Waller keen to see mare go distance
SYDNEY’S premier trainer Chris Waller is hoping to cap a memorable Melbourne spring carnival by claiming another major with Shillelagh in the Group 1 $2 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington today.
Waller has prepared four Group 1 winners already in Melbourne this spring, with champion mare Winx’s Turnbull Stakes and Cox Plate triumphs, The Autumn Sun’s Caulfield Guineas win, and Shillelagh’s triumph in the Empire Rose Stakes.
The Waller stable has also enjoyed a successful Cup Week at Flemington with winners on each of the three days so far – Shillelagh on Derby Day, a stable double from Kaonic and Shraaoh on Cup Day, then Savacool’s win at the Oaks Day meeting on Thursday.
Shillelagh leads the stable charge today as she bids to become the first mare to win the Mackinnon Stakes since La Bella Dama in 2001.
Waller said Shillelagh “did a great job” to win the Empire Rose Stakes last Saturday.
“She had a pretty soft run but won like a good horse,’’ Waller said.
“Although it was against the ‘girls’, it was weight-for-age last Saturday so I think she will be fine (today).
“Now is the time to try her over 2000m. She is bred to get the trip being by Savabeel and her dam’s side has thrown some stayers, too.
“It has only been her speed that has stopped us from extending her out over further before.’’
Waller doesn’t have a runner in the other Group 1 race, the VRC Sprint Classic, but he has stayers Libran and Casterton entered for the Group 3 $300,000 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m).
Libran is coming off a solid third to Ventura Storm in the Moonee Valley Cup, while former French stayer Casterton impressed at his Australian debut when sixth in the Geelong Cup.
“Libran’s going really well,’’ Waller said. “He might have peaked on his run at Moonee Valley but it was on a day when it was hard to come from the back.’’
Casterton’s effort at Geelong impressed Waller as he didn’t finish far behind stablemate Finche and that horse ran a very good fourth in the Melbourne Cup.
“The Geelong race has brought on Casterton,’’ Waller said. “I’ve tried to train him the same way as Finche and he hasn’t had a hard gallop.
“I’ve tried to keep the speed into him so he will be an interesting runner.
“Casterton’s maybe one touch down from Finche. We think he is a Sydney Cup horse and maybe a Melbourne Cup horse next year.’’
Waller also has Good Project and Torgersen in the Group 3 $200,000 Chatham Stakes (1400m).