Trainer Ken Rae admits it’s not often a plan comes together perfectly, but that was the case on Saturday when Irish Girl proved too tough for her rivals in the Gr.3 Valachi Downs South Island Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Riccarton.
Rae prepares the rugged five-year-old daughter of El Roca in partnership with his daughter Krystal Williams-Tuhoro, who had accompanied the mare south from their Ruakaka base earlier in the week.
Rae had pencilled in the Group Three feature for his charge some time ago but planning a path to Riccarton had proved to be a challenging exercise.
“When she ran second at Ellerslie on New Zealand Derby day, I said to her owners that we would go to the Cuddle Stakes ($80,000 Gr.3, 1600m) at Trentham and then to this race today,” Rae said.
“Then they left the nominations open for a $70,000 1400m race at Ellerslie on Auckland Cup day so I thought why not have a go at that, as it was worth just less than Trentham and was closer to home.
“We changed our plans and ran second there and we could still go south to have a crack at this race.
“It turned out to be a great plan in the end, as it is not often you change things like that and they work out but this time it has.”
Rae did admit there had been a few travel hiccups on the way which necessitated a long drive and early start for his daughter last Sunday.
“I had tried to book her with Majestic Horse Transport to get to Riccarton but they couldn’t take her when we needed her to go,” he said.
“I ended up making a booking on the Wellington ferry for the crossing at 2am on Monday morning so Krystal drove her all the way down there on Sunday to make the boat and then carried on to Christchurch.
“She said the mare just took it all in her stride and has thrived all week.
“While she is no Melody Belle, she is one tough cookie and she showed that with how well she fought in the straight to get the win.”
Rae will now look at further local options for Irish Girl while he is also toying with putting her on a plane to Brisbane to tackle races during the winter carnival there.
“Today was her grand final so everything we do after this is just a bonus,” he said.
“There are a couple of options here at home but in a handicap, she will have to carry 60kgs or more,” he said.
“I’m having a think about maybe freshening her and then taking her to Brisbane as there are so many suitable options for a mare like her.
“I’ve always thought she was good enough to be competitive over there, so while she is in form, it seems a sensible decision to try and have a go at them.”
Out of the useful race mare Aimee’s Babe, Irish Girl is a grand-daughter of stakes winner Aimee’s Idol and has now won six of her 19 starts and over $174,000 in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk
WINNER: Irish Girl (NZ) 2016
BREEDING: by El Roca (AUS) out of Aimees Babe by Postponed (USA)
BREEDER: G M Hackett & V J Roberts
RACE: CJC South Island Thoroughbred Breeders S. Gr.3 1600