When New Zealand filly La Vernazza steps out at Randwick she will be treading the same path as champion Sunline, who at her first Australian start broke the hearts of the best of Sydney’s fillies in the 1998 Furious Stakes.
A recent acquisition for trainer Jamie Richards, La Vernazza will be tackling Saturday’s 1200m feature at her fifth race appearance and comes to Sydney with a big reputation.
Initially trained by Lance Noble, the Matamata Breeder’s Stakes winner ran a slashing second behind star New Zealand colt Cool Aza Beel in the Group One Sistema Stakes (1200m) at Ellerslie before spelling.
The Cambridge stud-owned filly was then transferred to Richards with a plan to chase Australian black-type in the spring.
“She’s a lovely big filly, very athletic and she can produce a good turn of foot when she needs it,” Richards said.
“She trialled well and Kerrin (McEvoy) was very happy with her work this morning.”
McEvoy is expected to ride the horse on Saturday.
“She’s up against the big timers with nowhere to hide,” Richards said.
“Hopefully if we can draw a nice gate and get a soft run we are in with a chance, but once we get to 1400 metres and the mile we’ll be better suited again.”
The daughter of More Than Ready and Group Three-winning mare Zonza went to the line under a stranglehold in a Randwick trial last week and while she is well tuned and expected to run a big race on Saturday, her main goal will be the Group One Flight Stakes (1600m) on October 3.
Richards trains under the Te Akau Racing banner which has enjoyed recent Group One success in Australia with Probabeel, Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle.
Stable star Te Akau Shark is convalescing at home following eye surgery and Melody Belle is expected back in New Zealand at the end of the week where she will be assessed before any further plans are made.
Stablemate Probabeel who ran an eye-catching second in the Show County last start, was fourth in the Furious Stakes last year before two gallant placings behind Funstar in the Tea Rose and Flight Stakes.
Both fillies remain in the care of 22-year-old travelling foreperson Ashley Handley who was born three months after Sunline won the Furious.
James Cummings is convinced Avilius could have featured in the Winx Stakes had he run, but the Godolphin trainer is equally content with the decision to delay his return.
The multiple Group One winner has opened a $3.50 TAB fixed odds favourite for his campaign launch in the Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Avilius was scratched from the Winx Stakes two weeks ago as the Godolphin team felt the backmarker faced a tough task from a wide draw.
In the end, the race was run at a genuine tempo, setting it up for Verry Elleegant to come from the back with a sweeping run around the field to score.
“It’s a funny thing, it would have suited him in the end with the backmarkers coming home,” Cummings said.
“But the Chelmsford will just have a little bit of the edge off (him) compared to the Winx.
“I’ve loved his campaign when I’ve run him first up over a mile.”
Stablemate and Australian Oaks winner Colette is also among nominations for the Chelmsford, along with the Tramway Stakes (1400m) on the same program.
The pair had an exhibition gallop between races at Rosehill on Saturday and Cummings is confident both are on target to feature this spring.
While Colette has showcased her staying capabilities, Cummings believes she has the speed to be competitive over shorter journeys.
“She has come back well,” Cummings said.
“She has a little bit of speed which you would like to see from a now four-year-old mare who has had a spell since her Oaks campaign.”
Colette is prominent in early markets for the Epsom and Metropolitan Handicaps and is among a host of feature race contenders stepping out across Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday.
Everest favourite Nature Strip resumes in the Concorde Stakes (1000m) at Randwick while Surprise Baby, who heads Melbourne Cup markets, is scheduled to kick off in the Group Two Feehan Stakes (1600m) at The Valley.
Hawkes Racing will also continue the campaigns of some of their spring big guns.
Master Of Wine, prominent in Caulfield Cup and Metropolitan markets, is entered for the Feehan, while Epsom equal favourite Masked Crusader and Angel Of Truth are nominated for races at Randwick.
Horse travel between the two states became easier this week with Racing NSW easing restrictions to allow horses from Melbourne to enter NSW, provided they adhere to strict biosecurity protocols.
Form references through two star juveniles has given Mark Newnham the confidence to pit Every Rose against the boys in the San Domenico Stakes.
The lone filly against a quality field of colts, Every Rose will be bidding to become the first of her gender since Snitzerland in 2012 to win Saturday’s 1100 metre Rosehill sprint.
Newnham opted not to start her against her own sex in last weekend’s Silver Shadow Stakes because he felt the 1200 metre journey would be unsuitable on a wet track.
The shorter course of the San Domenico made more appeal and the trainer felt Every Rose deserved her spot after holding her own against the leading juvenile colts of last season.
Every Rose was twice beaten as favourite last campaign, once in the Wyong Magic Millions when she finished a length second to Farnan and again in the B J McLachlan Stakes at Eagle Farm when she filled the same position behind King’s Legacy.
Those colts went on to claim the juvenile triple crown between them with Farnan winning the Golden Slipper and King’s Legacy the ATC Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes.
Newnham figures that is decent enough form to earn Every Rose a San Domenico start.
“At Wyong she got in a tricky position but probably just needed the run, then at Eagle Farm I thought she was home and she got run down,” Newnham said.
“It’s easy to see why now.
“She has competed well against the boys previously and she is coming up well. How well, we will find out.”
A field of six will contest the San Domenico but despite the small numbers, the race oozes class.
Exciting pair Doubtland and Peltzer put their unbeaten records on the line while Golden Slipper placegetter Mamaragan makes his first appearance as a three-year-old.
Anders has the recent form on the board courtesy of a thumping first-up win in The Rosebud and has been posted an early favourite.
A Gimcrack Stakes winner on debut last spring, Every Rose has two barrier trial wins under her belt, although Newnham says she is open to improvement.
“She is a bit wintery in the coat but there will probably be a couple in the same boat,” he said.
“This will decide whether she goes back to fillies’ grade or continues to contest these races.”
A field of eight will contest the Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) with the Chris Waller-trained Overlord opening a clear-cut favourite.
The dream for country- trained mare Super Girl to gain a start in the Melbourne Cup has moved a step closer with her first-up victory at Sandown.
After watching Super Girl’s win in Wednesday’s benchmark 70 race over 1500 metres, her Bendigo-based trainer Josh Julius said the focus of her spring campaign was to gain a start in the Melbourne Cup.
He added that he knew how difficult it would be to achieve this.
“We’ll have a lot of fun trying to get there. I’m prepared to duck and weave our way into it,” Julius said.
The next big target for the daughter of So You Think is The Bart Cummings (2500 metres) at Flemington on October 3 which carries a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup for the winner.
Last campaign, the lightly-raced six-year-old mare finished fourth in the Warrnambool Cup and then third in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington behind Oceanex before being spelled.
“It’s the perfect start. I probably didn’t really expect her to pick them up like that as she was giving weight to a few of them,” Julius said.
Julius pointed out that Super Girl would have to keep winning races to even gain a start in the The Bart Cummings as she needed to lift her ratings.
Her midweek success was a stepping stone, gaining her a few extra ratings points.
“We’ve made no secret that we’re heading towards The Bart Cummings with the idea of picking a few races along the way, like these (benchmark) 70s, to try and get her in races she can win just to really get her rating up,” Julius said.
“In a perfect world, we’d get the job done there but it’s certainly not that easy.”
Super Girl was ridden by the trainer’s sister Melissa Julius who used her three kilo claim.
Julius said Super Girl could possibly return to Sandown Hillside on September 9 for an 1800m race.
Full brothers Criaderas and Suave have posted victories on the same midweek card at Randwick to contribute to a winning day for racing powerhouse Godolphin.
The duo are by Lonhro out of grand producer Youthful Presence whose nine foals to race are all winners, including Group One performers Hauraki and Kidnapped.
Four-year-old Criaderas is a year younger than Suave and remains undefeated in three starts after unleashing a dashing run down the outside to claim Wednesday’s 2020 Yulong Stallions Handicap (1250m) on the Kensington track
Darren Beadman, assistant to head trainer James Cummings, said they had been unsure how well the horse had come back after two inconclusive barrier trials.
“He is a very casual horse. With his trials, I know they were on wet tracks, but I wouldn’t like to be playing poker with him,” Beadman said.
“He had us all guessing whether he would turn up here today but obviously when the saddle goes on he puts it all together.
“He’s got a nice little bit of class about him.”
Suave recorded his fourth win in seven starts when he overhauled the leaders in the Heineken Handicap (1400m), while progressive four-year-old Plaquette provided Sheikh Mohammed’s operation with the middle leg of their treble.
The mare has been sparingly raced but was held in high enough regard to contest the Group Three P J Bell Stakes at the end of her autumn campaign.
She finished unplaced behind Rubisaki on a heavy track but Beadman expects her to be given another shot at stakes company.
“She’s got the whole spring and obviously the autumn so she’s got it all ahead of her,” Beadman said.
Premier jockey James McDonald celebrated his third win of the day aboard Plaquette after earlier victories on Criaderas and Kingsheir for Hawkes Racing.
David Jolly is hoping a win in the Group One Memsie Stakes will prove more than adequate compensation for missing the Queensland winter with his giant galloper Behemoth.
Behemoth had two starts during the Adelaide racing carnival for a win in the McKay Stakes and a fourth in The Goodwood in May.
Jolly had planned to take him to Queensland for the rich winter carnival after that, but when it was scaled back due to COVID-19, he pulled the plug.
Instead, Jolly gave the horse a couple of quiet weeks which he described as “a breather” then put him back into work.
Behemoth resumed with a win over Dalasan at Morphettville in the Group Three Spring Stakes and on Saturday he will chase his maiden Group One win in the Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
The trainer believes Behemoth could have a slight fitness edge over some of his main rivals.
“He’s a bit more forward than some of them fitness-wise. Others are coming back from a spell and being set for races down the track,” Jolly said.
“Having said that, I certainly haven’t screwed him down.
“He was very good the other day. He had a two-run preparation to get to the Goodwood then he had a little let-up after that.
“I haven’t over-taxed him to get to here.”
Behemoth, who will be ridden by Craig Williams, has drawn barrier two and although he usually drifts back in the field, Jolly believes he will stay in touch with the leaders on Saturday.
“He was a little bit slow away the other day but over 1400 metres he’ll have a bit of time to get some sort of a spot,” Jolly said.
Behemoth stands 17 hands and weighs 600 kilograms and Jolly said the horse needed a lot of time to grow into his frame and as a result had been lightly raced.
“His trip to Sydney last year brought him right on. He’s matured a lot because of the travelling,” Jolly said.
Jolly will be watching the Memsie from the Morphettville races on Saturday.
He plans to send Behemoth to trainer Colin Little’s stables for this run and after that the horse will be prepared from the property of co-trainers Jason Warren and Dean Krongold.
“It’s going to be too hard to bring him back and forth. Jason and Dean’s place is similar to mine so that’s where he will head,” Jolly said.
Jolly is searching for his second Group One win and first in Melbourne.
Grahame Begg thought long and hard about kicking off his exciting staying prospect Nonconformist in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield but reasoned it would be a tough way for him to start a spring campaign.
Instead, he has taken a softer option and the horse will run in a 1400m Handicap on the same program on Saturday as he starts his Caulfield Cup bid.
“It’s a better way to kick off. He’s one-and-a-half kilos above the minimum weight so that’s going to be easier than running in the Memsie Stakes,” Begg said.
“If he was to come back to racing in a Group One Memsie Stakes he’d have to be trained right up to the mark, which as he’s got bigger goals he’s not.
“With Begood Toya Mother and Streets Of Avalon in that race they are going to run along and in the end it might take too much out of the horse.”
The four-year-old gelded son of Rebel Raider created a big impression at his first campaign with six starts for three wins, a second and two thirds.
He ended his preparation with a victory in the Group Two Alister Clark Stakes at Moonee Valley in March.
“He’s coming along very nicely. (The) 1400 metres isn’t his cup of tea but in saying that, if he’s going to measure up to better races he’s got to run well.
“I want to see him put himself in the frame and run home well with an eye on his next start. Also to say we’re heading in the right direction with the Caulfield Cup as our aim.”
Begg said Nonconformist looked good physically but still needed fine-tuning.
“He’s really lengthened out. He’s such a rangy, big bloke. Hopefully he can continue on from his first preparation,” Begg said.
James Cummings has assessed the Memsie Stakes as Savatiano’s best opportunity to break her maiden status at Group One level.
Cummings said he had often thought Savatiano had the potential to win in elite grade and referred to her as “a bottled-up talent”.
“Now she has the chance to live up to that assessment. Not every horse has the chance to prove they are a Group One performer,” Cummings said.
Savatiano has contested six Group One races with her best results a second in the Canterbury Stakes behind The Bostonian at Randwick in March and a third in the 2019 Tatt’s Tiara at Eagle Farm.
Cummings said the six-year-old had trained on well since her first-up win in the Group Two P B Lawrence Stakes, also over 1400m at Caulfield on August 15.
“She has consolidated the fitness that got her home in the Lawrence and comes to the Memsie in great form,” Cummings said.
Cummings said that Savatiano had been very effective over 1400m at Caulfield with two starts over the course and distance for two wins.
Cummings also believes his other Memsie starter Cascadian, who ran on strongly to finish fourth first up behind Savatiano, can be competitive again.
“He’s enjoyed having the freshness knocked out of him by his first-up run, and he’s confirmed that by the sensible and easy way he’s gone about his training since,” Cummings said.
“I hope to see the horse storming home the way he did in the P B Lawrence from the wide barrier.
“If he runs up to that here it opens up some attractive options in either the Sir Rupert Clarke or the Makybe Diva.”
The Melbourne arm of the Godolphin stable has made a great start to the 2020-21 season with 12 starters for five winners and three seconds.
Leading trainer Ciaron Maher has unveiled plans to expand his presence in Sydney as he seeks to transition the operation from a satellite stable.
The Victorian-based horseman spent two weeks in a quarantine facility, which he exited on Friday, to oversee a changing of the guard in Sydney.
With Annabel Neasham recently leaving to train her own team, former Chris Waller racing manager Jack Bruce has been appointed to manage the local base for Maher and David Eustace.
But Maher has revealed that supervising the handover is not his only reason for coming to Sydney.
He and Eustace want to replicate the set-up they have in Victoria so their Sydney operation can stand as a stable in its own right and not just a satellite business.
Maher had hoped to initiate his expansion plans last year but they were put on the backburner when the opportunity arose to acquire the former Ballarat stables of banned trainer Darren Weir.
“That took a bit of organising but now that is all running smoothly so the focus is Sydney and expanding,” Maher said.
“I’ve always wanted to set it up as two individual stables, not a satellite stable, and that’s what we aim to do.”
Maher said they would look to mirror the set-up they have in Victoria, which includes pre-training facilities and farms, as well as increasing their stable numbers.
“I want to set up my own systems, farms, pre-training facilities and replicate what we have (in Victoria),” Maher said.
“On-course stabling is like hens’ teeth in Sydney, for whatever reason I’m not sure, but I will be looking to obtain some more boxes as well.”
Maher will also be out to make an impact at Rosehill on Saturday when he saddles up San Domenico Stakes (1100m) favourite Anders and Holyfield in the Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m).
The pair is among what is shaping to be an outstanding crop of three-year-olds and Anders has the form on the board thanks to a resounding first-up win in The Rosebud.
Maher was taken by that performance which he felt showed Anders was more than purely a speed horse.
“In the Rosebud, he surprised me how well he relaxed,” Maher said.
“It was great to see because he is naturally a very fast horse and it can be their undoing if they become one-dimensional, but he seems to be relaxing.
“He is very quick to begin, he’s got a very good cruising speed and a good turn of foot off that.
“He ticks a lot of boxes and he has really furnished both physically and mentally into his three-year-old year. He is very exciting.”
A trip to Sydney for the spring carnival hinges on how Kisukano adapts to her latest gear change in a bid to curb her headstrong nature.
Trainer Michael Nolan was forced to go back to the drawing board when stewards imposed another sanction on the filly following her unruly behaviour before her last-start Eagle Farm win on August 15.
On that occasion a stallion chain was used in a bid to pacify the filly but she still proved reluctant to enter the gates, prompting stewards to order another barrier test before allowing her to compete again.
Ridden by Bec Goldsworthy in a jump out at Toowoomba on Tuesday, Kisukano was fitted with a blindfold and entered the gates without a repeat of her stalling tactics, much to Nolan’s relief.
“The hardest part was probably getting the blindfold on her and fitting it properly which took a little bit of time,” Nolan said.
“But after it was on she went up once, they brought her back, spun her around twice then she walked straight in with a person each side of her, so I would say it’s the simplest she’s ever loaded.”
Nolan wants to see how the filly performs in Saturday’s Gallopers Sports Club Plate (1200m) at Eagle Farm before giving the green light to an interstate trip.
“Everything’s in the balance to see what she does Saturday,” he said.
“If she won impressively and she loaded and didn’t play up I’d say yes, but we have to wait and see.
“There’s a few ifs and buts with her and we want to see her in action and assess what she does first before we start making any plans.”
Kisukano opened at $1.70 with TAB fixed odds but constant support from punters has seen her odds shorten to $1.60.
Under the set weights and penalties conditions of the race, Kisukano will carry the minimum of 53 kilograms, a drop of 6kg on the impost she carried to an effortless win against her own sex at her latest outing.