Racing News

Shaquero Slipper-bound as Waller claims first 2YO Classic

Chris Waller will plot a path to the Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) with Shaquero (2 c Shalaa – Fimatino by Not A Single Doubt) after the exciting juvenile took out the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (RL, 1200m) in dominant style at the Gold Coast yesterday. 

Breaking from barrier one, connections of Shaquero never had a moment’s worry as the colt stalked the leaders rounding the turn before powering clear emphatically down the straight to provide Chris Waller with his first win in the 2YO Classic.

Ridden by Hugh Bowman, $13 chance Shaquero put one-and-a-quarter lengths between himself and runner-up Alpine Edge (Better Than Ready), with the winner’s stablemate She’s All Class (I Am Invincible) a further one-and-a-quarter lengths behind in third. 

Shaquero showed an abundance of promise when bursting onto the scene in October to land the Breeders’ Plate (Gr 3, 1000m) on debut at Randwick. 

He then disappointed when finishing seventh of eight in the B J Mclachlan Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) on Boxing Day, before posting a second-placed effort behind Finance Tycoon (Written Tycoon) in the Aquis Gold Nugget (1100m) last weekend. 

Paul Shailer, representing the stable at the Gold Coast with Waller prevented from travelling due to border restrictions, was rapt with the performance of Shaquero. 

“It was his first time in behind horses and he really appreciated a nice hot tempo,” Shailer told Sky Racing. “We got to get into a really nice rhythm. 

“He learned at the right time of the race and he showed a really explosive turn of foot. That was probably the Shaquero that won the Breeders. 

“He’s a classy colt and he’s very athletic and a really good type to go with it. 

“I’m very happy for Chris, Neville (Morgan, co-owner) and Dave (Devine, co-owner) and everyone involved, all the staff back home and especially the Gold Coast team who have had a lot to do with this colt for a long time. They work tirelessly so it’s a great effort by everyone.”

Discussing Shaquero’s performance in the B J Mclachlan Stakes at Eagle Farm, Shailer said there was plenty of head scratching going on in the stable, but noted the colt responded well to the application of a tonguetie. 

“He just raced a little bit fresh and ungenerous. We had a tonguetie after that day and he responded well to that,” Shailer said.

“Last week he raced a little bit fresh again and was probably a little bit above himself, so we knew he’d improve from that run. He stripped really fit here today and obviously barrier one plays a big part. He showed a great turn of foot like a good colt does.”

Shaquero was bought by Mulcaster Bloodstock for $160,000 from the Fernrigg Farm draft at last year’s Gold Coast Yearling Sale. 

He is the fourth foal out of Not A Single Doubt (Redoute’s Choice) mare Fimatino, who won twice on the track and has provided three winners from her four runners to date. 

Shaquero is raced by co-owners Neville Morgan and David Devine and the latter was delighted after finally accomplishing his quest to land the 2YO Classic.

“Thirty years we’ve been trying to win this. It’s a great thrill, I must say,” said Devine. 

“It was fantastic when he hit the front, I thought ‘this was it’. He’s probably at his peak fitness now and has needed those past two runs, especially last week. I think it’ll be a party tonight.”

According to the betting markets, Shaquero was the outsider of Waller’s three Classic runners, with third-placed She’s All Class ($3.90) and fifth Ranch Hand (Fastnet Rock) ($9) both favoured by punters. 

Shailer was notably animated when discussing Ranch Hand’s performance and expects a big future from the son of Fastnet Rock (Danehill), who was featured as an ANZ Bloodstock News Maiden Of The Week following his devastating three and a quarter-length win on debut at Warwick Farm in December. 

“He was super. He hit the line really strongly and he’s going to go on to bigger and better things, he’s a very nice horse and will win very good races,” said Shalier.

Of She’s All Class, he added: “She got back a little bit further than we anticipated and it got a little bit ugly from there on in. She’s straightened up as the widest runner and never looked comfortable on the track.”

Shaquero provided Bowman with his third win in the 2YO Classic after Bradbury’s Luck (Redoute’s Choice) (2005) and Mimi Le Brock (Show A Heart) (2007), equaling the record held by Mick Dittman and Chris Munce.


Snowden’s Aim on point as Star Witness gelding lands Guineas  

The Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Aim (3 g Star Witness – Vintage Strike by Smart Strike) led home a Star Witness (Starcraft) quinella in an incident-packed running of the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas (RL, 1400m) yesterday, which saw Ryan Maloney unseat from well-fancied favourite Isotope (Deep Field) at the top of the straight. 

Sent off a $31 chance, Aim who was recently sold to Hong Kong only for the buyers not to transfer the money, made ground on the outside before surging clear in the final 100 metres to comfortably defeat the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Amish Boy (Star Witness) by one and three-quarter lengths, with Away Game (Snitzel) finishing two and a half lengths behind the winner in third. 

However, the race was marred by the unfortunate unseat of Ryan Maloney on the $2.15 favourite Isotope, who appeared to trip up when stalking her rivals. 

Isotope returned unharmed to the on-course stables, while Maloney, who was on his feet following the fall, was subsequently taken to hospital for precautionary concussion checks. 

The incident continued a terrible run of luck for Maloney in the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas, after his mount Alligator Blood (All Too Hard) was subsequently stripped of the race last year because of a positive swab. 

Aim, bought at the 2019 Gold Coast Yearling Sale for $200,000 by China Horse Club and Newgate Bloodstock from the Newhaven Park draft, burst onto the scene in late 2019, winning his first two races, but failed to score in his nine subsequent starts prior to yesterday – including when sent off favourite for last year’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic – culminating in him running sixth of eight in a Benchmark 78 contest at Randwick a fortnight ago. 

Despite his winless run – in which he showed moments of promise, including a third-placed finish in the Skyline Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) last February – Paul Snowden said he was expecting a big performance from the son of Star Witness. 

“We were pretty confident. He just needed to get back on firm going,” he told Sky Racing.

“We had to bite our tongue and run him a fortnight ago just to get him started, we kept running into wet tracks and he ran accordingly. 

“He probably lost his way a bit after that two-year-old season. He’s back as a gelding this preparation and it’s a good bloody win!”

Snowden also had a message for Aim’s Hong Kong buyers, who would have had the gelding in their possession by now had they transferred the fee. 

“He was sold and the money didn’t come through, so we just played on and look what we’ve got today. Thank you very much for not buying the horse,” Snowden said. 

Aim is the second foal out of the Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) mare Vintage Strike. His brother Venting was sold to Danny O’Brien at last year’s Gold Coast Yearling Sale and is yet to be raced. 


Bonham lands Levin Classic 

Talented three-year-old Bonham (3 f Per Incanto – Fortune’s Choice by Redoute’s Choice) showed she is a filly of the highest quality when taking out the Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) at Trentham yesterday.

Rated as the main danger to $1.80 favourite Brando (Savabeel), the Johno Benner and Hollie Wynyard-trained filly earned her victory the hard way as she sat three-wide for the majority of the race after breaking from barrier ten. 

Taken forward by Lisa Allpress to challenge for the lead rounding the home turn, $4.60 chance Bonham kicked clear early in the straight before holding off the late charge of Brando to win by a neck, with Wild Moose (Nadeem) two and a half lengths behind the winner in third. 

Benner admitted he had his concerns during the race, but trusted in the ability of both horse and rider to get the job done.

“She’s good and she had to be today,” he said. “Lisa tried to ride her positively with cover, but she lost that and had to go forward at 700 metres.

“She (Bonham) always seemed comfortable in herself and now you can call her a Group 1-winning filly, although that’s a feeling you never get used to.

“She does things that only Group 1 horses can do, and is a great walking filly with a beautiful action.

“Gary (Harding, owner) has been great to us and this will mean a lot to him.”

Allpress also noted she had her own concerns when she found herself trapped out wide and feared the reaction of Benner and Wynyard if she did not recover the situation.

“I wasn’t having a lot of luck three-deep and I could hear Johno and Hollie in my head,“ she said.

“I thought I need to trust my horse as she was fit and ready for today and a very fast mare, so I knew they would have trouble coming from behind her.

“I think I’ve lost my voice from screaming at her as she doesn’t need the whip, she just needs a push to get her over the line.

“Johno and Hollie are my biggest supporters, so I’m delighted to get the win for them.”

Bred by Little Avondale Stud, Bonham was purchased for $160,000 by Harding out of the 2019 Karaka Book 1 Yearling Sale.

She is the first winner out of the Redoute’s Choice (Danehill) mare Fortune’s Choice, who was winless during her eight-race career. 


Avantage retains Telegraph crown

Versatile mare Avantage (5 m Fastnet Rock – Asavant by Zabeel) was at her very best when taking out the Telegraph (Gr 1, 1200m) for the second consecutive year at Trentham yesterday.

The Jamie Richards-trained five-year-old scored first-up in the Sistema Railway (Gr 1, 1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day to take her Group 1-winning tally to five and she added a sixth with a devastating two-length defeat of Spring Heat (More Than Ready). 

Danielle Johnson was smarting after a narrow defeat on Brando, who finished a neck behind Bonham in the Levin Classic earlier in the day, and she was determined to redeem herself on the Fastnet Rock mare.

After a good break from barrier ten, Avantage placed handily with cover in midfield before being angled into the centre of the track by Johnson to make her final claim.

Unleashed at the 200 metres, she powered past Mascarpone (Shooting To Win) and Tavi Mac (Tavistock) to take control of the contest, running out a comfortable winner from last year’s third placegetter Spring Heat and Burgundy Belle (Burgundy), who finished four lengths off her stablemate in third.

Johnson, who would go on to finish with four winners on the card, has partnered Avantage to three of her Group 1 victories.

“She’s just a pleasure to ride and words can’t really describe how exciting it is to get on her and win Group 1s,” Johnson said.

“Everything seemed to work out well as we were three-wide but with cover.

“I knew what I had underneath me, but I wanted her to keep running to the line, so dinner was a bit easier after getting beaten on Brando.

“1200 metres, 1400 metres, a mile or 2000 metres doesn’t matter to her as she just keeps winning and it’s a pleasure to be associated with her.”

Richards echoed those sentiments when questioned after the race.

“She’s a great mare and has done us all proud as that was pretty special,” he said. “It was a ten out of ten ride as well.

“She will go to Te Rapa in a month now (for the BCD Group Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m)) but she has got time for a quiet week after this.

“She’s done a fantastic job for us and I would like to give her a chance to put a Group 1 in Australia on the board.

“I think she deserves the opportunity, so we’ll have to sit down and make a plan on how we get there.

“She can be a bit difficult behind the scenes and on raceday, but when we first saw her at the sales, we thought she might just be a two-year-old.

“She’s now justified everybody’s faith in her and has done a wonderful job. The best thing about her is her constitution and her willingness to be a racehorse.”

Purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $210,000 from The Oaks Stud draft during the premier session at Karaka in 2017, Avantage has now won thirteen of her 23 starts, with ten of those at stakes level including her six Group 1s.

Bred by Willie and Karen Calder from Bluff, Avantage already boasts an Australian Group 3 victory in the 2019 running of the Birthday Card Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m), as well as a Group 2 placing from a brief campaign at three.

One of 40 individual Group 1 winners for prolific sire Fastnet Rock, Avantage has so far won more Group 1s than any other son or daughter of the great stallion.