Miss Andretti, named for Mario Andretti, had enough horsepower to win Australia's first group I of the year, the Lightning Stakes.
The timing as well as the time of Miss Andretti’s second goup I victory in Australia’s Speed Championship is significant.
Until the end of January, Mario Andretti’s quartet of victories of Formula 1 Grand Prix, an Indianapolis 500, a Champ Car Crown, and the Daytona 24-hour Sports Car Classic had been unique.
As if to mark the occasion, a couple of days after Juan Pablo Montoya equaled Andretti’s famous driving parlay, the mare named for the 1978 FI World Champion scorched the turf half a world away, in Melbourne, Australia.
In a grand display of real, rather than simulated horsepower, Miss Andretti whooshed away from her rivals to land the $500,000 (Australian funds) Lightning Stakes (Aust-I) at Moonee Valley Feb 3.
Her closing speed under Craig Newitt allowed the 9-4 favorite to lower the five-furlong track record by 21/100ths in running :57.22.
The race mark is :55.50, the first Australian group I of the year normally run over the straight track at Flemington, torn up just a few days after the Victoria Racing Club’s spring meeting in November. Flemington reopens in September.
Miss Andretti is the first to land the group I double of the Manikato Stakes and Lightning in the same season since champion filly Dual Choice 36 years earlier. The 5-year-old also provided a track record in the Manikato last September, with a 1:09.29 for the Valley six furlongs.
In defeating the courageous Magnus by 1 1/2 lengths, Miss Andretti claimed the major stakes portion of $300,000, which swelled her career earnings to $1.26 million.
The 53rd Lightning provided Andretti’s 14th success from 22 starts, plus five minor placings. It is also the opener for the Global Sprint Challenge, won last year by $1,250 purchase Takeover Target, also the Lightning hero.
Bred in Western Australia by Keith and Peggy Beauglehole, the mare is by Royal Academy’s Irish-bred son, Ihtiram, from Peggie's Bid a daughter of Robert Sangster’s fine stayer, Marooned, who died at stud last year.
She was sold privately by her breeders, Sean Buckley later gaining a majority holding from her original trainer, David Mueller. Buckley sent her to Lee Freedman last year and the mare has blossomed.
Freedman prepared Makybe Diva to win the final pair of her three Melbourne Cups (Aust-I). He believes the equine Andretti will be a sensation in England, her and the runner-up already invited.
“I think she'll be a sensation in England,” Freedman said. “She's probably the best sprinting mare in Australia at the moment, probably in the Southern Hemisphere.
“I remember as a kid watching the great sprinting mares like Dual Choice and Maybe Mahal and she's right up with them now.”
Magnus (14-1) fought on gamely, but had no answer to the winner’s final drive. The Flying Spur 4-year-old colt was trapped wide outside the leaders, Ticklish and the heavily-backed second choice, Virage de Fortune.
Ticklish (25-1) made the best of her hit-run trip from New Zealand, clinging tenaciously to the lead until overpowered by Magnus in mid-stretch. Miss Andretti had been covered up in fourth by Newitt from the inside gate and, once in the clear, burst between the leading pair as she charged at the wire.
Mario enjoys racing these days through his son and grandson, Michael and Marco. He would certainly approve of this display of horsepower.