Source : The Sydney Morning Herald, by Chris Roots
James McDonald knows all about the will to win of champion mare Verry Elleegant. So does Chris Waller. And if anyone doubted it, Verry Elleegant’s best qualities were on show in her Chipping Norton Stakes victory at Randwick on Saturday.
After Verry Elleegant prevailed in a five-horse blanket finish, all of them previous group 1 winners, Waller admitted “she is probably not a miler”, but she has won group 1s at 1400m, 1600m, 2000m and 2400m.
Four of her seven group 1 victories have been photo-finishes. When it comes down to a fight, she invariably comes out on top.
McDonald rode to her strengths, being the first to go 600m from home, but it wasn’t until the final 100m, when her rivals fatigued slightly, that Verry Elleegant asserted her dominance.
She scored by a half neck to Colette with Avilius another head away in third. Both had looked the winner at different parts of the straight, with Funstar and Kolding close up. After a battle the length of the Randwick, Verry Elleegant was going away at the post.
“I know her so well and she was so comfortable at that point [the 600m mark], it was the right time to go,” McDonald said. “I could have waited but I know she is so strong.
I think everybody saw her fighting qualities today. I thought Colette had us cold at the 300m mark.
“I’ve been in those scenarios before with her. She seems to come out on top more times than not. I knew once she was on, that last 100m the tough would get going. I know as the distances get further, she will only get better.”
Waller lauded a ride that depended on Verry Elleegant’s strengths.
“It was a really good ride under the circumstances. He got going a bit earlier and used her fighting qualities,” Waller said. “She’s like the Octagonal, Lonhro type of horse. Once she gets to 2000 and 2400, she wins a bit more comfortably.
“I think everybody saw her fighting qualities today. I thought Colette had us cold at the 300m mark and then I saw Avilius coming with a well-timed run and she was in the middle of them.
“She dug very deep, it was a good tough win.”
Verry Elleegant won last year’s Winx Stakes by a nose, the Turnbull Stakes by a similar margin and the Caulfield Cup by a short head.
Waller ruled out the Doncaster and Sydney Cup for her after the Chipping Norton. There’s a return bout with Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, as well as possibly defending her Tancred Stakes.
McDonald can’t wait for the test against the highest-rated horse in the world.
“They are both a year older. We always thought our mare would get better. It’s whether his old bones can handle the travel again. He looks very good and will be hard to beat,” he said.
The strength of Verry Elleegant victory was shown by the rider of the vanquished.
“Massive again. Can’t fault her,” Rachel King said of Colette.
Nash Rawiller on Avilius added: “Awesome run. Gee he was good.”
While Verry Elleegant will be a major player in the spring, Waller was also delighted with Funstar and Kolding’s efforts
“Funstar is probably our top seed of the older horses for the Doncaster,” Waller said. “Kolding was left in front, which wasn’t really fair. He just needs a horse to follow.”
But the final word has to go to his star. “They don’t get much better than her,” he said.