Fangirl stuns boom filly Espiona in thrilling Light Fingers

Source: Racenet, by Ray Thomas

Fangirl 1, Espiona 0.

This is the scorecard after trainer Chris Waller’s star three-year-old fillies produced an epic finish albeit with an unexpected result in the Group 2 $200,000 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

But the long head margin that separated Fangirl and Espiona has whetted the appetite for the rematch in the Group 1 Surround Stakes in two weeks.

Espiona had been backed as if unbeatable, she started $1.55 favourite, and had to endure a tough, wide run but should not take away from the win of Fangirl ($13) who unleashed a powerful late surge to wrest the lead near the line.

 Jamaea ($11) peeled of the back of Espiona at the top of the straight and looked likely to run down the favourite before she faded slightly nearly the line for third, beaten only a length.

Waller is certainly looking forward to a return clash after both fillies ran superbly in their comeback races.

“I think you have to respect it was only Espiona’s third run,’’ Waller said.

“She sat three wide, Hughie (Bowman) gave Fangirl a beautiful run while Espiona covered an extra 10m as simple as that.

“You would like a better draw for Espiona next time and she will take improvement from the run – hope the winner doesn’t improve too much.”

Waller said Fangirl and Espiona are classic examples of slow-maturing fillies who have appreciated being given the time to mature and develop.

“Bart Cummings told us the cheapest thing in racing is patience,’’ Waller said.

“These two weren’t showing a lot as two-year-olds but I wouldn’t swap them for anything at the moment.’’

Bowman was at his tactical best on Fangirl as he wanted to ensure the filly’s final 200m was her best of the race.
“I didn’t anticipate that happening (finding the favourite’s back on straightening),’’ Bowman said.

“It panned out beautifully for me. I didn’t have to make any rash decisions. She is going to improve beautifully from this run and it spells out for a good prep.”

Surprisingly, Fangirl was Waller’s first winner in the Light Fingers Stakes. Even his all-time great Winx was beaten in this race in 2015, finishing only seventh to Adrift.

Everything is easy in hindsight but there should not have been so much between Espiona and Fangirl in Light Fingers Stakes betting.

Fangirl, owned and bred by the Ingham family, has lived in the shadow of her boom stablemate but she finished her spring campaign with three successive wins including the Carbine Club Stakes at Flemington during the Cup Carnival.

“She is a talented filly and we saw what she did down at Flemington on Derby Day, which is never easy for a filly to beat those boys and she did that easily. She won with a bit of class today, too,’’ Waller said.

“It will be interesting to see what comes from the race and how much they both improve, and obviously others in the race as well. I think she has got a bright future and no disgrace Espiona.

“I don’t think there is any diverting (Surround Stakes clash), which is great.”