The handicapper will determine whether Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed) gets a chance to deliver trainer Chris Waller his first Melbourne Cup but there is little doubt the mare is set for an outstanding spring.
Verry Elleegant made a spectacular return at Randwick on Saturday to beat a high-class field in the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m), overcoming a wide run to deny Star Of The Seas (NZ) (Ocean Park) in a Waller quinella.
The champion trainer has his sights on the spring majors for Verry Elleegant but will only pursue a Melbourne Cup start if her weight is right.
“I think we have the right horse for the Melbourne Cup but if the weights ‘kill’ us we will go to the Cox Plate,” Waller said.
“She hasn’t changed her physique but mentally she is coping so much better with her racing.
“She puts so much into her races and I think that might have disadvantaged her a bit in the early days.
“She would show a bit of stress and negative body language but now she has the confidence in herself and it is showing in her racing.”
From a midfield draw, James McDonald was happy to track a wide course on Verry Elleegant and bank on her ability to sustain a long run to the line.
When he let her loose in the straight, she ranged up to the leading group and kicked strongly when challenged by stablemate Star Of The Seas, who was beaten a half-head for his third Group One placing.
“I thought he had it but Verry Elleegant stole the show, as Winx (Street Cry) did with (stablemate) Foxplay (Foxwedge) one year,” Waller said.
Fierce Impact (Deep Impact) made a good return another half-neck back with the Waller-trained Imaging (Oasis Dream) finishing hard for fourth.
“Her forte is her long, sustained sprint and it wasn’t stopping today. It got stronger as the race went on,” McDonald said.
“For a horse that is a mile-and-a-half horse and being set for a Melbourne Cup, it’s just incredible.
“She would have to be the toughest mare I’ve ever had anything to do with.”
James McDonald returns to scale with Verry Elleegant.
Master Of Wine (Maxios) started an equal favourite but never threatened and jockey Tommy Berry said he was racing more like a genuine stayer.
“Second-up last preparation he went to 2000 from 1400 (metres) and that’s what he felt like he needed today,” Berry said.
Verry Elleegant gave Waller his sixth win in the race, formerly known as the Warwick Stakes before it was renamed after the trainer’s champion Winx who won it three years in a row from 2016.
Verry Elleegant was bred by Don Goodwin and initially raced in New Zealand for Nick Bishara where she won two of her three starts before crossing the Tasman.
The Group One victory was celebrated on both sides of the Tasman with Auckland-based Goodwin and Bishara among a group of Kiwis who retain an ownership interest in the filly, while fellow New Zealanders John and Mark Carter of Jomara Bloodstock, in addition to their sister Rachel, also have a share.
Goodwin purchased Verry Elleegant’s dam Opulence at the 2011 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale for $14,000.
A daughter of Danroad, Opulence is from the great Eight Carat family, with her third dam Cotehele House, the dam of Danewin and Commands.
A two-time winner, Opulence was bought with a view to being mated with the Zabeel stallion Zed, a horse in which Goodwin had an ownership interest from the outset.
Out of the Group One winning Danehill mare Emerald Dream, a granddaughter of Cotehele House, Zed retired as the winner of just one of his four career starts, with injury preventing him from reaching his undoubted potential.
The first three live foals of Opulence have all been winners, with Verry Elleegant preceded by the three-win mare Black Lace, by Towkay, and Verry Elleegant’s year older brother Verry Flash, a seven-time winning stayer.
Opulence has a two-year-old colt by Zed which was purchased by prominent Western Australian bloodstock agent John Chalmers as a yearling at Karaka, while the mare also has a yearling colt by Zed, with the Grangewilliam Stud stallion standing at $6,000+GST this season.