Richard and Michael Freedman have celebrated their first Group One win as a training partnership with Forbidden Love’s emphatic Surround Stakes victory.
The milestone has continued the brothers’ outstanding start to the autumn with Stay Inside emerging as a leading Golden Slipper chance while three-year-old Prime Star has been racing well in top company.
Forbidden Love ($10) has added her name to the Freedmans’ autumn arsenal, streeting a smart field of fillies in the Surround Stakes by three lengths.
Vangelic ($31) grabbed second, a short neck ahead of Elizabeel ($26) while dual Group One winner Montefilia was warming up late for sixth.
Dame Giselle started favourite but never threatened and finished midfield.
“It’s our first Group One winner (together),” Michael Freedman said.
“That’s my first Group One in Australia as well.
“She has come a long way. It was less than 12 months ago she was going around in midweeks at Canterbury.
“I genuinely feel she is just coming of age.”
Freedman said they would see how Forbidden Love came through the run before deciding whether to head to next month’s Group One Coolmore Classic.
The Doncaster Mile is also a possibility.
“The Coolmore is only a couple of weeks away, which would certainly be worth thinking about and I guess we might even think about a Doncaster,” Freedman said.
“She’s got a great turn of foot and most of those topliners have a great turn of foot.”
Warrnambool trainer Daniel Bowman was happy to become another trainer pleasantly surprised by a result above expectations when his filly Capriccio won the $500,000 Inglis Dash.
Following on from the Horsham-trained Lunar Fox’s win in the Australian Guineas at $301, Saturday’s Flemington meeting produced another big-priced winner with Capriccio claiming the 1100 metre race at $41.
Bowman said Capriccio had been trialling well and he would have been happy if she had finished fourth or fifth.
Bowman said he was pleased that Capriccio had won as his father was a part-owner and he had been a curse in the past.
Capriccio ($41) defeated Bella Nipotina ($6) by three-quarters of a length with Lord Olympus ($8) a half-neck away third.
The win completed a treble for Damian Lane and Bowman commended him on “a great ride”.
“He committed to the ride when I asked him and he was happy to jump on and ignore the form and ride the horse for what it was,” Bowman said.
Bowman said he made a mistake starting the three-year-old filly in the Group Three Thoroughbred Club Stakes on a firm track at the end of her last preparation.
“She’d improved a lot and I knew that she was getting rated off her spring form and not on how she had improved,” he said.
Bowman said he was aiming Capriccio at the Adelaide racing carnival.
In an epic battle that revived memories of grand galloper Octagonal, Verry Elleegant has edged out Godolphin pair Colette and Avilius in a thrilling edition of the Chipping Norton Stakes.
Less than a length separated the first five horses across the line with the Chris Waller-trained mare lifting to land her seventh Group One win.
Like Octagonal, who often won by narrow margins, Verry Elleegant scored by a half-neck and Saturday’s race was the fourth time she has won a major in a photo finish.
She claimed the Caulfield Cup by a short head and her Turnbull and Winx Stakes victories by a nose.
Waller, who has now won nine of the past 11 renewals of the Chipping Norton (1600m), said Verry Elleegant’s will to win was her trademark.
“She’s just an unassuming girl that fights like a tiger,” Waller said.
“I think it’s fitting to be fought out that way because that really is the quality of Verry Elleegant.
“I thought Colette had us cold at the 300 metre mark and I saw Avilius coming with a well-timed run and she was in the middle there. She dug very deep.”
Apollo Stakes winner Colette ($3.70) raced handy to the speed, set by Kolding, and mounted a strong challenge but she was unable to resist the final bid of Verry Elleegant ($2.30 fav).
Avilius ($20) ran one of his best races for some time another head away with Funstar and Kolding on the heels of the placegetters.
Stayer Master Of Wine made good ground behind the leading pack to finish sixth.
Waller said Verry Elleegant was likely to follow the same path as last autumn and head to the Ranvet and Tancred Stakes before a rematch with European visitor and defending titleholder Addeybb in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“He was a great horse last year and he franked her form. He went back home and won on Champions day, which is such a big day in European racing,” Waller said.
“It’s world-class form.”
When asked if those international formlines could tempt him to travel Verry Elleegant overseas, Waller said he wouldn’t rule it out but struggled to find reasons to leave Australia.
“I’m not sure. We haven’t had a proper discussion about it,” Waller said.
“It’s just so tempting to stay in Australia when we’ve got so many good races.”
In one of the greatest boilovers in a feature race, the Horsham-trained galloper Lunar Fox has taken out the Australian Guineas at odds of $301.
In doing so he became the longest-priced Group One winner since Abaridy claimed the Caulfield Guineas at $251 in 1986.
His trainer Paul Preusker wasn’t even at Flemington and he left the saddling duties to his partner, former jockey Holly McKechnie.
The win gave Preusker, who is best known for training Surprise Baby, his first Group One winner.
It was Lunar Fox’s first victory since he won the Group Two VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington last March.
McKechnie said she couldn’t believe Lunar Fox had won and said the feeling was surreal.
She felt “the old trick” of placing blinkers on him for the first time had done the job.
Lunar Fox had finished fifth in last year’s Caulfield Guineas but resumed with a poor twelfth in the C S Hayes Stakes which McKechnie said was an out-of-character performance.
“He’s always trying this horse. Getting to the outside and the addition of blinkers certainly helped him,” McKechnie said.
McKechnie was queried by Racing Victoria stewards about the horse’s improvement.
She told them they expected a better run but they were surprised that he won.
The victory gave Michael Dee his fifth Group One win and he was also shocked Lunar Fox won.
Dee admitted he didn’t give the horse much of a chance going into the race.
“No one else really did either,” Dee said.
“All I could do today was do my job and do it to the best of my ability. Hopefully the horse ran well in doing so.
“Having the blinkers on today led to a massive improvement.
“They drilled it into me before the race to stay off the fence. From the gate we were able to get the perfect run three-wide and work into it.”
Lunar Fox ($301) held off a strong challenge from Cherry Tortoni ($10), who came from last, by a half-length with Tagaloa ($3.50 fav) third.
Sydney galloper Star Of The Seas secured a spot in the All-Star Mile with a tough win in the Blamey Stakes.
Star Of The Seas held off a determined challenge from Fifty Stars, who was trying to become the first horse to claim the Group Two Flemington feature three years in a row.
Jamie Kah’s mount Buffalo River set a fast pace in front and he was still four lengths clear with 200 metres to go.
Chris Waller’s Melbourne stable foreperson Jo Taylor said Star Of The Seas’ best attribute was his consistency.
“We managed to get a ticket in the All-Star Mile so that was a big tick today,” Taylor said.
Taylor said they would take Star Of The Seas to gallop at The Valley before he headed to the $5 million All-Star Mile, which will be run on March 13.
“We’ll take him to The Valley to have a nice look around there and get accustomed to the circuit as we know it can be tricky sometimes, but we’re in it,” she said.
Taylor said Waller had managed to get to Melbourne on Friday for the first time in a long time and he was bullish about Star Of The Seas’ prospects.
Jockey Damian Lane said the galloper was suited by the fast speed in the race.
“He travelled really well. I wasn’t worried about the leader because of how hard they went – he was going to be a statue late,” Lane said.
“I was more worried about if I was dragging anything off my back like Fifty Stars.
“Fortunately enough, I got there at the right time and he was strong enough to fend off the challenger.”
Star Of The Seas’ win gave Lane the second leg of a winning double after he scored earlier in the day on Morvada.
Lane will ride outstanding Kiwi mare Probabeel in the All-Star Mile.
Star Of The Seas ($3.90) defeated Fifty Stars ($12) by a short neck with Buffalo River ($2.70 fav) 1-3/4 lengths away third.
John Sargent is three weeks away from having his first Golden Slipper runner after Four Moves Ahead rebounded from a setback to win the Sweet Embrace Stakes at Randwick.
Renowned as a trainer of classic horses, Sargent is showing another string to his bow this autumn with Four Moves Ahead now unbeaten in two starts.
The filly was scratched from the Silver Slipper last weekend after knocking her knee in a stable mishap and Sargent admitted it was a relief to see her win on Saturday.
“We’ve had a hard last ten days,” Sargent said.
“We could only get the saddle on her on Tuesday for a gallop and apart from that she has just swum and been led off the pony, so it was great to get the result today and we can move on.”
Four Moves Ahead ($2.70 fav) camped behind the speed and showed a good turn of foot to sprint clear and defeat the fast-finishing She’s All Class ($4.60) by a neck.
Mallory ($4.80) also made ground for third another two lengths away.
The first two across the line are now the highest-rated fillies in TAB fixed odds Golden Slipper markets at $13 apiece.
Sargent confirmed Four Moves Ahead would go straight to the juvenile feature on March 20 without another run.
“We’ve got three weeks now if she comes through it to the Slipper and we can crank up her work and she’ll be a fitter horse then,” he said.
Crystal Lily in 2010 was the last filly to claim the Sweet Embrace Stakes-Golden Slipper double.
Chris Waller’s good season with two-year-olds continued at Randwick with O’President upstaging his more fancied rivals to snare the Skyline Stakes.
The premier trainer has arguably his best group of youngsters yet with the likes of Home Affairs, She’s All Class, Head Of State and Shaquero all in Golden Slipper contention.
O’President added his name to that list when he led throughout for Tim Clark in Saturday’s Skyline Stakes (1200m) at Randwick to book a Slipper berth.
“He will go (to the Slipper) for sure. The team behind the horse will back me up on that, he’s a nice horse,” Waller said.
“I don’t think he’s a natural leader by any means but he’s got a bright future.
“They left him alone out there. Tim is obviously a great jockey and there is probably very few better in front at rating tempo.
“They let him get away with a tempo that O’President was comfortable with so he showed a good turn of foot at the top of the rise and was very good to the line.”
Stablemate and Magic Millions winner Shaquero was the more fancied of Waller’s pair and appeared to have every chance, settling third and tiring late to finish sixth.
Waller was unperturbed by the run and felt the soft track played against him.
Shaquero will go to the Pago Pago Stakes in two weeks and back-up into the Golden Slipper seven days later, a formula used with success in his Magic Millions win.
“He seems to be a horse that does pretty well between runs so there is certainly improvement in him,” Waller said.
O’President ($8.50) scored by 1-1/4 lengths over Hilal ($3.20 fav), who was doing his best work late, with Captivant ($3.50) the same margin away third.
Tommy Berry was rapt with the effort of Hilal.
“It was a massive run. They handed it to the winner,” Berry said.
“They went very slow and then I got run off the track halfway down and he still got pretty close to the winner.”
John McArdle will eschew chasing further two-year-old riches during the autumn with Tycoon Humma despite her keeping her undefeated record intact.
Tycoon Humma, by boom stallion Capitalist, flew home to grab Kallos and win the Very Special Kids Plate (1000m) at Flemington on Saturday to take her record to two starts for two wins.
“She’s a nice filly but I think she’s looking for the paddock now,” McArdle said.
McArdle said he used the same strategy with Tycoon Humma’s half-sister Humma Humma and they were rewarded when she improved as a three-year-old.
McArdle said Tycoon Humma’s jockey Jamie Mott gave her a great ride, switching her off after she over-raced in the initial stages.
“She over-raced a bit today and Jamie did a great job. He knows her, he switched her off,” McArdle said.
“She was untidy out of the gates but he got her to settle as well as he could. Probably wasn’t as electric as what she was first-up but it was a really solid win.”
Tycoon Humma ($2.50 fav) defeated Kallos ($4) by a short half-head with Wanaroo ($12) another 1-1/4 lengths away third.
Archie Alexander’s tough mare Mosh Music is Adelaide Cup-bound after she returned to form with a win in the Roy Higgins Quality (2600m).
Alexander said Mosh Music tore a shoe off at her previous run at Moonee Valley so he was pleased she could bounce back.
“We were very disappointed after Moonee Valley and thought, well, she raced with three shoes and it can’t be easy racing with three shoes and she got galloped on, so we just moved on,” Alexander said.
“We saw the nominations for this race, they didn’t look overly strong, but even though it wasn’t in our plan – we were supposed to go (direct) to the Adelaide Cup – we took a little diversion and we’ll be going to the Adelaide Cup now.”
David Eustace is of the opinion the Australian Guineas is an open race and could be won by a horse at double-figure odds.
Eustace thinks that his stable could be the one to supply the long-shot winner in the shape of Jet Propulsion, who is a $26 chance with TAB fixed odds for the Group One 1600 metres race at Flemington on Saturday.
“I think a lot of horses will show a lot of improvement second up and it’s a more even race than what people think,” Eustace said.
“It won’t surprise me if there’s a good odds winner in it.
“I’m not a betting man but I think Jet Propulsion is over priced.”
Eustace was happy with Jet Propulsion’s first-up fourth behind Poland in the Autumn Stakes at Caulfield where he ran home strongly.
“We’ve always had a good opinion of him but we didn’t talk him up much in the spring as he was quite immature,” he said.
Last campaign, Jet Propulsion’s best effort was a third at his fourth start in the Group Two Stan Fox Stakes at Randwick.
“He still isn’t fully furnished but he’s getting there. He’s a tough, gross sort of horse,” he said.
“He should finish strongly but might be looking for 2000 metres. We’re looking for a good run from him in a very open race.”
The Ciaron Maher and Eustace stable also have $41 chance Grandslam in the race but they believe he’s looking for more ground.
“I think his pedigree has kicked in and he’s looking for 2000 metres and further,” Eustace said.
Jason Attard and Lucy Keegan Attard are no strangers to taking on the big guns but the Hawkesbury trainers will be venturing into uncharted territory when debutant Sir Rastus lines up in the Skyline Stakes at Randwick.
Adopting the same strategy applied to last year’s victor Mamaragan, the formidable husband and wife team are hoping the unexposed Sir Rastus can make a dream debut and upstage his more fancied rivals in Saturday’s Group Two feature.
Jason Attard said Sir Rastus was the first youngster the stable had prepared who possessed the speed and potential to compete against the top echelon of Sydney’s two-year-olds.
“It’s obviously a tough race to debut in but he’s a real professional and he handled his trials exceptionally well, so we are going to throw him in the deep end and have a crack,” Attard said.
A flashy son of two-year-old triple crown winner Pierro, Sir Rastus has drawn barrier seven in the field of nine, which includes Head Of State, Captivant and the brilliant Magic Millions winner Shaquero.
The winner of the Skyline Stakes will gain an automatic entry into the $3.5 million Golden Slipper at Rosehill on March 20.
When the John Thompson-trained Mamaragan won last year’s Skyline, he became the only horse in the race’s 42-year history to achieve the feat at their first race appearance.
Connections of Sir Rastus are keen to test that formula again.
Attard said the colt had progressed well since his last trial at Randwick on February 16.
“His work has been nothing short of outstanding this week,” Attard said.
“Rory (Hutchings) has done a tremendous amount of work with the horse. He’s played a big role in getting him ready.
“We put the winkers on in trackwork this week and it really made him focus up the straight and they should help him muster a bit more at the jump too on Saturday.”
Sam Clipperton, who provided the Attard stable with their first Saturday city winner, will be in the driver’s seat.
“It’s pretty exciting to have a runner in a race like this,” Attard said.
“He’s done everything right and you only get one shot at these races.
“There’s no reason not to have a go.”
History will always be there to remind us that Attard is not one to shy away from a challenge.
Stable flag bearer Sons Of John nearly pulled off the unthinkable when he ran the mighty mare Winx to a head margin in the 2015 Theo Marks Stakes.