It was only six very quick furlongs, but The Age Sprint Classic at Flemington on Nov. 10 has been the race of the Melbourne Spring Carnival thus far.
Mainly because it finally put to rest the big question of which champion mare is the best sprinter in the Southern Hemisphere. And the answer is Miss Andretti (Ihtiram-Peggies Bid), who emerged from the heat of battle as the best and probably the best in the world now too. Actually many people already thought that when she ventured to England and smashed the Royal Ascot track record at her first go there earlier this year.
And she will get a massive opportunity next month to prove that ranking again as well as she heads to Hong Kong for the International Sprint worth US$2 million. She currently leads the Global Sprint Challenge on points and has an unassailable lead to be crowned the best. Which would be fitting because she is that good after running the perfect race at Flemington to wear down the superstar Gold Edition (Lion Hunter-Glimmers) near the line in a spectacle that earned applause from the 105,000 spectators at the track.
"These match race type of races are always full of pressure and that was obvious out there on the track," said Lee Freedman, Miss Andretti's trainer. "Both these horses ran their hearts out. They are brilliant and both will sleep well after that."
Miss Andretti chalked up her 19th win from just 28 starts by running down Gold Edition. It was her fifth group 1 win and she is now headed to Hong Kong. Before she leaves, connections can spend up big as she has won Aus$2,836,991 in purse money.
Said her rider Craig Newitt, "what a horse. She has the eye of the tiger and when she targets something she runs them down. That other mare is so brave to fight on like she did, but this is the type of horse you just sit back and pray for. She's a champion."
It was indeed a race for the ages.
Run down the straight course at Flemington on a beautiful day, the track wasn't super fast but it had been playing best on the outside rail throughout the carnival. And so when they jumped, all of them, led by the flying Gold Edition, headed to the outside rail. But, Stathi Katsidis, the rider of Gold Edition, suddenly, a la one of those quick decisive moves off the top of the bank in cycling, changed course and darted back to the inside rail catching everyone unaware. "We wanted to run there and have Miss Andretti racing down the outside fence," said Gold Edition's trainer Ron Maund. "Whenever you have a leader and someone sitting right on them getting a draft into the race, the chaser normally wins."
But Newitt, who had his eye fixed on Gold Edition from the moment they jumped, snagged Miss Andretti to the rails also and followed Gold Edition back across the track. It was a move that ended up gaining him victory as Miss Andretti sat about a length and a half behind the leader until the heat was really applied by both riders with two furlongs remaining.
At this point, as it was from the time the field of six was declared, it was a match in two. The others were off the bit six lengths adrift of the flying mares. And these were good horses. Swick, the winner of five races and Aus$544,600 in stakes including a group II win in her just her last start at this very track, possesses an astonishing finishing burst, while the others -- which included another recent group II winner in Stanzout (Gallo Di Ferro - Stanza Grey) -- were in there for a fight too.
Hmm, that didn't eventuate though, as these two mares eyed one another to the total exclusion of the rest. Miss Andretti put her head in front of Gold Edition with just over a furlong and a half to go but she was on empty. And Gold Edition fought back almost joining her with a furlong to go. It was classic racing, superbly theatrical and in the end the world superstar beat the iron maiden by three parts of a length after a great, great tussle. Stanzout was five lengths back in third.
"We will head to Hong Kong now and take on the best sprinters around," said Freedman. “She will have a leisurely three weeks before joining a stable pony who will act as a traveling companion for her.”
Maund, as anyone would have to, acknowledged Miss Andretti's class. "She's a superstar but boy I wanted a race where she was on the outside fence and we were alone on the inside. That would have made it even more interesting. It wasn't to be but everyone saw a classic race between two champions and good luck to them. I hope she wins in Hong Kong for them and Australia."
Gold Edition has now amassed Aus$3,159,695 from her 17 wins and 13 placings. The mares ran the race in 1.08.93sec.