SANTA’S LATE GIFT

Elite sprinter makes up for missed op­por­tu­nity with clas­sic run

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - RAY THOMAS

TRAINER Anthony Freed­man was left won­der­ing what might have been af­ter Santa Ana Lane scored a spec­tac­u­lar win against a crack sprint field at Flem­ing­ton yes­ter­day.

Santa Ana Lane was bolt­ing be­hind a wall of horses be­fore jockey Mark Zahra found a gap to burst through in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Clas­sic (1200m)

Freed­man said it was “nice con­so­la­tion for The Ever­est”, where Santa Ana Lane was in­con­ve­nienced by a wet track and ran sixth be­hind Redzel in the world’s rich­est turf race at Rand­wick last month.

“It was a shame the rain came in Syd­ney and it didn’t pan out for him in The Ever­est,’’ Freed­man said.

“I thought he was spot on for Syd­ney, he just didn’t get his chance there.’’

But Santa Ana Lane ($10) demon­strated once again that he is one of the na­tion’s elite sprint­ers when he scored his fourth Group 1 win, beat­ing a gal­lant In Her Time ($12) by a neck with Pier­ata ($7) and Jun­gle Cat ($26) dead-heat­ing for third, 1½ lengths away.

Dual Ever­est champ Redzel was sen­sa­tion­ally backed into $2.90 favouritism and ap­peared to have every chance be­fore fad­ing for fifth.

Freed­man put the Ever­est loss be­hind him and de­cided to set Santa Ana Lane for the VRC Sprint Clas­sic.

“This was not an af­ter­thought but we were al­ways a bit du­bi­ous about him up the straight be­cause he’d had a cou­ple of fail­ures,’’ he said.

“But Mark rode him re­ally well and it all opened up for him. He was very strong late.

“There’s only one way to ride him and when­ever he wins, he’s go­ing to win very late.

“I told Mark that. I said ‘don’t panic’. I told him ‘ you know you’re only go­ing to win in the last 50m’ and that’s what hap­pened.’’

In Her Time’s trainer Kris Lees and jockey Corey Brown know how Freed­man was think­ing af­ter The Ever­est, as both men felt yes­ter­day’s race was the one that got away.

“She was brave, she was su­per, that was the cream of the crop, you won’t get a bet­ter sprint race than that in the world,’’ Lees said.

“I think she might have been held up at a vi­tal stage but it is hard to take any­thing away from the win­ner.

“We’ve got an in­vite for Hong Kong but if we go there it is very dif­fi­cult to get home.

“We will give her a break and try and win a Group 1 in the au­tumn with her.’’

Brown said he was fol­low­ing the favoured run­ners, in­clud­ing Redzel, but “they weren’t taking me into the race’’.

“She felt great and prob- ably should nearly have won,’’ Brown said.

Pier­ata’s ef­fort to dead-heat with Godol­phin’s Jun­gle Cat left trainer Greg Hick­man wear­ing the smile of a win­ner.

“He has run a great race,’’ Hick­man said.

“We will give him a let-up now and I’m think­ing we will look at the Can­ter­bury Stakes, TJ Smith Stakes and All Aged Stakes in the au­tumn.’’

Redzel raced in his cus­tom­ary po­si­tion up on the speed but couldn’t break clear of the pack. “He was dis­ap­point­ing – he just wasn’t him­self to­day,’’ trainer Peter Snow­den said.

RUN­NING ON: Mark Zahra rides Santa Ana Lane to vic­tory in the VRC Sprint Clas­sic at Flem­ing­ton. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

AT LAST: Trainer Anthony Freed­man and Mark Zahra.

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