Kiwi mare provides Waller with first Caulfield Cup

Premier trainer Chris Waller and jockey Mark Zahra landed their first Caulfield Cup wins when outstanding mare Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed) held off Anthony Van Dyck (Galileo) and The Chosen One (NZ) (Savabeel).

Waller, who watched the race from Randwick, said it was a special win from a very special horse.

“I thought she was beaten but she dug so deep,” Waller said.

“Going into the race I thought of the negatives as history tells you not many mares can carry 55 kilos in a Caulfield Cup and win with that weight.

“That she could do it tells you how good she is.”

Zahra said it was the best day of his career as he had earlier won on Power Scheme (Fiorente), Albarado (NZ) (Savabeel) and California Zimbol (I Am Invincible).

“Going into the Caulfield Cup I thought I might have used all my luck up. It’s a massive thrill,” Zahra said.

Zahra settled Verry Elleegant in a midfield position and made his run out wide and before the turn, which was his plan.

Zahra knew a horse was coming at her in the closing stages but didn’t realise it was Anthony Van Dyck.

Waller said the Caulfield Cup was usually the best form reference for the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) but admitted that race would be another challenge for Verry Elleegant.

“With her weight, obviously it’s going to be difficult and she’s got to settle and do things right,” he said.

He said they also needed to make a decision as to whether Zahra or James McDonald would ride her in the Melbourne Cup.

“We’ve got a decision to make there. We can’t thank Mark enough for winning two Group One races on her and he might win a third.”

Zahra is hoping he can stay on her as he believes she will be suited by 3200 metres.

“On the way she toughed it out and I also thought she was holding Anthony Van Dyck, I think the 3200 metres will suit her,” Zahra said.

It was the star mare’s sixth win at Group One level, having started her career in New Zealand with trainer Nick Bishara before a campaign with Darren Weir.

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained The Chosen One ran a blinder in third, making the most of an inside draw under Daniel Stackhouse.

“He ran absolutely super,” Stackhouse said. “We probably got the gap a little bit late but he stuck to his guns. Full credit to the trainer and owners.”

Bred by her part-owner Don Goodwin, Verry Elleegant has won 11 of her 24 starts, with a further six placings, with prizemoney earnings of A$6,896,068.

She is the best of three winners out of the Danroad mare Opulence whose granddam Chalet Girl (Imposing) is a half-sister to Danewin and Commands and comes from the same Eight Carat family of Verry Elleegant’s sire Zed.

Goodwin had purchased Opulence for just $14,000 at the 2011 NZB National Broodmare Sale, with the view of sending her to Zed, in whom he has an interest. 

After missing to Zed in 2016 she has a two-year-old full-brother to Verry Elleegant who was consigned at the 2020 NZB Karaka Book 1 where John Chalmer’s Bloodstock, on behalf of WA owner Bob Peters, had the final say at $140,000.

Opulence has a yearling colt, again by the son of Zabeel, but she was not covered last season but is confirmed back in foal to the Grangewilliam Stud stallion this season.

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