Death, taxes and Verry Elleegant.
They’re the three things you can rely on in life and the New Zealand bred mare once again did her legion of supporters proud as she dug deep and overcame a sub-optimal run to get the better of game front-runner Riodini to land the Gr.1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
It was the ninth Group One win of Verry Elleegant’s career as she surpassed A$9 million in earnings.
Sent out a $1.75 favourite, Verry Elleegant was slow into stride from barrier 2, but eventually settled fourth in the running under James McDonald.
Rachel King again rated Riodini to perfection, skipping four lengths clear turning for home, but Verry Elleegant displayed her champion qualities to strike the lead 50m from home, darting back to the fence to score by three-quarters of a length.
Chelmsford Stakes runner-up Riodini held on to second by half a head from Chelmsford winner Think It Over ($4.80), with ATC Oaks winner Hungry Heart ($21) closing for fourth.
“She is a good horse simple as that. She is a difficult horse to train and the team, as I’ve mentioned before today, just do a wonderful job with her and all the other horses,” Waller said.
“I’m here getting the accolades for it on race day but it is an honour to train a horse like this.
“If she doesn’t win Group Ones she runs second in them over all distances on all track conditions. That is a rare commodity.”
Verry Elleegant has come a long way since winning two of her first three starts in New Zealand for Nick Bishara, who continues to share in the ownership of the mare with a host of New Zealanders.
After four starts for outed trainer Darren Weir the daughter of Zed joined the Waller stable and has become one of the middle-distance stars in Australia under his tutelage, in what hasn’t been a straight-forward journey.
“On her constitution, she wouldn’t eat as well as we liked. It was a nightmare just trying to get her to each race,” Waller recalled.
“As we all do, she has strengthened up as an older horse and mentally she is a lot better. So that tells us that she is enjoying her racing and it all comes hand in hand.”
“Today you could see James was trying to be tactical and have her off the fence. That didn’t work out that well. It caused her to over-race a little I thought the first time I watched it.
“From the half-mile onwards she was cruising and she had to dig deep the last 200m, but that is when a horse like Verry Elleegant starts to excel. The tougher the contest the better she’ll go.”
Waller said Verry Elleegant will have her next start on October 2 in either the A$1 million Gr.2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Randwick or A$1 million Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington ahead of the A$5 million Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on October 23.
Winning jockey James McDonald said the mare was particularly cantankerous today.
“Once I jumped a little bit slow, I didn’t have many options to be fair and just let it unfold as it went,” he said.
“When I looked up at the 500m and saw Riodini had shot clear, I thought Jesus it is going to take a mighty horse to run it down and both Think It Over and Verry Elleegant went together but she pulls out all stops this horse, she is just tough as nails.”
By proven Grangewilliam Stud sire Zed, Verry Elleegant is the best of three winners out of the Danroad mare Opulence and stems from the famed Eight Carat family.
The classy mare is raced by a group that includes her breeder Don Goodwin.
Runner-up Riodini, a son of Proisir, will now be aimed at the Gr.1 Epsom Handicap (1600m).
“It was a massive run,” jockey Rachel King said.
“When he drops in weight next start in the Epsom he’s going to be one of the fancied ones.” – NZ Racing Desk