It was a dominating performance by a horse who will turn even the Queen's head if he lines up at Royal Ascot in June. He is as good a sprinter as we have seen in Australia over the past 10 years and on that score alone he will command enormous attention.
But Apache Cat (Lion Cavern-Tennessee Blaze) is a lot more than that. A powerhouse of an athlete, this 5-year-old has to be seen to be believed...literally. He is big and strong, has four white feet and a head that is 85% white as well. He is as Palomino as a racehorse can get and as gifted as any that has looked through a bridle.
In the Australia Stakes, worth Aus$400,000, he bounced from the barriers into the fourth spot, sat behind the breakneck pace until straighhtening, then angled out by rider Corey Brown as they straightened before accelerating past the leader, former group 1 champion 2-year-old Dance Hero, to win as he liked in 1:09.64 - just .32 seconds outside Miss Andretti's track record.
And he carried 137 pounds in doing so.
The win improved the gelding's career stats to 27 starts, 13 wins and Aus$2.4million in stake earnings. But his trainer, former Champion Olympic Equestrian rider Greg Eurell, was worried coming to the home turn.
"We spoke about where we wanted to be before the race and Corey was pretty positive about where he wanted to be but it wasn’t happening. So he kept angling out and eventually he got to be where he wanted and Corey had it pretty well covered in the end," Eurell said.
The group I, Aus$750,000 Newmarket Handicap over six furlongs at Flemington and a race that is part of the global sprint challenge, is the next target for Apache Cat as he aims to complete a hat-trick of group I sprint wins on Super Saturday on March 8.
Eurell was unfazed by the likelihood of Apache Cat being asked to carry a hefty impost by the handicapper.
"In these handicaps you get weighted to be level pegging with of few of these (Australia Stakes opposition), but there aren’t many options at this stage. It’s a terrific race and he does carry weight well so he’ll be competitive," Eurell said.
Second home was the heavily tried Stanzout (Gallo De Ferro-Stanza Grey) who chalked up his third group I placing - his second on the trot, while Monet Rules (Commands-Paris Weekend), who was the first to grab the early leader Dance Hero (who wound up fifth) upon straightening, battled hard for third just in front of the luckless Sonic Quest. The two minor placegetters had to survive a double protest filed by Damien Oliver, the rider of Sonic Quest alleging interference in the home straight.
There was no doubt the horse was hampered but the stewards deemed Oliver had as much to do with the problems as the pair of horses in front of him so the objection was dismissed.