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Trapeze Artist off the mark as Griff lands Exford Plate

Widden Stud stallion Trapeze Artist (Snitzel) earned a maiden first-crop stakes winner when Griff produced a swooping display to land yesterday’s Exford Plate (Listed, 1400m) at Flemington, putting himself in contention for a tilt at the Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) on October 14. 

Four-time Group 1-winning sprinter Trapeze Artist, who was a high-profile acquisition for Widden when secured to stand his first season at stud in 2019 at a fee of $88,000 (inc GST), had been knocking on the door of claiming a first stakes winner, with four black type-performed juveniles last season. 

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Griff ($10), who is one of 11 winners from 45 runners to date for Trapeze Artist, was wound up by Mark Zahra for his run for home at the 300-metre mark, and gradually got into stride to pick up the runners ahead of him, grinding to what was ultimately a cosy half-length victory in the Listed contest. 

The Kylie Schulz-trained South Australian visitor Surprise Coming (Impending) ($61) burst from the pack to finish second, as King Of Fighters (Street Boss) ($31) left his challenge too late in running home to take third, a head further back. 

“He’s been used to being prepared up in Sydney for a couple of runs this preparation, Ciaron’s always been very sweet on his ability,” said David Eustace.

“I’ll have a chat to Mark (Zahra), but he was certainly strong through the line there, he relaxes well, five weeks to the Guineas, almost certainly going there.

“I think he’ll probably just have a trial in between, he’s not necessarily a sort of good doing colt, I don’t think he’ll need a run so I suspect he’ll just have a trial.”

Griff, who takes his race record to two wins from six starts, broke his maiden as a two-year-old in June at the third time of asking. He returned at three to finish sixth in the Rosebud and fifth in the Up And Coming Stakes (Gr 3, 1300m) before being switched to Melbourne. 

The colt was an $80,000 buy for Kavanagh Racing Stables from the Widden Stud draft at last year’s Inglis Premier Yearling Sale and is owned by Sean Griffiths.

“His first-up run was excellent and in his second-up run he had to sort of ride a pretty hot speed so we were really confident coming into today. We thought he was going to get a lovely run, he just needed a little bit of luck and a good ride and he got a great ride from Mark (Zahra),” Eustace said.

“We’re really, really pleased for Sean Griffiths as well, he’s put a lot of money in a short space of time into the game and he’s getting some nice results.”

Bred by Widden Stud and Adrian Goonan, Griff is the second foal out of the winning, juvenile stakes-placed Sebring (More Than Ready) mare Chateau Griffo, herself a daughter of Listed runner-up Moulin Rouge (Commands). 

Chateau Griffo has a yearling colt by North Pacific (Brazen Beau) and is due to foal to I Am Immortal (I Am Invincible) this spring. 

Trapeze Artist, who covered 183 mares last year – his highest in four seasons at stud – will stand the 2023 breeding season for a fee of $55,000 (inc GST).

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