Dee’s day as Legarto headlines Flemington spectacular

4 March 2023 Written by Racing & Sports

The first day of the Victoria Racing Club’s Flemington racing Spectacular saw a quality winner of the Australian Guineas.

Flemington trainers dominated the card winning five of the nine races, and Michael Dee taking riding honours with a treble.

Following the incident in the Australian Guineas, jockey Ethan Brown received immediate medical attention and was taken to hospital with suspected abdominal injuries and is in a stable condition. Our thoughts are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Jockey Mark Zahra walked off the track and was cleared by the Racing Victoria doctor. He went on to fulfill his riding engagements for the day. Both horses involved in the incident, Maximillius and Holymanz,  returned to the care of their stables and have been assessed by the on-course vets, with some minor abrasions but no serious injuries.

Flemington’s rich New Zealand connection continues in Guineas

The raps were right about Legarto as the three-year-old filly trained by Ken and Bev Kelso pulled off a hit-and-run mission in the $1 million Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) feature.

Snaring the first of March’s spotlight events, Benedetta ventured to Melbourne already a winner of the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in November.

The all-Kiwi combination was rounded off with compatriot Michael Dee in the saddle, and delivered  second win in this race.

“It’s huge. We weren’t going to retire until we got a Group One in Australia. We’ve only ever brought Group One horses over here and we’ve run about three seconds."

“Massive. Just can’t believe it.”

Those retirement plans are on hold at least until later this year as the Kelsos have Melbourne springtime features in their sights including a desire to return to Flemington and the Group 1 TAB Champions Stakes (2000m).

Legarto won by a long-head margin over Attrition, ridden by Jamie Kah, with the Mike Moroney-trained Japanese Emperor a long-neck margin away in third.

Dee shines on the day

Dee’s won Legarto notched his second Group 1 victory at Flemington for the season after taking the Group 1 Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) aboard Manzoice during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

He also steered longshot Lunar Fox to victory in the 2021 Australian Guineas.

This was his eighth Group 1 win of his career and today’s treble was rounded out with victory aboard Sessions Road in the final event after opening the card with victory aboard Princess Duhallow in the Furphy Trophy (1000m).

Nonconformist strikes in Blamey

Formerly Flemington-based, trainer Grahame Begg has maintained a high opinion of now six-year-old gelding Nonconformist and has been rewarded with a first-up victory in the Group 2 TAB Blamey Stakes (1600m).

Winless in three other attempts at Flemington, Nonconformist found a race pattern to suit and also provided Group 1-winning jockey Harry Coffey with his first win at Group 2 level.

“We just wanted him to relax and finish off and run through the line. Grahame said to me if I can get him to do that then he’d be happy. He told me, ‘I’m not saying he can’t win but if he can win it’d be even better’.” Coffey said.

The Blamey Stakes winner earns a ballot free ticket into the $5 million All-Star Mile however the Begg stable looks to be heading towards that the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) on the final day of Flemington’s major March fixtures.

Inglis spoils for Benedetta

From Cranbourne to Sandown and now winning the $750,000 Inglis Sprint over 1200 metres for three-year-olds, Benedetta scored her fourth win in her five-start career.

Run on the eve of the Inglis Premier Sale in Melbourne, the filly was purchased for $75,000 at that sale in 2021.

Her sire, Hellbent, won the Inglis Dash (1100m) for three-year-olds at Flemington in 2016.

“The feel she just gave me was goosebumps,” jockey Dan Stackhouse said.

“She’s so electrifying and the way she did it and how easy she did it was quite scary. She’s got a very bright future and keeps raising the bar every time she goes out there.”

Trainer Jason Warren said that Benedetta’s effort was one of the highlights of his career and the newly valuable $500,000 Listed Sunlight Classic (1100m) would most likely see the filly back at Flemington on March 25.

Roy Higgins aspirations not So Unusual

The McEvoy training team are treating emerging stayer So Unusual with care as the four-year-old notched his fourth-straight win in the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour Tenders Open (2500m).

All being well, the next step will be the Listed Roy Higgins Quality over 2600 metres back at Flemington on Australian Cup Day – March 25.

With an all-important ‘golden ticket’ into the Lexus Melbourne Cup, Calvin McEvoy certainly sees the attraction should So Unusual be up for the challenge in extending the preparation.

“He’s a young horse, he’s only four, and I’ve got no doubts he’s going to be better next preparation and probably in 12 months’ time,” McEvoy said.

“We want to treat him carefully and treat him with the respect he deserves and if he bounces through today there’s every chance we’ll show up in the Roy Higgins.”

Now on to the second meeting of a marvellous March at Flemington with one of Australia’s prized sprints, the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap down the famous ‘straight six’ on Saturday March 11.