Dundeel goes out with a bang
weather that had undone many carnival aspirations, including those of Matamata’s New Zealand Derby winner Puccini.
After a final dose of 20mm of rain on Tuesday night that sent the Randwick track back in the heavy range, the skies cleared at last on Wednesday and stayed that way right through the holiday weekend.
A Friday morning visit to the Randwick track was a tasty entree, with some of the best trainers and jockeys from near and far gathered as they put their charges through their final work before the following day’s main event.
Young New Zealand trainers David Greene of Te Rapa and Matamata’s Lance Noble were there with their weekend runners Beauty’s Beast and Viadana, along with older hands Ken Kelso and Donna Logan who had their classy three-year-old fillies looking good for their big assignments.
Race day dawned to a drying track that the locals were describing as a Slow 7 – comparable to New Zealand track with a bit of moisture in it – amid predictions that it would improve only slightly as the day wore on.
The action couldn’t have started better for the Kiwi contingent when 33-year-old Greene produced his first ever Sydney runner to lead throughout in a three-year-old sprint carrying one of the lesser but still healthy stakes at A$150,000.
Beauty’s Beast, a son of Windsor Park Stud stallion Guillotine who had won at Te Aroha on Breeders’ Stakes two weeks earlier, treated his rivals to a galloping lesson as he waltzed home an easy winner. Co-ownerbreeder Nelson Schick was on hand to accept the trophies, having arrived on a morning flight and promising me when I saw him after the final race that he and travelling companion Roger Blunt fully intended to catch their late night return flight.
In the fourth race, star Matamata filly Bounding did all she could to win the A$500,000 Royal Sovereign Stakes only to be denied in the last two strides by the home town favourite Sidestep.
The result was in some ways hard to take given the Railway Stakes winner had to work hard early from her outside gate and was being hailed the winner until right on the line, but there was nothing but admirable praise from co-trainer Ken Kelso and owner Gary Harding.
Next up it was Viadana’s turn to see if she could bring her excellent New Zealand form to the Randwick arena in the A$1 million Queen of the Turf Stakes. Lance Noble had her looking bright and bouncy and the big team that had cheered her all through the last year were there in all their finery.
A brave fifth, two lengths from the Gai Waterhouse-trained winner Diamond Drille, was her lot however, and while she wouldn’t have won you were just left wondering if she could have finished a placing or two closer if the breaks had gone her way in the straight.
The A$1 million Australian Oaks, race six on the card, had a dominant Kiwi presence headed by the favourite, Savabeel filly Lucia Valentina, with a strong support act comprising the Logan stable’s New Zealand Derby runner-up Rising Romance, New Zealand Oaks winner Miss Mossman whose trainer John Sargent and owners the Clothier clan were hoping could turn around her disappointing first-up Sydney form, and the filly who had chased her home in the Trentham classic, the John Barytrained O’Reilly filly Miss Selby.
In the end the race belonged to Rising Romance as James McDonald made up for his erring previous start ride with a perfect display on the Ruakaka filly.
After tracking the leaders he took her to the front at the top of the straight and never looking like being overhauled.
Auckland Cup winner Who Shot Thebarman had a strong support crew distinctive in their matching caps on hand for his big mission in the A$1 million Sydney Cup, but there was no McDonald magic this time as the raw gelding was forced over ground early in the two-miler and ultimately faded on a likely home turn run. So to the main event. The A$ million Queen Elizabeth Stakes had for weeks been touted as a true international match-up.
The monarch after which the race is named had her colours up on the Gai Waterhouse-trained Carlton House, three of Australia’s biggest owners, Lloyd Williams, John Singleton and Gerry Harvey, each had runners and then there was the potent Kiwi contingent of Silent Achiever, It’s A Dundeel and Sacred Falls.
An hour and a half before the race, stewards announced that the horse we know as Dundeel had spooked and slipped over in the stable are, taking skin off a hind leg but hopefully not harming himself further.
The five-time Group One winner remained the horse they wanted to back, however, with the Roger James-trained Silent Achiever also well up the order as she attempted to completed an autumn Group One treble for owner Kevin Hickman.
Sacred Falls was there for the challenge heading ex-pat Chris Waller’s five-strong team, backing up from his Doncaster Mile win of the previous weekend.
Part-owners Garry and Mary Chittick were on hand hoping for a bonus to go with what the studbound O’Reilly colt had already achieved in his 18-start, eight-win career.
When the cheering was over It’s A Dundeel, jockey James McDonald and trainer Murray Baker were the heroes of the hour.
With a performance that was to bring the curtain down on what could only be described as a brilliant career, It’s A Dundeel took the race by the throat and dashed home to score from a hardly inferior Sacred Falls.
Speculation that It’s A Dundeel would be entered for races at the Royal Ascot carnival ended with the announcement on Monday that he will be retired forthwith to Arrowfield Stud.
Sacred Falls has been entered tentatively for Royal Ascot, with the more likely scenario that he will also go to stud this spring, joining his sire O’Reilly in the potent Waikato line-up.
It would be unfair to sign off this week’s racing page without mention of the win on the local scene by Whosyourmaster at Hastings on Saturday.
The black-type sprint victory for trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott and owner-breeders Danny and Judy Moss was due reward for a horse whose record would be so much better but for a wind affliction.
Spectacular: It’s A Dundeel and James McDonald cap a superb day for the Kiwis with victory in the A$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.