Flemington Racing Spectacular kicks off with splendid opener
The opening day of the Flemington Racing Spectacular saw three-year-olds dominate the features, the $1 million Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) and the $750,000 Inglis Sprint (1200m), but the undercard also delivered a number of hints for the remainder of Flemington’s autumn programme.
Western Australian mare Inspirational Girl booked her spot in the $5 million The Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile (1600m) on March 19 with her victory in the Group 2 TAB Blamey Stakes (1600m), an automatic win-and-you're-in race for the world's richest mile race.
Ridden by Damian Lane, her short neck defeat of Group 1 Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) winner Zaaki sets up a mouthwatering rematch in two weeks, with Inspirational Girl looking to emulate Regal Power as a Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile winner in the cerise and white colours of owner Bob Peters.
“She hasn’t done a lot of racing over the last year and a half,” said trainer Danny O’Brien.
“She is a mare who should improve out of this as well as what she did out of the first-up run. Two weeks to the All-Star Mile is just a perfect step for her now, she will have had the two runs and she will be third-up into the All-Star Mile now that she gets her start in it. We’ll certainly have no excuses for her on All Star Mile Day.
“It looked a bit sticky for a while though, I would have preferred if Damian was peeling out at about the 600m. Ultimately, she probably took a bit of a closer position than what we thought and because of that she was three back on the fence and in a sticky spot. She got out in time though and she has run down a top class horse in Zaaki which is very hard to do.”
Zaaki lost no admirers in defeat, especially as he was first-up at the mile, while the Ben and JD Hayes-trained Mr Brightside – another guaranteed Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile runner – finished fourth, just behind Listed The Elms Handicap (1400m) victor Corner Pocket.
The Group 3 Furphy Frances Tressady Stakes (1400m) was won in brilliant fashion by Annavisto, with the Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr-trained four-year-old relishing the softer conditions underfoot to score by three and a quarter lengths over Vespertine and Electric Girl.
“It was lovely,” said rider Jamie Kah. “She’s matured a lot, this prep, physically and mentally. She allowed me a take a nice sit today and she relaxed. That was probably the difference in the finish. She was very strong late.
“She’s always been a talented horse but she’s done it a bit too hard early in her races. I think now that she’s matured we can take that sit if we need her to do so. Physically she’s a different horse. She’s grown and I think she’s in for a good prep.”
The Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (2800m) beckons for Crystal Pegasus after a crushing win at his first start beyond 2100m in the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m), the first leg of Kah’s double.
Trainer Chris Waller only entered Crystal Pegasus for the Roy Higgins Quality at the last opportunity but it proved the right decision after he burst clear for a five-length victory over Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) hero Tigertiger.
“He showed today that he can certainly stay a trip like this and especially in these softer conditions, so I’m sure Chris will keep his options open,” said Waller’s Melbourne representative Jo Taylor. “It was quite an easy watch. He did everything you like to see in a run like that and when he moved up you sit there and wonder if he’s going to go on with it and I think he certainly did.”
The day’s closest finish came in the Listed ATA/Bob Hoysted Handicap (1000m) when the Bjorn Baker-trained Malkovich just held off the flying Brooklyn Hustle to score by a short half head.
It completed a double for Baker, rider Josh Parr and owners Darby Racing, who had earlier won the Inglis Sprint with Overpass.
Melbourrne Cup Carnival Country Final winner Bermadez made a winning debut over the straight six, taking The Resimax Group Plate (1200m), while Resimax Group principal Ozzie Kheir celebrated a double of his own when Hitotsu won the Australian Guineas and Yonce took the closer, The Schweppes Plate (1600m).
The Flemington Racing Spectacular continues next Saturday with Super Saturday Race Day, featuring the $1.5 million Yulong Stud Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the $1.5 million TAB Australian Cup (2000m), while the autumn carnival comes to a spectacular conclusion on March 19 with the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million The Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile (1600m).
Image caption: Exciting top-class racing was the order of the day at Flemington today.