Before They Were Famous: Imperatriz

In this series TTR AusNZ takes a look at Group 1 runners before they were successful on the racetrack; speaking to breeders, race educators and trainers on their formative years. This edition features Bhima-raised and Te Akau Racing-owned, nine-time Group 1 winner, Imperatriz (I Am Invincible), who will jump from barrier three in Saturday’s G1 Newmarket H. at Flemington.


I Am Invincible x Berimbau (Shamardal {USA})

Race Record

Winner – G1 Lightning S.

Winner – G1 Champions Sprint

Winner – G1 Manikato S.

Winner – G1 Moir S.

Winner – G2 Ian McEwen S.

Winner – G1 William Reid S.

Second – G1 Canterbury S.

Winner – G1 BCD Group Sprint

Winner – G2 Westbury Classic

Winner – G1 Railway S.

Winner – G2 Foxbridge Plate

Winner – G1 Thoroughbred Breeders’ S.

Winner – G1 Levin Classic

Second – G3 Almanzor Trophy

Winner – G3 Soliloquy S.

Third – G3 Gold Trail

Winner – G3 Northland Breeders’ S.

Winner – G2 Eclipse S.

The Stud – Bhima Thoroughbreds

TTR AusNZ: What was Imperatriz like as a foal?

Mike Fleming: She was a foal born with a lot of quality, she had a great personality and always stood out in the paddock amongst the others.

Imperatriz as a foal | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

TTR AusNZ: What was Imperatriz like as a weanling, did she have any particular mannerisms or traits?

MF: Not particularly any different from the others, she was just laidback, had a great attitude and just got around and did anything that was required of her.

TTR AusNZ: How did she handle yearling preparation?

MF: She handled the yearling prep very well and I think that is a key for horses going forward and becoming racehorses, they are easy to prep, they’re straight forward, got great attitudes and eat well.

TTR AusNZ: Could you foresee her success from early on?

MF: I always thought she was a filly with quality. I remember going to the Gold Coast and Vinnie fillies at the time were starting to hit their mark, I probably thought at $360,000 she was well-bought, but also well sold, I thought she may have made a little bit more. She had the attitude to make it on the track, but I don’t think anyone can ever foresee horses that are going to be of the quality of her and probably end up with a champion tag next to them, which I think she probably rightly deserves now.

Imperatriz as a yearling | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

TTR AusNZ: Imperatriz is obviously a fantastic flag-bearer for Bhima, what does a horse like her mean to the farm?

MF: HUGE. Any Group 1 winner is significant for a brand, but one that you’ve held through utero, foaled down, reared, sold and then seen her go on to become what she has is a huge thrill.

The Buyer – Te Akau Racing

TTR AusNZ: What was your first impression of Imperatriz?

David Ellis (CNZM): My first impression of this I Am Invincible filly was her quality. She had been very well-prepared for the (Magic Millions Gold Coast) sale and she stood out to me as a real athlete, powerful, nimble on her feet, with an abundance of class.

TTR AusNZ: What was Imperatriz’s temperament like at the sale, were there any particular qualities that helped your decision?

DE: In terms of temperament, the sale complex and arena can be a challenge for some yearlings, after all they are young horses and it is all a new, vibrant, noisy environment. During my team’s inspections the future Imperatriz actually showed signs of an unflappable temperament, a great attitude to everything asked of her – good signals that she had early mental maturity too. As she grew and developed into the world-class mare she is today, those strengths have been some of her greatest attributes and undoubtedly play a major part in her physical, on-track success. Those who know ‘Berri’ well, we all call her our queen or sweetheart – even before she became a star, she endeared herself to everyone who has the pleasure of having her in their lives. My wife Karyn (Fenton-Ellis), trainer Mark Walker and I and our whole team in both New Zealand and Cranbourne stables feel so privileged to guide and share her journey with her.

Connections of Imperatriz | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

TTR AusNZ: Can you please explain Imperatriz’s physical appearance as a yearling?

DE: As a yearling, Imperatriz was of average size: she had a good head and great shoulder, a good deep girth, obvious physical strength through the rib and was a beautiful, fluid-moving filly. She travelled back to New Zealand and was educated by my team at Te Akau Stud – everyone fell in love with her, and Karyn gave her the name Berri after the actor Halle Berry as she is a talent with beauty and brains!

TTR AusNZ: Were there any key attributes that drove you to purchase Imperatriz?

DE: Whilst she made our short-list very quickly, there was not one key attribute. After years of buying yearlings, I do have some benchmark requirements but am also always very open-minded in what I am looking for – she really presented to Mark Walker and me at the Magic Millions Gold Coast sale as a good ‘total package’ and we could not be prouder of what she has accomplished since the day we first set eyes on her.

Opie Bosson, Karyn Fenton-Ellis and Mark Walker after Imperatriz won the G1 Champions Sprint | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

Trainer – Mark Walker

TTR AusNZ: When did Imperatriz arrive in your care and what were your first impressions of her?

Mark Walker: April 2022 when Jamie Richards went to Hong Kong. First impressions was she’s fast.

TTR AusNZ: When did you see something special in Imperatriz?

MW: When the won New Zealand’s premier sprint, the G1 Railway S. on January 1, 2023.

Imperatriz with her strapper Jason Levin

This article was written by TTR AusNZ. Since the time of publishing, Imperatriz won the Group 1 William Reid, her 10th top-flight victory.

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