With wins in the past three past editions of the Lightning Stakes (Aus-I) by legendary mare Black Caviar
, co-owner Neil Werrett became a familiar figure in the winner's enclosure at Flemington Racecourse
He enjoyed victory again in this year's renewal, named in Black Caviar's honor, but this time with speedy filly Snitzerland. She earned a breakthrough at the group I level with a half-length triumph over Shamexpress Feb. 15.
Black Caviar captured the Lightning three successive years (2011-13) amidst 24 victories from as many starts. She sizzled to a Flemington track record for 1,000 meters (about five furlongs) when winning the race one year ago in :55.42.
The Black Caviar Lightning Stakes further honors the now-retired Bel Esprit mare, a three-time Australian champion sprinter who earned three Australian Horse of the Year titles in a superlative career. She is in foal to reigning Australian champion sire Exceed And Excel.
Ridden by Brenton Avdulla for trainer Gerald Ryan, Snitzerland vied for the early lead with Bernabeu before asserting herself 300 meters out. Group I winner Shamexpress desperately pursued after charging between horses, but Snitzerland held on to the win in :57.16 on a track rated as good.
Samaready, a multiple group I wnner and the 3-1 favorite in the 12-horse field, was hard-ridden from 400 meters out to check in third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Shamexpress.
"It's been quite a day," Werrett said. "To name a race after Black Caviar then to win it is a great thrill."
Snitzerland's victory also marked the first in a group I race for Melbourne native Avdulla, who is based in Sydney. The win was an emotional one for the 23-year-old rider.
"That was special," he said as his voice shook. "It's a special day today; my pop passed away just before I was born and it's his birthday today, so it's worked out alright especially to get my first group I in Melbourne."
Snitzerland is a 4-year-old daughter of Australia's current leading sire Snitzel. Ryan had her ready for a top effort following her nose defeat in the Dilmah Earl Grey Century Stakes Nov. 7 at Flemington. She was twice placed previously at the group I level, finishing second in both the 2012 AAMI Golden Slipper Stakes (Aus-I) and 2013 Canterbury BMW Galaxy (Aus-I).
"I knew that we were coming here today with a horse that was on song ready to go and I don't think Gerald's had her going any better," Avdulla said.
Snitzerland, who is out of the unraced Fraar mare Monte Rosa, improved her record to eight wins and four seconds from 17 career starts and boosted her lifetime bankroll to Aus$1,874,500 with the Lightning win.
On the advice of Kitchwin Hills' manager Mick Malone, Werrett and partner Steve McCann (Encompass Bloodstock) got involved in Snitzerland after she sold to Darby Bloodstock for $125,000 ($127,200 in United States funds) from the Bellerive Stud consignment at the 2011 Inglis Melbourne premier yearling sale.
"Mick Malone bought her for me, and Gerald Ryan has managed her very well. People forget that she ran second (to champion Pierro) in a Golden Slipper, but to get the result today is just brilliant," Werrett said.