The Group One gold rush for New Zealand-bred horses in Australia this autumn kept on rolling with three-year-old filly Ruthless Dame conquering an elite field of older mares in Saturday’s A$500,000 Furphy Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville.
The daughter of Tavistock recorded the 10th elite-level victory for a New Zealand-bred since the start of April, following on from Militarize in the Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) and Champagne Stakes (1600m), I Wish I Win in the TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), Mr Brightside in the Doncaster Mile (1600m), Major Beel in the Australian Derby (2400m), Pennyweka in the Australian Oaks (2400m), Explosive Jack in the Sydney Cup (3200m), Atishu in the Queen of the Turf Stakes (1600m) and Affaire A Suivre in last week’s Australasian Oaks (2000m). Overall, the victory is the 19th Group One win by a New Zealand-bred in Australia for the 2022-23 season.
With only five previous starts to her name, Ruthless Dame went into Saturday’s Sangster as the least experienced runner amongst a star-studded field of 14. Her opponents included Group One winners Bella Nipotina, Roch ‘N’ Horse, September Run and Espiona. That would be a difficult enough task in itself for a three-year-old filly, let alone jumping from gate 12. But Ruthless Dame was up to the task.
Ridden by John Allen, Ruthless Dame settled in fourth-last and still had only three rivals behind her when she rounded the home turn.
But then Allen set her alight out wide on the Morphettville straight, and Ruthless Dame responded with an exceptional turn of foot.
She bounded past most of the field within a few powerful strides, and despite facing late challenges from Another Award, Zapateo and Chain Of Lightning, the exciting filly put herself out of their reach and won by three-quarters of a length.
Ruthless Dame has now had six starts for three wins, two placings and A$562,475 in stakes. She had previously won last year’s Gr.3 VRC Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) as an autumn two-year-old, while her placings included a close second in the Gr.1 Surround Stakes (1400m) in Sydney in February.
Ruthless Dame became the sixth three-year-old filly to win the Sangster since it was awarded Group One status in 2005, following in the footsteps of Alinghi (2005), Universal Queen (2007), Rostova (2010), Shoals (2018) and Instant Celebrity (2021).
For trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Saturday’s triumph vindicated their decision to take on the older mares instead of running the filly in the Gr.2 Tobin Bronze Stakes (1200m) against her own age group half an hour later.
“Unbelievable,” Maher said. “We could have run her in the next race, but we went for this one. She’s already been Group One-placed, and we just thought she could have the last crack at them here. There was always going to be really good speed on, and she’s got strong form over a bit further than this.
“She came into this nice and fresh. Our team have done a super job with her.”
Maher paid tribute to the ownership group, which is headed by Campbell Stott, for their patience during some significant health issues earlier in Ruthless Dame’s career.
“The team of owners are great supporters of ours,” Maher said. “They’ve had some really good success over the years, and this just tops it all off.
“She actually got pneumonia and got really sick, and that was why she ended up spending a lot of time on the sidelines. Thankfully the vets did a fantastic job and got her back.”
Bred by Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock, Ruthless Dame is a graduate of Gordon Cunningham’s Curraghmore. Out of the stakes-placed Keeper mare Ruthless Lady, Ruthless Dame was bought by Ciaron Maher Racing for $90,000 at the 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales.
She was purchased from the Book 1 session on the recommendation of Sarah Worker and Conor Fahy of Kawa Park, who both previously worked for the Maher/Eustace stable before returning to New Zealand.
“Campbell and I have often paired up to buy these New Zealand horses,” Maher said. “Usually they’re horses that get up over a bit more ground than this, but I’m sure he’ll be happy with this one.
“She could go to the Tattersall’s Tiara (Gr.1, 1400m) now, or she could come back here for the Goodwood (Gr.1, 1200m). There’s plenty of options for her. We’ll just let the dust settle first. She’s a Group One winner now, and we can take our time to work out what’s going to suit her best from here.”