranbourne is a magnificent training complex,” she said.
“We had long been talking about whether Victoria or New South Wales would be the best choice for Te Akau to open in Australia, but after CEO Neil Bainbridge put together a first-class proposal- it was really a no brainer.
“Initially, Te Akau will have 20 boxes constructed, but over the next 12-24 months we will have between 60-80 horses.
“Principal of Te Akau, David Ellis CNZM, also couldn’t be more delighted and has been humbled with how much Australia, the Cranbourne Turf Club, Racing Victoria and the Victorian racing fraternity have embraced the ‘tangerine colours’ and is so excited about this new chapter.”
Owner Daniel Bryant, who has been on track for 18 of Berri’s 21 starts, was also impressed with the new stables at Cranbourne.
“It was a great decision by Te Akau to set up at Cranbourne as the facilities are all very impressive,” he said.
“It’s all really assisting her in her success, and she has a very impressive turn of foot and it’s great to see her get another solid win.”
Ms Fenton-Ellis said that Berri was more than content in her new surroundings and would stay in Victoria for the foreseeable future.
“She’s such a happy horse and is very settled here which will give her the best chance to be successful,” she said.
“The plan from here would be to go to the Manikato and then Champions Stakes Day, but whatever happens she’s loving Victoria and her new home in Cranbourne.”