In an amazing training feat, Chris Waller sent out the first four finishers in the AUS$3 million The Star Doncaster Mile (Aus-I), spearheaded by repeat winner Sacred Falls April 12 at Royal Randwick.
The race was the centerpiece of the opening round of the inaugural "The Championships," an AUS$18 million initiative of Racing New South Wales to attract the best horses in training and hosted by the Australian Jockey Club. The card included 10 group races, anchored by the Doncaster Mile and three other group I events. Elsewhere, Lankan Rupee won the AUS$2.5 million T. J. Smith Stakes, Criterion took the AUS$2 million BMW Australian Derby, and Peggy Jean captured the Aus$1 million Inglis Sires.
Day two of The Championships, which also includes four group I events, is set for April 19 at Royal Randwick.
Sacred Falls landed his second Doncaster Mile with a perfectly timed ride by Zac Purton, who flew in from Hong Kong for mount.
Stablemates Royal Descent, Weary, and Hawspur finished a respective second, third, and fourth in the 20-horse field.
"I guess it will sink in tomorrow," Waller said of finish. "This race has turned me around as a trainer."
Sacred Falls swept to the lead in the straight, chased by Royal Descent and Weary. A roar went up when the crowd realized that Waller had trained the first four home and scooped all but AUS$60,000 of the purse.
A New Zealand-bred son of O'Reilly—Iguazu's Girl, by Redoute's Choice, Scared Falls won by a half-length and covered the distance in 1:39.50 on very heavy turf while scoring for the eighth time from 19 career starts. He defeated champion Pierro in last year's edition of the Doncaster Mile.
Owned by Raffles Thoroughbred Racing Syndicate, Sacred Falls is likely to start in next week's AUS$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Aus-I), the jewel in The Championships crown. He earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) later this year at Santa Anita Park
via the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.
The Queen Elizabeth is also part of the international Breeders' Cup Challenge, with the winner earning a berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
Lankan Rupee confirmed his status as the world's top sprinter, defeating a top-class field in the Darley T. J. Smith Stakes by two lengths from Rebel Dane
, with Buffering
finishing third in the 15-horse field.
Ridden by Craig Newitt, the 4-year-old gelding by Redoute's Choice—Estelle Collection, by Stravinsky, won a fifth consecutive race and tallied a third straight at the group I level while earning an automatic berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT).
Lankan Rupee uncorked a scintillating turn of foot on the heavily saturated ground and pulled clear in the final 250 meters to win while eased down. He covered 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) in 1:12.14.
"(It's) the first time he's seen this type of ground," said trainer Mick Price, who saddled Lankan Rupee for Teeley Assets. "I know he was very dominant at the end of 1,200 meters and it just tells me there's plenty of stamina there with him. He's been trained specifically for 1,200 meters on top of the ground, but these 1,200 meters on a very, very heavy track, it's just all credit to the horse."
After settling in midfield on the fence early, Rosehill Guineas (Aus-I) winner and 2-1 favorite Criterion showed plenty of energy in winning the Australian Derby by a long neck from hard-charging Tupac Amaru.
Hugh Bowman eased Criterion off the fence and asked him to run at the 600-meter mark. Driving between rivals, he engaged front-runner Hooked, who was denied second by Tupac Amaru. Hooked held on for third, three-quarters of a length back.
Criterion, a 3-year-old by Sebring—Mica's Pride, by Bite the Bullet, finished 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in 2:38.49. Trained by David Payne for Sir O. G. Glen, he has a 5-3-1 record from 16 career starts.
Peggy Jean underscored the dominance of fillies this season in Australia, edging past runner-up Scratch Me Lucky in the closing stages to win the Inglis Sires for 2-year-olds.
Scratch Me Lucky struck the lead at the 200-meter mark but he was soon joined by Peggy Jean to his outside and the two raced clear of their nine pursuers. The two matched strides until 100 meters out, where Peggy Jean got her head in front and held sway to score by a half-length under Nash Rawiller.
Cornrow finished five lengths back in third.
A daughter of Mycharlieboy, Peggy Jean was timed in 1:27.61 for 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs). She was one of a quartet of runners sent out by trainer Gerald Ryan, with the other three all unplaced: Time For War (fourth), Lucky Raquie (eighth), and group II winner Believe Yourself, the 3-1 favorite (10th).
Bred in Australia by Ascot Heath, Peggy Jean is out of the Lago Delight mare Lady of Love and is owned by Triple Crown Syndications, which bought her for AUS$46,000 from the Torryburn Stud consignment at last year's Inglis classic yearling sale. She was an AUS$25,000 pinhook from the Magic Millions national weanling sale by Belmont Bloodstock.
Peggy Jean has a 2-2-1 record from five career starts that include the lucrative Inglis Classic for sales graduates Jan. 18 at Randwick.