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Verry Elleegant named world’s best mare for 2021

Verry Elleegant (Zed) has been ranked as the world’s best mare as the Longines World’s Best Racehorse was revealed yesterday at an online ceremony hosted from the National Racing Museum in Newmarket. The six-year-old daughter of Zed (Zabeel) won four Group 1 contests in 2021 in a year that was highlighted by her runaway success in the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) on November 2. The Chris Waller-trained mare finished tied 15th in the overall rankings with a rating of 123 alongside five other horses including St Leger Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 6.5f) winner Hurricane Lane (Frankel) and Belmont Stakes (Gr 1, 12f) winner Essential Quality (Tapit). The title of World’s Best Racehorse went to the Brad Cox-trained Knicks Go (Paynter), who was given a rating of 129 for his comfortable success in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr 1, 10f) on November 7. Nature Strip (Nicconi) finished the year as the highest-ranked Australian horse with a two-length win over Masked Crusader (Toronado) in the TJ Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) earning the seven-year-old a rating of 124 to place him in joint tenth place alongside four other horses. Golden Sixty (Medaglia D’Oro), who was surprisingly beaten at odds-on in The Stewards’ Cup (Gr 1, 1600m) on Sunday when attempting to win his 18th race on the bounce, was the highest-ranked Australian-bred horse with his performance in the Hong Kong Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) earning the son of Medaglia D’Oro (El Prado) a rating of 125 alongside Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) winner Baaeed (Sea The Stars), Lockinge Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) winner Palace Pier (Kingman) and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Torquator Tasso (Adlerflug). 

 

Female riding pioneers, jockeys’ advocate recognised in Australia Day honours

The first woman granted a professional licence to ride in Australia, Pam O’Neill, and her contemporary Paula Wagg, have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day honours list, released overnight. Both women have been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), as has former Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA) chairman Des O’Keeffe, all for services to horse racing. O’Neill famously became the first woman to ride against men in Australia in May, 1979, riding a treble at her first meeting at the Gold Coast. Wagg shattered the glass ceiling in Western Australia a few months later, before embarking on a successful riding career in Asia. She has now trained for three decades, scoring a Group 1 win with Kim Angel (Serheed) in the Western Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) in 1998; she saddles up hot favourite First Missile (Smart Missile) in the 10th at Belmont this evening in what would be a fitting victory. O’Keeffe retired from the AJA in 2020 after 15 years as the primary advocate for jockeys around the country, which marked the culmination of a four-decade career in racing.

 

Mithen: World watching Rampant Lion

Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen believes that Rampant Lion can become one of the most valuable sons of Frankel (Galileo) anywhere on the planet if he can win today’s Blue Diamond Preview (Listed, 1000m) or the Blue Diamond Prelude (Gr 3, 1100m) on his way to the Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m). “Believe me the world is watching this horse,” Mithen told Racing.com. “There is no Frankel in the world that has won a stakes race at below 1400 metres as a two-year-old colt, so we are trying to break new ground there on Wednesday. He looks like he’s got the speed and the talent to be able to do it. I think the worldwide market is looking for a Frankel colt to perhaps continue this unbelievable pattern, Galileo down to Frankel. I’m not saying this is the next one but gee if he can win a stakes race at two over a sprint, it’s certainly going to put his name in headlights.” Two Frankel colts have won a stakes race at 1400 metres – Rostropovich and Elarqam. 

 

Freedmans pondering questions with Philosopher

Philosopher (Zoustar) was impressive winning on debut at Caulfield (1000m) on January 8 and co-trainer Sam Freedman believes that the Preview, at the same course and distance, should suit, although he is more concerned about how he will handle stepping up in trip over the coming weeks. “We think he has improved,” Freedman said. “He had a very good blow after his debut run and he’s tightened up a little bit from it. For a horse like him that does it at both ends and then held them off, he was probably out on his feet for the last 50 metres there. Having had the run, the experience and having been to Caulfield, I think it maps for a better performance. The 1200 metres is probably the query but he relaxes very well and paces himself well in front. (The Preview) probably won’t tell us a lot more about getting to the 1200 metres.” Freedman is also unsure about whether the colt will tackle the Blue Diamond Prelude in between, saying that it is always a matter of managing two-year-olds through their first campaign. “You know what two-year-olds are like, they’re here and then they’re not,” he said. “We’ve been massaging him through and hope that he keeps improving.”

 

Godolphin out to boost Blue Diamond hand 

Freedman, in partnership with his father Anthony, will also have a pair of runners for Godolphin in the Previews, with Daumier (Epaulette) among the debutants against the boys and last month’s Sandown victress Bistro (Street Boss) to take on the fillies. “(Daumier) is probably not an out-and-out 1000metre horse and is probably better at 1100 and 1200 metres,” he said. “We generally don’t love running our two-year-olds against each other and we try and separate them where possible, but this just looked like the race to have him in for the experience. Bistro jumped out really nicely at Werribee and should just keep improving. It was a very small field at Sandown and they went very slowly. She was probably entitled to win given the run that she had in front. She looked lost there as she’d never led up a gallop let alone a race. Hopefully, she can take a sit in here which will suit her better.” Bistro is one of three Godolphin runners in the fillies’ Preview with favourite Jewellery (Lonhro) and the honest Va Via (Astern) also set to line up.

 

Latizia out to stamp herself as top Diamond filly

While she is far from forgotten, Latizia (Capitalist) has been cast aside as the leading Blue Diamond seed from the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable after Counttheheadlights (I Am Invincible) dominated on debut at Moonee Valley on Wednesday. However, Maher believes that Latizia – who scored a handy victory at her first start at Flemington on January 1 – can return to the spotlight in today’s Preview for the fillies. “She’s certainly smart and is in great order and has worked well after her debut win,” Maher told Racing.com. “She’s got a wide draw (14) but there is only the one turn, so I am not too fussed about that. The colt (Counttheheadlights) has probably got the most improvement in him as he’s a pretty casual horse. But she’s doing everything we want and I’d say Counttheheadlights probably leads the colts and Latizia leads the fillies.”

 

Stokes heavily invested in Swoosh

Trainer Phillip Stokes is hoping that a large investment at last week’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale pays off almost instantly today when Written Swoosh (Written Tycoon) makes her debut in the fillies’ Preview. Stokes went to $850,000 – his largest ever investment in a yearling – for the half-brother to Written Swoosh, by Trapeze Artist (Snitzel), at the Gold Coast last week. He also trains Written Swoosh’s older half-brother, Brazen Boy (Brazen Beau), and also prepared their dam Cocoa Doll (More Than Ready) to win three from nine. “She’s related to Brazen Boy but she’s a lot more tractable and she listens,” Stokes told Racing.com. “She’s had a couple of trials and went very well. Brett Prebble came out to gallop her on Saturday morning and he really liked her, she worked with an older horse and she rounded it off well. Can she win? I don’t know but we’re chasing black-type and I think she’s a filly capable of getting that. I wouldn’t be running her in the Preview if I didn’t think she could measure up. I think I’ve got her pretty screwed down for this so win or lose, she’ll have a little break after this and she probably won’t end up in the Blue Diamond.”

 

Adams a long-term target for Esta La Roca 

Today’s W J Adams Stakes (Listed, 1000m) has been on the cards for Esta La Roca (El Roca) ever since she won at Sandown on Underwood Stakes Day and trainer Lloyd Kennewell hopes that his patience pays off at Caulfield this afternoon. Esta La Roca faces a tough task against brilliant filly Enthaar (Written Tycoon) but Kennewell believes that he has his mare ripe for the challenge. “She’s very good at 1000 metres and she’s good fresh, and there’s not too many 1000-metre stakes races, so you’ve got to try and target them and look for them if you can find them, and this was the logical choice first-up for her,” Kennewell told Racing.com. “When she went out for a break after she won her last start at Sandown, I looked ahead, and this was the one I found that I wanted to target first-up with her. She’s come into Cranbourne into the new stable bouncing. She had a nice trial here last week, she’s trained on well, she’s in good order for Wednesday.”

 

Asfoora to step out at Caulfield

Henry Dwyer admits that he may not be one of the big guns when it comes to the yearling sales but feels that sometimes it’s the ones without the large price tag that can surprise. Three-year-old filly Asfoora (Flying Artie) is a perfect example, being passed in for $24,000 at the 2020 Magic Millions Adelaide Sale, $6,000 short of the reserve. Now, after winning on debut at Colac on December 18 and following that up with another win at Stawell on January 7, the daughter of Flying Artie (Artie Schiller) will race at Caulfield today in the Evergreen Turf Handicap (1100m) in a bid for a third win is as many starts. “I think she’s a really nice filly,” Dwyer told RSN. “We were going to go straight to town after her maiden win but I thought we’d give her another ‘kill’ in an easier race in a benchmark 58 but still, she didn’t get her own way. She sat outside the leader and had one eyeballing her three-wide. She’s got a really good brain, she does settle and has a really good turn-of-foot. She’ll be a really good chance at Caulfield with the way she won last time and she’s run really good times as well.” The filly will be ridden by Mitchell Aitken, who was aboard for her last start, and is currently a $3.90 second-favourite in the betting. 

 

Kearney eyes Guineas with Ashy Boy

Not many young trainers get an opportunity to tackle a black-type race in the first six months of their career, but Pat Kearney has that chance tonight when Ashy Boy (Star Witness) runs in the Launceston Guineas (Listed, 2100m). The 24-year-old Kearney, who was formerly travelling foreman for Mick Price, had his first runner in July and only prepared his first winner last month when Ashy Boy won his maiden. The Ballarat handler paid just $7,500 for Ashy Boy on Inglis Digital in August. “It’s so exciting,” Kearney told Racing.com. “I’ve wanted to do this forever and to have a horse like him – I love him as a horse and love having him in the barn – that goes to the races and is competitive every single time, they’re the horses you dream about. For me to have a horse like him so soon as a trainer, it’s unbelievable. He left Ballarat on Sunday and arrived in Tasmania on Monday morning. He’s staying at Glenn Stevenson’s stable, so had a little paddle at the beach on Monday and then worked on Tuesday morning and the reports are that he was great. He was always going to the Tasmanian Derby, but I left him a month between runs between Kyneton and Flemington and he just did too well, even with a jumpout in between. He just needed another run to tuck him up a little bit more, so this race was there and I thought we’d get him over to Tasmania, see how he travelled and have the option to run again before the Derby. He’s bright, he looks good and he’s fit, so I think he can run really well.”

Freedman duo on song for Expressway

Group 1-winning four-year-old Forbidden Love (All Too Hard) and her younger stablemate Tiger Of Malay (Extreme Choice) will represent the Richard and Michael Freedman stable when they step out in the Expressway Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday. Forbidden Love, winner of the Surround Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) last year, finished second to champion sprinter Nature Strip (Nicconi) in a trial last week, suggesting that she is ready to return to form after a fair spring. “She’s enjoyed the wet weather which keeps the tracks nice and soft for her,” Richard Freedman said. “She’s in as good nick as we’ve ever had her in, she looks great. She trialled well the other day and I think if she gets the breaks her way she’ll run a very good race.” Tiger Of Malay added the Up And Coming Stakes (Gr 3, 1300m) in the spring to his win in the BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) in the winter, but Freedman acknowledges it is another task entirely at weight-for-age against the older horses. “He’s come back in good order, but he’s got to go to that next level now,” he said. “It gets harder every preparation for these horses that are into their more mature three-year-old season and then they’ve got to get to their four-year-old season, which is a huge leap. But he’s in great condition and he never really runs a bad race.” 

 

Queen Of The Ball to sparkle in Widden

The Freedman stable will also be represented by Sir Owen Glenn’s homebred Queen Of The Ball (I Am Invincible) in the Widden Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m). The filly again crosses paths with Godolphin’s Ojai (Exceed And Excel), who narrowly beat her when both were having their first start in the Kirkham Plate (1000m) in October. “She actually performed above what we expected at her first start,” Richard Freedman said. “She makes another step up and she could be competitive. I think the form around her says she is right there with a chance.” Queen Of The Ball is the first foal out of Miss Debutante (Fastnet Rock), who carried Glenn’s yellow and white colours to victory in the Denise’s Joy Stakes (Listed, 1100m) in 2017.

 

Allen regains Marabi ride

Exciting mare Marabi (I Am Invincible) will have a familiar partner aboard on Saturday when she contests the Australia Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) at Moonee Valley. Ben Allen rode the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained mare to win her first four starts by a combined 22.5 lengths before Jamie Kah took over when she won her first stakes race, the Christmas Stakes (Listed, 1100m) on Boxing Day. However, Allen will be back in the saddle for Saturday’s feature, with victory earning her a ballot-exempt position in the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) in March. “He’s got a good rapport with Marabi and while weight restricts him a little, he’s a very good jockey,” Maher told Racing.com. “He’s good to work with from a stable point of view. He’s a good horseman and he provides you with good feedback and he’s a good rider, so it’s an excellent combination.” Maher believes Marabi can go to another level on Saturday. “It was a very good win last start and she’s ready for us to raise the bar again,” he said. “She won’t be out of her depth I wouldn’t think.”

 

Eduardo bound for classic Lightning clash

The Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) at Flemington next month is already shaping up as one of the races of 2022, a month in, with Eduardo (Host) set to lock horns with Nature Strip, Home Affairs (I Am Invincible), Gytrash (Lope De Vega), Profiteer (Capitalist) and potentially Masked Crusader (Toronado) in the feature, among others. Trainer Joe Pride confirmed that Eduardo would head back to his native Victoria for the Lightning after a strong Randwick trial win on Monday. “I’m very keen to get him to Melbourne,” Pride said. “I haven’t run him down the straight yet, so it’s something that’s a bit of an unknown for me. He’s had a couple of goes down there, one really good run in the Gilgai, a couple of failures before I got him. I think you could question how well he was going at the time, so I probably wouldn’t read too much into the fact he didn’t run well down the straight. It’ll be another great clash with Nature Strip I’m sure, he’s already had some great clashes with him, and I’d like to think this would be another of those. Let’s hope they both end up there.”

 

Gytrash to remain fresh

South Australian sprinter Gytrash will not only be trying to defeat Nature Strip in the Lightning – something he has achieved three times before – but he will be trying to reclaim his title, having won the race in 2020. That day, Nature Strip finished fourth. Co-trainer Gordon Richards confirmed yesterday that Gytrash would likely only have one run in Melbourne before returning to Adelaide to prepare for The Goodwood (Gr 1, 1200m), his hometown sprint in which he has placed the last two years. “He will go first up into the Lightning and probably won’t go to the Newmarket. We will just try to keep him fresh,” Richards told SEN. “Next up you would more than likely see him in The Goodwood and it will dictate from there where he goes.”

 

Head Of State’s racing future in doubt

Gloaming Stakes (Gr 3, 1800m) winner Head Of State (American Pharoah) may not race again after he failed to gain clearance from stewards to return this autumn. Head Of State was given a suspension by Racing NSW stewards after he suffered cardiac arrhythmia in the Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) in October – his second occurrence in 2021. Having undergone an electrocardiogram, ultrasound and troponin test, he trialled on January 13 in a bid to be granted the all-clear but did not pass due to an elevated heart rate. His second trial on Monday saw him again suffer cardiac arrhythmia and he must now undergo a series of further tests before Racing NSW’s chief veterinary officer Dr Toby Koenig reports back on any future requirements. 

 

Turk Warrior stays in Tasmania

Tasmanian star Turk Warrior (Outreach) will not be seen on the mainland until the spring after trainer Glenn Stevenson decided to remain in the Apple Isle with the three-year-old following his first defeat in the Tasmanian Guineas (Listed, 1600m). The Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) and the All-Star Mile were considered possible options for the gelding, who would have attempted to emulate Tasmanian filly Mystic Journey (Needs Further), winner of that same double in 2019. However, Stevenson is instead looking to the 3YO Classic (1200m) on Launceston Cup Day next month as a possible target instead. “He went up to the mile and overraced (in the Guineas),” Stevenson told Racing.com. “He hadn’t had a competitive gallop with another horse. I’m just going to run him here, there’s a 1200-metre race on Cup Day here. I’ve sent him to the grass for a week, he’s back, he’s good as gold. He’ll go around in the 1200m and he’ll be right and pretty hard to beat.” Stevenson said that the early spring shaped as the most likely time that Turk Warrior would grace Melbourne’s tracks.

 

In The Navy heads to David Coles Stakes

After a comfortable win at Gawler on Saturday, trainer Phillip Stokes has black type ambitions for In The Navy (Merchant Navy). Stokes also believes there is an ideal race on the calendar that would not only suit his filly, but would prove sentimental to owner Duncan Grimley. “I think she’ll be well placed in Adelaide,” he said. “Duncan Grimley is the main owner and he obviously worked under David Coles back in the day, that’s where he got his start, so it would be fitting for him to have a runner in the David Coles Stakes. She’ll probably head that way, via the Cinderella Stakes.” The David Coles AM Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m), formerly the National Stakes, was renamed in 2021 to recognise the late chairman of the South Australian Jockey Club.

 

Melbourne autumn carnival set for major reshuffle

Racing Victoria is currently examining a number of options to update the Melbourne autumn carnival as it looks to reinvigorate its program. Racing.com reports that, in addition to a likely switch of the Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) to follow the $5 million All-Star Mile (1600m), the William Reid Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at Moonee Valley is likely to return to a Saturday slot from its current Friday position. All three Melbourne clubs – the Victoria Racing Club,the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the Melbourne Racing Club – have expressed a desire to host the All-Star Mile permanently, but Racing Victoria general manager of racing Greg Carpenter says that is unlikely to happen in the near future. “Nothing stays the same forever. For me, one of the highlights and great aspects has been that it has rotated,” Carpenter said. “Each brings their unique style and brand to the race. I am totally unsurprised that all three metro clubs want permanent possession. It’s been a sensational success in its three years. I can understand why each of the clubs want to have it every year so they can continue to build and invest in it for their own club. We will see where that takes us over the next five years, but at the moment it is a unique aspect of the race that it rotates.”

 

Beaudesert transferred to Ipswich

Today’s meeting scheduled for Beaudesert has been moved to Ipswich after the track was deemed unsuitable for racing. Two patches on either side of the 1200-metre crossing on the main Beaudesert course have struggled to recover from a recent deluge of rain. Therefore, the meeting will now be staged at Ipswich, with two 2450-metre races set to be run at 2550 metres and one 1400-metre race reduced to 1350 metres. While owners will be allowed to attend the Ipswich meeting, no hospitality will be provided by the Ipswich Turf Club due to the late switch.