Kiwi four-year-old Skew Wiff (Savabeel x Starvoia) displayed her true quality when landing the Gr.3 Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Tuesday under a tactically perfect Opie Bosson ride.
The Mark Walker-trained mare defeated a quality line-up in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) in her homeland back in September and plans were quickly made to enhance her CV across the Tasman.
But her late-scratching in the Gr.2 Rose Of Kingston Stakes (1400m) at Flemington in early October after playing up in the barriers threw the cat amongst the pigeons.
Skew Wiff was duly sent to noted horseman Julian Welsh, with the renowned horse whisperer given the task of rectifying the mare’s barrier manners.
Whatever the old-school horseman did, it worked the oracle with Skew Wiff on her best behaviour on Melbourne Cup Day as she lumped 59kgs to defeat Foxy Cleopatra and Forbidden City in a close finish.
“It is good to see that they’ve straightened out a few of those quirks that she’s got and she’s doing everything perfect now. She’s like a little lamb to ride, she’s a new horse,” Bosson said.
“She’s so much more laid back and in the barriers she doesn’t even think twice about moving.
“Full credit to him (Julian Welsh).”
From a tricky barrier (12) Bosson had Skew Wiff perfectly positioned behind the leaders, three-deep with cover and presented at the right time, knowing the mare has a short, sharp sprint.
“I was caught three-deep but we had cover. I was quite happy there and she came up underneath me beautifully turning in,” Bosson said.
“It was just a matter of holding her up and getting there at the right time in this big long straight and to her credit she put her head out when it counted.”
Assistant trainer Ben Gleeson was delighted for winning owner-breeders Waikato Stud as the new Te Akau Cranbourne stable continues to make an instant impact in Australia.
“It’s huge, obviously for Waikato Stud, who are massive supporters of New Zealand racing and Te Akau racing and Mark (Walker) so to have a winner for them on Cup day with such a good mare who now picks up black-type in Australia is a great thrill,” Gleeson said.
“It just shows Te Akau’s here, we don’t just have the one horse to represent us (Imperatriz, multiple Group One winner), so it’s a big thrill and it shows everyone that we’re willing to train for anyone and have more horses than just the tangerine (Te Akau syndicated horses).
“It was a gun ride. She’s a filly that if she’s left alone and gets a bit of cover she’s got an electrifying finish and you could see Opie was trying to keep the three-wide trail and hold onto her as much as he could.
“He knows the filly so well and to come over for just her today shows the opinion he has of her.”
There is now the option of concluding the preparation with a tilt at another Group One care of the re-jigged Victorian Spring Carnival.
“She hasn’t had the ideal preparation obviously with that barrier mishap but we’re hoping to get her to the Rupert Clarke (Gr.1, 1400m), which is obviously in a week-and-a-half so we’ll see how she comes through the run but 1400 metres at Caulfield will be right up her alley,” Gleeson said.
By Champion sire Savabeel, Skew Wiff is the first foal of stakes winning Starcraft mare Starvoia, who won on six occasions, including the Listed Mosgiel Stakes (1200m) for John and Karen Parsons.
A mishap as a youngster prevented Skew Wiff from making it to auction and that injury has delivered a silver lining for breeder Waikato Stud.
She had been among Waikato Stud’s Book 1 draft at the 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale, but was scratched from the travelling party.
“Over the Christmas-New Year period of that year she copped a kick in the paddock on her forearm,” Waikato Stud principal Mark Chittick recalled.
“It got pretty mucky and touched on a bone infection so we had to sort that out. It was probably one of those things that if we worked really hard we could have got her to the yearling sale, but we wanted to take it easy and get it right.”
Her absence at Karaka was duly noted by Te Akau principal David Ellis, who had seen the filly on-farm.
“David approached me at the sale and was disappointed she wasn’t there to be purchased so I explained why and said when we get her broken in you can train her,” Chittick said.