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Peters, Pike and a pair of Williams: an Inspirational partnership

Perth’s oldest Group 1 contest goes to same owner, jockey and trainers for third year in succession

Leading Western Australian owner-breeder Bob Peters, husband-wife training duo Grant and Alana Williams and popular rider William Pike combined yesterday to take Perth’s oldest Group 1 race, the Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), for the third straight year, with Inspirational Girl (Reliable Man) joining Regal Power (Pierro) and Galaxy Star (Redoute’s Choice) on the honour roll.


It was Peters’ fifth Railway Stakes win as an owner overall – having also scored with Old Comrade (Old Spice) in 2001 and Elite Belle (Canny Lad) in 2014 – but it was the first time he won not with a homebred but with a yearling purchase, having paid NZ$190,000 for the Reliable Man (Dalakhani) filly at the 2017 NZB Premier Yearling Sale at Karaka.


“It feels a bit the same because she’s really from one of our good families now,” Peters said. “Her dam is a sister to Midnight Special, who has been very good to us and who we raced. Now we’ve got the family growing with stakes winners and we’ve put a Group 1 in amongst it too. The family is building and it feels like she’s one of ours.


“This was a race that we found very hard to win early on. We won it in 2001, it took us 13 years to win it again but now we’ve got a bit of a handle on it.”


Sent out a dominant favourite after winning her last two starts, including the Asian Beau Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) at her first attempt in stakes company, Inspirational Girl (5 m Reliable Man – Be Inspired by Zabeel) was on the receiving end of a magnificent Pike masterpiece. The jockey received arguably the biggest on-course cheer at any racecourse, anywhere, since the Covid-19 pandemic brought regular life to a grinding, shuddering halt earlier this year.


The maverick rider returned to Perth for the Railway Stakes instead of riding Peters’ Arcadia Queen (Pierro) in the Mackinnon Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) at Flemington a fortnight ago, with the owner saying it was his decision: “I made it for him. I said you’ve got a lot more rides to have here than you would over there.”


Pike’s two-week quarantine experience on a farm in Beaufort River was given the fairytale ending thanks to a deft touch that demonstrated why he has earned his nickname, ‘The Wizard’.


Settling beyond midfield early in between runners as a solid tempo was set by the last non-Peters Railway winner, Great Shot (Magnus), Inspirational Girl tracked up steadily under Pike as the field bunched at the 600 metres.


Pike slowly sluiced his way between runners, making a pivotal move on the crest of the turn by waiting for the gaps to appear rather than forcing his way out wide. Appear they did as Inspirational Girl moved up effortlessly alongside Red Can Man (Gingerbread Man), setting sail after Warrnambool Cup (Listed, 2350m) winner Too Close The Sun (Carlton House), who had pinched a break.


It was only once the field reached the 150 metres that Pike was able to fully exploit a hands and heels drive on the mare, and once he did, she bounded up with great style. By the 100 metres, she was on terms with Too Close The Sun; by the 50 metres, she was racing clear for an emphatic win at her first attempt at the highest level.


At the line, the margin was just shy of two lengths.


In fact, the Asian Beau trifecta of Inspirational Girl, Too Close The Sun and Red Can Man finished first, second and fourth, with only longshot Uni Time (Universal Ruler) – fifth in the Asian Beau – upsetting that order with a terrific performance from last.


Peters paid tribute to his stable rider for keeping a cool head as the race developed around him.


“It’s important to have him on any horse,” Peters said. “I had a talk to him earlier and I said he’d be in the funnel, they will want to come from the outside and they will want to kick up on the inside. I said, provided you stay in the middle and you get a run through, you should be right.”


Bred by Jamieson Park, Inspirational Girl is one of two stakes winners for Zabeel (Sir Tristram) mare Be Inspired; she also produced Listed winner Ruettiger (Duporth).


Second dam Done That (Centaine) produced Naturalism Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) winner Rainbow Styling (Zabeel) and Birthday Card Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) heroine Zingaling (Redoute’s Choice), while another foal – Midnight Special (Zabeel) – was purchased by Peters as a yearling. In the breeding barn, Midnight Special has produced Neverland (Big Brown), a multiple stakes winner for Peters, as well as New Zealand Group 2 winner Demonetization (All Too Hard).


Be Inspired has one further foal after Inspirational Girl, an unraced filly named Brookspire (Hinchinbrook). Trained by Chris Waller in the colours of Brae Sokolski, the three-year-old filly finished second in a trial at Rosehill last week.


Inspirational Girl has had 11 starts for nine wins and two placings, taking her earnings to $896,625 with yesterday’s triumph.


Underrated Watch Me Dance takes Guineas

It was an Ascot raceday not lacking in stories, from a one-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) runner in Neufbosc (6 g Mastercraftsman – Nonsuch Way by Verglas) scoring a first Australian win in the Carbine Club of WA Stakes (Listed, 1400m), to the first stakes winner for 25-year-old trainer Luke Fernie with Miss Frost (5 m Frost Giant – Mega Me by Danewin) in the Jungle Mist Classic (Listed, 1200m).


However, the continued rise of Albany filly Watch Me Dance and her young sire I’m All The Talk (Stratum) in yesterday’s WA Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) provided perhaps the perfect sidekick to the Peters roadshow in the Railway Stakes.


The Steve Wolfe-trained Watch Me Dance (3 f I’m All The Talk – Coventry To Rio by Oratorio) became just the second horse since 1959 to win the WA Champion Fillies Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) and the WA Guineas double, joining subsequent three-time Group 1 winner Arcadia Queen, who won both races for Peters in 2018.


The filly is owned by 16 women in an all-female Magic Millions syndicate, many of them first-time owners. Purchased for $34,000 from Mungrup Stud’s draft at last year’s Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale, the filly has now earned $793,450 through 11 starts.


“This is what makes racing – it’s not those of us who are here every day and who work in the game,” Wolfe said. “It’s these owners, these girls. She’s made a lot of people very happy. It’s just wonderful. 


“A lot of them hated the game, now they can’t get here quick enough. As long as we can keep going, we’re all happy.”


Whatever Watch Me Dance lacks in pizzazz, she more than makes up for in heart, determination and tenacity. So it was as she returned off a seven-day lay-off, having scored an upset against the fillies on a heavy track last weekend, proving just as strong against the colts.


She had showed plenty of promise at two, winning the WA Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) and finishing second in the Karrakatta Plate (Gr 2, 1200m), but her emergence as a top-tier three-year-old over the last seven days has provided one of the great stories of 2020.


“I said it last week and I’ll say it again today, you just can’t put a price on these things. What a filly, she’s clearly the best three-year-old in the state – and we didn’t have to scratch one to get in here,” Wolfe said, referring to the Peters-owned Magical Dream (Dream Ahead) making way for first emergency and another Peters runner in fourth-placed Western Empire (Iffraaj).


“I was worried when Shaun (McGruddy) worked her on Wednesday that she might be too well, so we just had to get her here in one piece.”


Arcadia Queen capped her double by taking out the Kingston Town Classic (Gr 1, 1800m) two weeks later and it is likely that Watch Me Dance will follow the same path. The filly, who was at a triple-figure quote for the feature before her upset win last weekend, is now a $15 chance for the Kingston Town Classic with TAB.


It was a flagship day for second season sire I’m All The Talk, with the Darling View Thoroughbreds resident continuing to make a splash with his early runners. Watch Me Dance wore down roughie Em Tee Aye to give the stallion his first stakes quinella, with favourite Dom To Shoot (Shooting To Win) recording an eye-catching Kingston Town Classic (Gr 1, 1800m) trial, rattling home for third.


I’m All The Talk, who currently sits third on the second season sires ladder behind Kermadec (Teofilo) and Pride Of Dubai (Street Cry), stands for $7,700 (inc GST) at Darling View in 2020. 


Watch Me Dance is her family’s first stakes winner in three generations, with third dam Torment (Vengeance) producing Up And Coming Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) winner West End (Zephyr Bay).


Well back in the family are the likes of Adelaide Cup (Gr 2, 3200m) winner Surprise Baby (Shocking) and five-time Group 1 victor Bounty Hawk (Balmerino), who – amongst his haul – scored a success in what was then the Western Mail Classic. 


In fact, Bounty Hawk’s win came 12 months on from Kingston Town’s victory in the race in 1982 at what was his final start, with the race renamed for the champion in 2007.


Upset as Archedemus takes The Gong

Since Archedemus (7 g Lope De Vega – Carolyn’s Star by Peintre Celebre) had put together a pair of wins in mid-2019, defeating perennial bridesmaid Tom Melbourne (Dylan Thomas), he had – somewhat unfairly – received a similar label as a non-winner.


That perception was cast aside yesterday as the Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes-trained Archedemus produced a tough on-pace performance to take out the second running of the $1 million The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange.


Sent out at $18 having not won in ten starts since that Hawkesbury Cup (Gr 3, 1600m) – Members’ Handicap (Listed, 1600m) double, Archedemus was entering off a game front-running second in the Ladies Day Vase (Listed, 1600m) at Hawkesbury.


Throughout, Jay Ford aboard Archedemus applied pressure to Positive Peace (Stratum) and Tom Sherry, although the splits suggest that it wasn’t as fast a tempo as it appeared to the eye.


Entering the long Kembla straight, Positive Peace dropped away quickly leaving Archedemus at the head of affairs. However, looming large on the outside was favourite Dawn Passage (Dawn Approach), although his response when clicked up by Tim Clark was one of toil, not of acceleration.


As much as Archedemus kept lifting, it appeared that Dawn Passage would still get there and, for a half-stride, the four-year-old may even have levelled up. However, Archedemus kept finding for Ford and managed to cling on by a short neck over the Tulloch Lodge representative, with local Think It Over (So You Think) a length and a half away in third.


For Ford, it was only his second win in a million-dollar feature since the halcyon days of his association with the phenomenal Takeover Target (Celtic Swing). He also took out the Sydney Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) on Shraaoh (Sea The Stars) last year.


“The plan was to lead but when Positive Peace cleared out we just sat off,” Ford said. “I thought we went reasonably controlled and that’s why I turned it up from the 700 (metres) and I thought his best chance was if we could get a break on the field.


“He maintained his gallop all the way and was brave when Dawn Passage challenged him. A much-deserved win for the horse.”


Superhorse principal Ross Williams has had something of a fruitful spring since his horses joined the Hawkes yard, with Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Angel Of Truth (Animal Kingdom) returning to something near his best with another Group 1 placing in The Metropolitan (Gr 1, 2400m) and Archedemus taking out a million-dollar race at his former home track.


“Ross Williams gave me a call and asked if we’d take this horse on and Angel Of Truth and I said yes,” co-trainer Michael Hawkes said. “It was something we decided to do and to try to get both horses back to form.


“Angel Of Truth nearly won a Metrop and this bloke, well now he’s won a Gong so he is well and truly back to form.


“He is the kind of horse where you’ve got to go that half a length quicker than slower and just try and get his mental attitude right. Probably halfway out I was worried they were going a little bit too quick. 


“It was a very tenacious and gutsy effort and all credit to Jay and the horse, they’ve definitely come together on the right day.”


The big payday yesterday saw Archedemus join the ever-expanding list of Australian millionaire racehorses, with his earnings standing at $1,038,730, having won eight of his 21 starts.


Archedemus is one of five winners for Carolyn’s Star (Peintre Celebre), who has also produced the Group 3-placed Mandylion (Nicconi).


He traces back to the great Mapperley Heights (Sir Tristram), his third dam, while his fifth dam is the blue hen Wuthering Heights (Avocat General), who includes among her descendants top-liners like Battle Heights (Battle-Waggon), Weekend Hussler (Hussonet), Ad Alta (Kenfair), Viewed (Scenic) and Vosne Romanee (Electric Zone). 


Carolyn’s Star has an unnamed three-year-old filly by Adelaide (Galileo), while she produced a Pride Of Dubai (Street Cry) colt this season.


Irish Flame tough in Ballarat Cup win

For the second time this spring, a Zed (Zabeel) foal who began its career in New Zealand took home a Victorian feature yesterday after Irish Flame (6 g ex Fleur de l’Orient by Thunder Gulch) lifted the Ballarat Cup (Listed, 2000m) in a dramatic finish.


Hot on the heels of Verry Elleegant’s Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) triumph, the Brett Scott-trained Irish Flame prevailed in a blanket finish where just a half-length separated the first six across the line: Affair To Remember (Toronado), Game Keeper (Fastnet Rock), Harlem (Champs Elysees), Odeon (Zacinto) and Double You Tee (Written Tycoon) followed the winner, each separated by a half-head apiece.


It was just the second stakes winner for former champion jumps jockey Scott, following on from the 2015 Tesio Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) victory of Coronation Shallan (Strategic).


The Mornington trainer is better known for his feats in the saddle and while injury brought his career to a halt in 2008, it was thanks to his former partner in crime, Kiwi trainer John Wheeler, that he came to train former New Zealander Irish Flame.


“John Wheeler had him in New Zealand as a yearling,” Scott said. “He was a handy horse. He was in the Derby but wasn’t good enough already. Since he’s been in Melbourne every race has been good. He’s improved with every run and he’s a good, tough stayer.”


Just 48 hours earlier, the prospect of Irish Flame lining up in the Cup seemed remote. The six-year-old was first emergency when the field was drawn earlier this week and only gained a start after Power Scheme (Fiorente) was rerouted to the Kilmore Cup (Listed, 1600m). Still, even after he had cleared that hurdle, he was faced with the outside gate in the 16-horse field and he endured a wide passage throughout.


“He had a wide gate and he didn’t get any favours in the run,” Scott said. “It was a good solid tempo but he didn’t get any favours in the run. He was three-deep without cover for pretty much the whole trip.


“He came off the bridle just before the corner and I thought we might be in a bit of trouble but he hung tough.”


Rider Michael Walker, also picking up his first Ballarat Cup, added: “He got to the front today and he was going to win by three (lengths) but he pulls up when he hits the front. I was lucky that they got to me a long way before the post and he kicked again.


“The horse had a hard run but I wasn’t worried because they only went steady so I was happy where I was. If he found the line, he had three lengths on them but he just won’t run away from them. I got there too early but he fought on.”


It had been a long time between drinks for Irish Flame, at least at stakes level. While he had put together eight wins before yesterday’s Ballarat Cup victory took his total to nine, including wins in restricted company during the Cox Plate Carnival and Melbourne Cup Carnival, he had not registered a stakes victory since his second outing, when he won the Taranaki 2YO Classic (Gr 3, 1200m) in February, 2017.


To this day, he remains the only son or daughter of Zed to win as a two-year-old, let alone win a Group race.


It was the culmination of a long journey for Walker and Scott, with the 25-time Group 1-winning jockey saying it was his compatriot who taught him the ropes. 


“Brett Scott actually taught me how to ride,” Walker said. “He was the foreman at the stable that I very first went to. The owners, all the people in Hawera, I need to thank them for the opportunity to stay on a remarkable horse.”


Bred and raced by two couples, the Kemps and the Reids, Irish Flame remains the only black-type winner for two-time Australian winner Fleur de l’Orient (Thunder Gulch). Two other foals, Langridge Street (Elvstroem) and Volcanic Sky (Nadeem), have been Listed performers.


Fleur de l’Orient is a daughter of Fleur De Chine (Centaine), who also won the Taranaki 2YO Classic that her grandson Irish Flame would take out 21 years later. However, it is in the breeding barn that she has had her greatest impact.


Among her progeny is a full-sister to Fleur de l’Orient, Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m) heroine Tully Thunder (Thunder Gulch), whose daughter Lipari (Redoute’s Choice) is the dam of Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Levendi (Pierro) and Group 3 victors Wu Gok (Sebring) and Marcel From Madrid (Sepoy).


Fleur De Chine also produced Group 1-placed Fleur De’here (Dehere) and stakes winner Sufficient (Zabeel), while another daughter, Thunderchine (Thunder Gulch), produced Wakeful Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) winner and two-time Group 1 placegetter Thunder Lady (Mastercraftsman). 


The family also includes American Grade 1 winner Black Mamba (Black Minnaloushe), another Australian Derby hero in Roman Emperor (Montjeu) as well as top Hong Kong miler Glorious Days (Hussonet).


Yesterday’s win took Irish Flame’s record to nine wins from 39 starts with earnings of $689,412.


It also took Zed to tenth on the Australian general sires table, quite remarkable given he has only had 12 runners in the country since August 1 for three winners – Verry Elleegant, Irish Flame and Zedaqua – as well as Group 3-placed Herengawe.


Zed, who was once more prolific as a stallion serving Clydesdales, stands at Grangewilliam Stud for NZ$6,000 (plus GST) in 2020.