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Orchestral on song as she lands Vinery 

NZ Derby winner draws comparisons to Anamoe after Rosehill success on Australian debut  

James McDonald compared Orchestral (Savabeel) to the champion Anamoe (Street Boss) after New Zealand’s latest female superstar was crowned the trans-Tasman queen of racing on taking the Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) in her Australian debut on Saturday.

She was given a major scare by another bold move from Nash Rawiller on board Tutta La Vita (The Autumn Sun), but Orchestral still stretched her winning streak to the past five of her nine starts, after dropping in distance following her first top-tier success in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) on March 2.

The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained filly was made to show all of her star quality as Sydney’s most canny horseback tactician, the 49-year-old Rawiller, almost stole the show in Rosehill’s three-year-old fillies’ feature.

While the renowned broodmare-maker was billed as a battle between the Kiwi $1.60 favourite and Godolphin’s VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) winner and second-elect Zardozi (Kingman), rival trainer Chris Waller had warned on Friday to expect improvement from Tutta La Vita in her third run of the preparation.

Thanks to Rawiller – and after firming from $13 to $11 – the twice Group 1-placed filly very nearly broke through for what would have been a first top-tier success for Arrowfield’s The Autumn Sun (Redoute’s Choice).

Not happy with the slow pace set by Rachel King nursing Kimochi (Brave Smash) through the filly’s first race over further than 1600 metres, Rawiller, settling third while Orchestral sat fourth with Zardozi behind her, took off three-wide around the front pair to grab the lead at the 700 metres.

He shot Tutta La Vita to a three-length break on straightening, and as McDonald and Tom Marquand roused Orchestral and Zardozi behind him, Rawiller still held a two-length advantage at the 200 metres.

But while slightly slow to pick up initially, after a switch of the whip from McDonald’s right to his left hand, Orchestral gritted her teeth to charge past Tutta La Vita in the last 50 metres and score by 0.7 lengths. Zardozi took third a further 0.7 lengths away.

Wellwood reflected on an “amazing” feeling as he and James celebrated back-to-back wins in the Vinery, after that of Prowess (Proisir) last year. Not only that, 55 minutes later at Flemington, where James was in attendance, the stable had Mark Twain (Shocking) book a Melbourne Cup spot by winning the Roy Higgins Quality (Listed, 2600m).

“My heart-rate is still coming down. It was a bit of a fright there,” Wellwood said of the Vinery. “She [Tutta La Vita] took off and got a real break on us. Orchestral had to fight really hard to win but class prevailed.

“It’s amazing, we’ve got to thank the team back home. Everyone puts in so much work. We’re a small stable from New Zealand and these results are incredible.”

Wellwood said Orchestral’s condition on Sunday would help dictate in which race she would step back up in distance: next Saturday’s Australian Derby (Gr 1 2400m), or the following week’s ATC Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m). After Saturday’s win she was a $1.80 favourite for the latter ahead of Zardozi at $4, and a $4.50 second-elect for the former, behind Riff Rocket (American Pharoah) at $2.80.

“We’re going to trot her up tomorrow, talk to the connections and make a decision after that,” he said.

“It was a great effort coming back from a Derby to now win a 2000-metre race here. She’s a Group 1 winner on both sides of the Tasman now, so it’s very thrilling for some really good owners. It’s amazing to win the race two years in a row.”

After his 92nd top-level success, McDonald made no bones about the fact he considered Orchestral – whom he partnered to win the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m) three starts previously – a special racehorse. In fact he drew a comparison with nine-time Group 1 winner Anamoe.

“The first time I ever sat on her, I was, ‘Right, good filly’,” he said. “But when I hopped off her I thought, ‘There’s something damned, damned good about this thing’,” McDonald said.

“And I haven’t had this much confidence going into a race since I was riding Anamoe, when I knew he was just unbeatable. I thought she was unbeatable today. I thought she would win a little bit easier but she was a little bit ring rusty.

“She had to have all the quality. She was out on her feet. She’s just very good.

“She took the last bend a little bit awkwardly. Fast ground, she had to really dig deep and it wasn’t to our liking, and the slowly run race wasn’t really to our liking. Stepping up in trip is just going to be perfect for her.”

McDonald said he’d been waiting for Rawiller to play his hand.

“I knew two days ago – Nash booked on Tutta La Vita – something is going to happen. It was just a matter of when, and just being alert to it,” said McDonald, who exchanged some friendly banter with Rawiller after the post.

“I would have preferred to sit and not have to chase that far away but it shows how tough she [Orchestral] is.

“She had to do all the donkey work to chase her, which is not that easy to do, she cornered not that well and then she was sitting duck. So for her to fight like that was incredible. She pulled up having a bit of a blow so she’ll improve.”

Rawiller said Tutta La Vita had turned in a “wonderful effort” and “nearly stole it”, while Marquand said Zardozi had run well but “would have loved a bit more pace”.

The Barneswood Farm-bred Orchestral (3 f Savabeel – Symphonic by O’Reilly) is the first foal of the four-time winning, Group 3-placed Symphonic (O’Reilly). She was the seventh-top lot at Karaka 2022 when bought by James and Wellwood for $625,000 from the draft of Haunui Farm, who also consigned yesterday’s winner of the two-year-old Baillieu (Gr 3, 1400m) in Linebacker (Super Seth).

The Hong Kong Jockey Club paid $310,000 for Orchestral’s yearling brother at Karaka this year, while a sister was born last August, before the mating was repeated again.

Orchestral’s win was the second Group success at Rosehill on Saturday for Waikato Stud’s champion sire Savabeel (Zabeel), after Wymark took the Tulloch Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) to become his sire’s 143rd stakes winner, at an 11 per cent stakes-winners-to-runners ratio.

Olentia returns to winning ways in Emancipation Stakes

Star Thoroughbreds’ four-year-old mare Olentia (Zoustar) righted her copybook by producing what her trainer Chris Waller said was an “unplanned” win in Saturday’s Emancipation Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m) at Rosehill.

Much had been expected of Olentia after her $310,000 Gold Coast purchase was followed by five wins in her first six starts to last August, capped by a victory in Randwick’s James Carr Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) on a Heavy 8.

Champion trainer Waller had understandably declared her “a very, very good horse” after that first-up win in August, but then followed an unfulfilled spring highlighted by a Group 2 fifth.

Olentia resumed on February 17 with a narrow and unlucky second in Randwick’s Triscay Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) but, after five weeks between runs, the jury retired again last Saturday following her modest fourth as $2.80 favourite in the Birthday Card Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m).

Waller might have opted for another gap between races but instead backed her straight up, pushed her beyond 1400 metres for the first time, and was rewarded with a second Group win for the mare, this time as a $6.50 chance.

“Today wasn’t the plan. Today was an afterthought after she was disappointing last week,” Waller said. “We could see from her form that she either needed wet tracks, or further. So we’ve put her up over 1500 metres today.

“She’s been a bit of a, I wouldn’t say disappointment, but I know last week she got beaten as favourite. I think it’s just taken us a while to get her worked out.

“She should have won first-up, she didn’t. Second-up we kept her to 1200 metres but I think she was looking for further last start.

“Today she stepped out to 1500 metres. She showed ability this time last year, she won a Group race as a three-year-old filly and then I think she had a little injury which held her back for the spring. She’s back on track.”

Waller said a loftier target over a similar trip – Randwick’s $1 million Queen Of The Turf Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) on April 13 – was now amongst the recalibrated plans for Olentia.

Winning rider Tommy Berry, buoyed by completing a three-race treble, took the wrap for Olentia’s first-up second, when she came from well back along a chequered inside line, and said order had now hopefully been restored for the mare.

“I owed [syndicator] Denise [Martin] and connections and Chris one, and I’m glad we were able to do it today. She deserves more success than what she’s been given so far,” Berry said.

“She’s on the improve and it just shows you what a trainer Chris is, because I always thought she was better fresh. You see her record first-up and everything like that, and then he goes, ‘Nah, I’ll back her up’. And she backs up and wins like that.

“Obviously she enjoyed getting up in distance as well.”

Berry afforded Olentia an ideal run in sixth of 12, one off the fence, and she presented in the straight to cruise to a 2.6 length win over Listed scorer Arctic Glamour (Frosted), with last year’s Robert Sangster Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Ruthless Dame (Tavistock) a close-up third. The $3 favourite Makarena (Snitzel) ran an unlucky fourth.

Olentia became the 13th Australian stakes winner of the season for Widden Stud flagbearer Zoustar (Northern Meteor).

At 1500 metres, she also drifted into the stallion’s outlier territory. His progeny have recorded 82 stakes wins worldwide at up to 1400 metres, but only eight between that and 1600 metres.

Olentia (4 f Zoustar – Mabkhara by Anabaa) is the eighth foal out of Mabkhara (Anabaa), a two-time winner over 1300 metres who threw two other, sprinting, stakes winners: Malkovich (Choisir), who’s won two Listed races over 1000 and 1100 metres, and Wandabaa (Wandjina), who took Newcastle’s Newmarket Handicap (Gr 3, 1400m) in 2022.

After missing in 2021, Mabkhara died last spring at 17, four days after foaling an I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit) filly.

Baillieu victory puts Linebacker in Champagne picture

Highly rated colt Linebacker (Super Seth) became his debutant sire’s first stakes winner and surged in the betting for the Champagne Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) with a fighting win in Saturday’s Baillieu (Gr 3, 1400m) at Rosehill.

But while the John O’Shea-trained second-starter maintained an unbeaten record following a go-to-whoa 3.9 length win at Hawkesbury last month, it was no stroll in the park, as he and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Anode (I Am Invincible) staged a titanic battle for most of the home straight.

Just as Anode’s stablemate Serpentine (Galileo) had fought back when headed to win the Neville Sellwood Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) earlier on the card, the colt also showed lashings of his stable’s renowned front-running thirst for battle.

Having not qualified amongst Tulloch Lodge’s seven Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) entrants last week, Pago Pago Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) runner-up Anode found strong support for this mission, but was still second-favourite at $3.90 while Linebacker firmed to $1.85.

Tommy Berry settled Linebacker behind Anode and Adam Hyeronimus as that pair set a moderate pace, the former enjoying a three-kilogram weight advantage over the latter under the quality handicap conditions.

And while he looked likely to go ahead from early in the straight, as the two slugged it out over the last 200 metres under heady riding, Linebacker needed everything he had to overcome Anode by 0.1 lengths.

Bookmakers responded by shortening Linebacker to a $4 second-favourite for the $1 million Champagne Stakes, the final leg of Sydney’s juvenile Triple Crown, at Randwick on April 20. Storm Boy (Justify) holds favouritism at $2.80, while Golden Slipper winner Lady Of Camelot (Written Tycoon) is at $8.

Linebacker, who seems set to defy his relatively cheap price tag of $160,000 from Haunui Farm’s draft at Karaka, earned praise from O’Shea for overcoming a rail-and-leader friendly Rosehill despite his inexperience. With the fence out six metres, the first two races went to leaders, as very nearly did the third.

“It was a good challenge for him today because he lacked a bit of ringcraft. It was something new for him to chase one,” O’Shea said.

“It’s hard to make up ground off the fence today, so it was a new string to his bow but he’s a quality animal and he’ll learn from that.

“We will look forward to the next couple of weeks.”

Describing Linebacker as “a star in the making”, O’Shea said he was not tempted to back him up in next Saturday’s Triple Crown middle leg, the Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) at Randwick, saying he was “really keen to get him to a mile where he gets control” in the Champagne.

“We’ll see what the next few weeks bring, but that will help him today no end and we’ll get him to the Champagne in three weeks and see what it brings,” O’Shea said.

“We just want those other fellas to beat each other up next week and have a hard run, get into the trenches and we’ll just come up to the Champagne with fresh legs and a nice young colt on the way up.

“He’s a real horse. The day where he can run along on speed, he’ll run a mile, a mile-and-a-quarter down the track.

“It was a big challenge for him today to come out of maiden grade at Hawkesbury and come here for a Group 3. We had to ride him a bit differently, so there was plenty for him to learn.

“He did a great job, he wants to be a racehorse, he wants to win, he wants to stick his neck out and Tom gave him a beautiful ride and taught him plenty. He’s got a very bright future.”

Berry, who took over Linebacker from the injured Kerrin McEvoy, said the colt gave him “a great feel”.

“I think there was a lot of merit in his performance today. He wasn’t comfortable with the speed. I don’t know if it’s because he’s got such a big stride on him but the speed didn’t feel that genuine to me and he just wanted to get along at his own tempo,” the winning rider said.

“He’s much better than what you’ve seen today. He’s had a very good blow, he’s had a good time between runs, so I’m not worried about the margin, I just know what he’s got under the bonnet.”

Owned by regular O’Shea clients including Frank Cook and Ron Finemore, Linebacker (2 c  Super Seth – Garden of Swans by Oasis Dream) became the first black-type winner for Waikato Stud’s Super Seth (Dundeel), who’s also been represented by New Zealand Group 2 and Group 3 placed Poetic Champion. Standing for $35,000, the Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m)-winning Super Seth has four winners from 14 runners overall, two on each side of the Tasman.

Bred by the GSA Bloodstock concern of Jonathan Munz – who raced Super Seth  – Linebacker is the third and best foal of the unraced British mare Garden Of Swans (Oasis Dream), a half-sister to Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 2f) winner Mukhadram (Shamardal).

O’Shea paid $80,000 for a brother from Bhima Thoroughbreds’ draft at the Magic Millions Gold Coast sale this year. Bought by Dean Hawthorne Bloodstock for £160,000 at the Tattersalls December Mares Sales in 2017, Garden Of Swans has a filly foal by Super Seth’s sire Dundeel (High Chaparral) at foot, but missed to Dundeel last spring.

Berry sent best wishes to McEvoy, who was injured in a fall last Saturday.

“He sits in my corner at the races on Saturday, so it’s pretty lonely down in our corner so hurry up and get back, Mac,” he said. “But he was great this morning. He gave me a call and told me all I needed to know about the horse while he was eating a burger as I was sitting in a bath losing weight. So he’s going all right.”

Hyeronomis said Anode had “probably deserved to win” considering his effort under his 58.5 kilograms.

“He has gone fantastic again. He’s done all the work and carried the big weight. Disappointed just to get beat a narrow margin,” he said.

Cascadian crashes the party to defend Cup title

Godolphin’s remarkable gelding Cascadian (New Approach) crashed the match-race party, took his fourth Group 1 and sent his earnings into eight figures by claiming his second straight Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) at Flemington yesterday.

In the same race that brought one of the great match-race spoilers of all time – Dandy Andy’s (Three Legs) 125-1 win over Vo Rogue (Ivor Prince) and Bonecrusher (Pag-Asa) in 1988 – Cascadian produced something similar, if not at the same odds, to take the event’s memorable 162nd edition.

The crowd had come to see Mr Brightside (Bullbars) versus Pride Of Jenni (Pride Of Dubai), as the pair squared up in a third time in seven weeks, after he’d collared her in the Orr Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) and she’d led him home in the All-Star Mile (1600m).

Attempting a first win beyond 1600 metres, Pride Of Jenni and Declan Bates sought to repeat their Caulfield heroics with a fierce pace and a sizeable gap up front.

And with Mr Brightside shaming himself with a fading and distant fifth, she would’ve gotten away with it – to borrow a line – were it not for a pesky nine-year-old.

Cascadian had been a strong-finishing third behind the other two in the All-Star Mile, and that hadn’t escaped the notice of the punters who backed him from $11 to $9.50 for Saturday’s $3 million contest.

Pride Of Jenni garnered more support, from $4 to start $3.60, while Mr Brightside, Lyndsay Park’s six-year-old who’d been declared the best horse in the land only two starts ago, eased from $2.50 to $3.10.

Jumping from gate seven of nine, Bates waited till the 1400 metres to take the front on Pride Of Jenni, then the pair set their familiar frenetic speed, with five straight furlongs in the 11-second range to the 400 metres, during which she was five lengths clear throughout.

Craig Williams, chastised for being too far back on Mr Brightside in the All-Star Mile, this time had the gelding second and third on the fence. His was the daunting task of leading the field to Ciaron Maher’s flying mare in the straight and – to the horror of his legion of backers – the favourite performed it woefully. Last year’s millimetre-close runner-up in the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m), having his first attempt to close out a 2000-metre trip up the searching Flemington straight, threw in the towel by the 350 metres and was beaten 4.8 lengths.

Chris Waller’s mare Atishu (Savabeel) swept past him and set upon Pride Of Jenni’s still gaping five-length lead. It was just three lengths at the 200 metres, but Atishu’s challenge then subsided, and it was the white-faced chestnut Cascadian – unleashing a weaving, inside run from last on the turn – who glided past.

He met brave Pride Of Jenni at the 25-metre mark, and ridden out by Ben Melham had just too much power for the mare at the end, taking the great race by 0.3 lengths.

Thanks to Pride Of Jenni, the time on a Good 3 track came breathtakingly close to the magical two-minute barrier, and at 2:00.05 was the fastest in this race since the legendary Makybe Diva (Desert King) set essentially a world turf record of 1:58.73 in 2005, thanks to another tearaway-leading mare that year in Niagara Falls (Danehill).

In bettering his time on a Good 4 last year by 1.38 seconds, when he won as a $4 favourite, Cascadian’s $1.8 million cheque took his earnings to $10.46 million, which has him second in Godolphin Australia’s Hall of Fame behind Anamoe’s $11.12 million.

Bred by Darley in Britain, Cascadian (9 g New Approach – Falls of Lora by Street Cry)  is the first foal and one of three stakes winners – and two Group 1 scorers – so far for 2012 UAE Oaks (Gr 3, 1900m) winners Falls Of Lora (Street Cry). She subsequently threw Albahr (Dubawi), who won three times in England before going to Canada to take Woodbine’s Summer Stakes (Gr 1, 8f) in 2021.

Cascadian was imported to Australia in 2019 after winning three of his first six starts in France. Not just regarded as nine by southern time, he turned nine biologically four days before this fourth top-level triumph.

“He carries on like a young horse and he’s still got so much racing in him,” said Godolphin’s Melbourne foreman Nacim Dilmi. “He is easy to do anything with. He has been really fresh the last few days and we had to keep him as calm as possible.

“When we saddled him up and did the girth, he grabbed hold of the strapper’s arm and wouldn’t let go. We knew he was on-song today.

“We knew tactics were going to be tricky obviously with Pride Of Jenni over the 2000 metres, and Declan rode a great race.

“The tempo suited [Cascadian] perfectly. When they came up to the top of the straight and he was travelling, we knew he was going to give it a good shake. Once he peeled out and Ben Melham timed it perfectly, it was great.

“Back-to-back, it is unreal.”

Celebrating his 21st Group 1 win and second straight Australian Cup, Melham said he’d been extremely confident this was no two-horse affair.

“If you could ever declare a horse on the way to the barrier, this is him,” he said. “He couldn’t have been in better order, which gave me the confidence to ride him like I wanted to.

“He loves pinching runs and sneaking around the place. He’s just too good for them. To see horses his age still beating the best horses in the land at this trip is phenomenal.”

Atishu held on for third, two lengths behind the winner, ahead of another seemingly ageless warrior, the eight-year-old Vow And Declare (Declaration Of War). Highly rated New Zealand raider Legarto (Proisir) was sixth at $8.

Bates said Pride Of Jenni had run “super as usual” in her second try at the distance, after a fading eighth in Randwick’s JRA Plate (Gr 3, 2000m) last April on a Heavy 8.

“Just over that distance I would have liked to have come back a bit more. She’s used to doing her usual thing, so we worked with her as best we could,” he said. “Next year she will be even better over this distance.”

Blake Shinn said Atishu had run “really, really well”, but conceded the race tempo “took the turn of foot out of her” late on.

Williams mounted a defence of Mr Brightside, which at the same time conceded his mount wasn’t up to the task at hand.

“He tried his heart out. I’m pretty sure that this race will have been run at a pretty quick tempo to compare with all the other times in ten furlong Group 1 races, so sometimes some horses can appreciate and endure that. The winner did, Atishu did. My horse was closest to Pride Of Jenni in the run,” he said.

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