Future bright for Espiona after Desirable demolition
On Penfolds Victoria Derby Day, it was Fangirl; on Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, it was Verry Elleegant; and for Chris Waller and James McDonald on Kennedy Oaks Day, it was all Espiona after she produced one of the easiest victories of the week in taking out the Listed Off The Track Desirable Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Thursday.
It has been a big week for Waller and McDonald with their fillies and mares and, while the focus was justifiably on champion Verry Elleegant on Tuesday, on either side there has been a starring performance from two three-year-old fillies who appear capable of striking success at the highest level.
It seemed unlikely that anything would be able to match Fangirl as far as three-year-old fillies were concerned, with her three-length victory against the boys in the Group 3 Paramount+ Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) a sign of sheer class from a filly having just her fifth start.
But then came Espiona.
The daughter of Extreme Choice had won her maiden on debut by a widening three and a half lengths at Warwick Farm last month and was sent out as the $1.35 market elect on Thursday, likely the shortest-priced favourite of the Melbourne Cup Carnival this year.
Those that had taken the short odds were never uneasy, either, as McDonald pulled the filly to the centre of the track before she showed an explosive turn of foot to put up a margin in a matter of strides. At the line, she had raced clear for a mammoth six and a half length victory over Star Of Chaos and Star Waltz.
“She’s very special, just the way she does everything so easily,” McDonald said. “I feel embarrassed taking my riding fee for that one. She is a very, very smart filly and it will take a crowbar to get me off her.
“Her acceleration is something to behold. She gives you the feel of a proper horse. She’s been very push button and she’s been very well educated. The world is going to be her oyster.
“It’ll take something for a horse to beat a performance like that in Cup Week.”
When asked to compare Espiona and Fangirl, though, McDonald acknowledged that both have unlimited potential.
“They’re both going to be very good in their own right,” he said. “We’ll work it out in the autumn. They are very smart fillies, both sharp at their different stages. Fangirl might sprint a bit more.”
The win took McDonald to eight victories for the week, one shy of Brett Prebble’s record nine from 1999 and 2000. Waller also has the training record in his sights, with Espiona his sixth winner as he eyes off the high water mark of 10 set by Bart Cummings and David Hayes.
Image: Espiona is a special filly (Credit: Getty Images)