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Kiwi raider Orchestral out to hit right note in Vinery

NZ Derby winner will attempt to give connections back-to-back wins in Rosehill feature following success of Prowess  

The anticipation over Australia’s first look at exciting New Zealand filly Orchestral (Savabeel) comes to a head on Saturday, with her trainers hopeful she will take the next step in an awesome campaign and bring them back-to-back victories in Rosehill’s Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m).

But while the market has framed it as a two-horse race – with Orchestral dominant at around $1.60 ahead of the $4.80 for Godolphin’s Zardozi (Kingman) – co-trainer Robert Wellwood has warned danger could come from a number of rivals.

Perhaps with Orchestral scaring rivals away, nominations had to be extended until Tuesday for the $750,000 three-year-old fillies’ event, which ultimately drew just a ten-runner field.

While most focus has been on Orchestral and Zardozi, Gary Portelli is confident the ultra-consistent Kimochi (Brave Smash) will comfortably handle her first try at 2000 metres, while the Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman-trained filly Autumn Angel (The Autumn Sun) has already won over the distance, beating dual Group 1 winner Tropical Squall (Prized Icon) by 0.5 lengths in Caulfield’s Ethereal Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) last spring. That pair are around $9.50 and $7 respectively as they strive to become their sires’ first top-tier winner.

Wellwood and co-trainer Roger James won the Vinery last year with another formidable trans-Tasman raider Prowess (Proisir), who started at $2.15 and streaked home by 3.3 lengths. That mare, incidentally, might not yet have run her last race, contrary to initial intentions to retire her when she was diagnosed with laminitis in December.

But while Wellwood is backing Orchestral to make it five wins in a row, following her 3.8 length demolition of the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) field on March 2, he’s ignoring market sentiment that the filly is virtually unbeatable.

He’s also citing the fates of favourites Storm Boy (Justify) and Switzerland (Snitzel) when third and eighth in another Rosehill feature a week ago as a reminder an upset could come from anywhere.

“Zardozi’s the obvious danger,” Wellwood told ANZ Bloodstock News. “She looks very good. Her last start in particular was dominant and in the spring she was dominant.

“She’s going to take a heck of a lot of beating. But we only have to look back on the Golden Slipper last week to know it’s never a two-horse race. There’s a number of horses in there who look like they could do a job.”

That said, Wellwood believes it’s more than a great reassurance that Orchestral is proving the real deal that he and James gambled on her becoming when they paid $625,000 for her at Karaka two years ago.

The Barneswood Farm-bred first foal of the four-time winning, Group 3-placed Symphonic (O’Reilly), Orchestral was the second-last of 636 lots at the auction, and became the seventh-top lot of the sale.

“She was a cracking type, with a great pedigree,” Wellwood said. “That Savabeel-O’Reilly cross has been so good, but we just fell in love with the individual really.

“We had to wait the whole sale for her. It was nerve-wracking, waiting to find out if we’d get her or not, but fortunately we did, and she’s lived up to expectations.”

Orchestral flew home for a 0.1 length second in a 1200-metre Avondale two-year-old fillies’ race on debut last April.

“We thought she might be a bit above average then, and from there she’s just continued to get better and better as she gets bigger and stronger,” Wellwood said.

Still, a 1.8 length maiden win second-up in May was followed – after a spell – by a blot on the copybook in September, again at Hastings, when she finished tenth of 13, upped into Group 3 company.

“We’re still scratching our heads as to what happened that day,” Wellwood said. “Thankfully, we had the support of her owners – Colin and Helen Litt – to back her off for a couple of months, and that’s probably been the making of her season, just giving her that bit more time.”

Orchestral reappeared in December for a 0.1 length second in the Pukekoe’s Bonecrusher Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m), after which has come the picket fence in four increasingly difficult – and increasingly breathtaking – three-year-old events.

After her 2.5 length stroll over 1600 metres at Pukekohe on New Year’s Day, Saturday’s rider James McDonald flew in to sit and steer in a 3.5 length victory in the rich Karaka Million 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m).

She then stepped up 500 metres to win the Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m) by 4 lengths, before going to Ellerslie as a $1.30 Derby favourite, sitting three and four wide near the back from the 1000 metres, and eight-wide around the turn, before powering clear in the last 200 metres for a memorable triumph.

“The Karaka Millions really stood out, because that’s always such a great field, and the way she won was very good against some highquality horses,” Wellwood said. “But the way she won the Derby was very impressive. She did it the hard way and still won dominantly.”

Wellwood said the timing for Saturday’s future-broodmare maker was ideal, not just for Orchestral’s 400-metre drop back to 2000 metres, but for New Zealand raiders in general, like Prowess a year ago.

“It’s been a positive in the fact we’ve had four weeks since the Derby,” said Wellwood, who arrived with Orchestral at John Thompson’s Randwick stable on Tuesday night.

“We gave her a week on the water treadmill after the Derby to freshen her up a bit, and she hasn’t had to do a lot of galloping to be ready for the Vinery.

“To win it two years in a row would be very exciting. It’s a race that works in very well with our program, and this is exactly the horse we try to buy. A mile-and-further horses are the ones that, not only do we enjoy training them, but we as Kiwis can come across here and be really competitive with them.”

Wellwood said he was content to let McDonald find a key position from barrier two, and had no fears about a possible lack of pace in the smallish field.

“She can be a little bit tardy out of the gates, which isn’t ideal when you’re drawn low,” he said. “Let’s hope James can get her out of the gates, like he did in the Karaka Millions, but it’s only a small field, so I’m not too worried about it.

“There might not be a lot of pace in the race, but that’s OK. If there’s pace in the race, she’ll finish off strongly. But as we saw in the Karaka Millions, she can sprint off a normal pace too.”

Zardozi, bred by Godolphin on a southern hemisphere-timed mating with Kingman (Invincible Spirit) following their 1.3 million guineas purchase of her unraced dam Chanderi (Dubawi), was ultra-impressive in winning Rosehill’s Phar Lap Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m) two weeks ago when second-up from a spell.

She blew from $9.50 to $13 that day, after a first-up 11th in the Surround Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), with most assuming the 1500 metres would be too short for a filly so impressive in taking the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) by 2.3 lengths in November.

Orchestral will likely feature in other autumn Group 1s after Saturday’s race, with Wellwood saying she is nominated for the ATC Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) and Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m), and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m).

Godolphin trainer James Cummings – who in fact does see the Vinery as a match-race – said more will be known of Zardozi’s immediate targets after Saturday.

“This race is what everyone wants to see: two queen fillies meeting. We don’t get to see races like this too often these days,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald this week.

“This is a day we have been working towards since she [Zardozi] came back, and will decide what is next after Saturday. Because she is such a good filly, we could go in a number of different ways. We will get a good test of where she is, because at 2000 metres and beyond is where she excels.”

Portelli has warned punters not to overlook Kimochi, who has Rachel King taking over from the suspended Zac Lloyd.

A $21,000 weanling purchase for expat Hong Kong breeder – and bubble tea entrepreneur – Leo To, Kimochi pushed her earnings to seven figures when she pushed on for close third two weeks ago in Zougotcha’s (Zoustar) Coolmore Classic (Gr 1, 1500m), after travelling wide without cover and looking like fading early in the straight.

A vast improvement on her previous-start seventh in the Surround Stakes, which was her only unplaced run in her 12 starts, it was Kimochi’s third top-level placing following seconds in last spring’s ATC Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and MRC Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

“This is her first go past 1600 metres and it’s a big step up in distance from the Coolmore,” Portelli told ANZ Bloodstock News. “But both her jockeys got off her after those 1600metre seconds and said they wished it had been 2000 metres.

“So I’m hopeful she won’t have a trouble with the distance. It’s not a big field, so there mightn’t be much pace on. Hopefully Rachel can get a nice smother, but I’d also be quite OK with her leading at a controlled tempo.

“One thing you know about this filly, as we saw when she kept coming in the Coolmore, is she never, ever, gives up.”

Portelli said the addition of a bit lifter had brought the desired effect for Kimochi in the Coolmore, after suspicions her Surround failure was caused by her getting her tongue over the bit.

Chris Waller hinted a longer-priced threat to the top pair could come from another filly carrying the Group 1 hopes of The Autumn Sun (Redoute’s Choice), Tutta La Vita ($16).

Though she only has a Rosehill winter two-year-old handicap win to her name after nine starts, Tutta La Vita was an eye-catching first-up third in the Surround at $101, before a 2.5 length seventh in the Kembla Grange Classic (Gr 3, 1600m).

“She was a bit plain at Kembla, but I’m not too concerned about that,” Waller said on social media. “She went very well first-up, was maybe a little flat second-up, but she’ll improve stepping up to the 2000 metres.”

Meanwhile, Wellwood said there was renewed hope Prowess may race again, after the appearance of laminitis had brought an announcement of her retirement in December, following a 12-start, $1.5 million career.

“That was the news when it first happened, that she would retire,” he said. “But things have been very positive with the vets and farriers lately. The more they’ve gone into it the more positive they’ve been that she might perhaps race again.

“But there’s been no decision yet, and there won’t be for some time.”


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