Four-year-old entire Mo’unga landed the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday, upstaging eight-time Group One winner Verry Elleegant in a Kiwi bred quinella, in what was a blanket finish to the first elite level contest of the season.
Mo’unga had provided trainer Annabel Neasham with the first Group One win of her career when taking out the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) as an autumn three-year-old, and the son of Savabeel looks like he will be more than competitive now that he is racing in open company.
Ridden by Tommy Berry, Mo'unga stalked Verry Elleegant in the run then peeled off her back and outmuscled the typically brave mare in the fight to the line to get the decision by a half-neck.
She's Ideel, a Karaka graduate of Lyndhurst Farm’s draft, flashed home from last to grab third in an eye-catching performance ahead of a wall of a horses, with only two-and-a-half lengths separating the first ten runners across the line.
Neasham, who only gained her trainers' licence at the start of last season, was delighted to see her charge come of age against the older horses.
"I'm a bit emotional actually," Neasham said.
"He looked the winner a long, long way out. He came up outside Verry Elleegant and I knew he was going to be in for a tough battle as she's such a fighter as well.
"He's improved a hell of a lot from a three-year-old to a four-year-old."
“I was really confident looking at him in the parade ring today. I just thought he looked quite fit.
“It’s a massive well done to our team. Obviously, we’re doing it tough out at Warwick Farm.”
Neasham will let the dust settle before determining what path she follows with Mo'unga this spring.
She also has boom galloper and early Cox Plate favourite Zaaki nearing a return.
"I don't know where we will go from now, but I think we are going to have a fun spring," Neasham said.
Verry Elleegant's jockey James McDonald said the mare lost nothing in defeat.
"It was a good return. She tried very hard," McDonald said.
There was a sombre postscript to the Winx Stakes (1400m) with the John Sargent-trained Brandenburg euthanised after suffering a serious leg injury in the final stages of the race.
His rider Rachel King hit the deck when he stumbled near the 50m and was treated by paramedics before walking back to the jockeys' room uninjured, although she was stood down from her remaining rides as a precaution.
Mo’unga sports the colours of the Fung family’s Aquis Farm, who purchased the colt for $325,000 out of the Waikato Stud draft from Book 1 at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales.
Out of the O’Reilly mare Chandelier, who was runner-up in the Gr.3 Lowland Stakes (2100m), Mo’unga is another example of the successful Savabeel – O’Reilly cross, which operates at an incredible 13 percent stakes winners to runners, with 20 individual stakes winners bred on the cross.
A minority share-holder in the colt is All Black Richie Mo’unga, after whom the striking galloper derives his name.
An avid rugby fan, Aquis Farm’s Shane McGrath was pleased to involve the rugby star in the ownership, with Richie Mo’unga donating his winning percentages to charity.
“He was a November foal, which was the same time Richie came into the All Blacks team, and Dan Carter, who was another All Black, was part of the team who raced the mother Chandelier,” McGrath said.
Mo’unga was already one of 23 individual Group One winners for his champion Waikato Stud sire Savabeel. – NZ Racing Desk