The people’s champion of Australian racing, the colorfully marked Apache Cat (Lion Cavern--Tennessee Blaze) was given a stirring test at his first run at Queensland, but came out of it the winner he is--chalking up in the process his fourth straight group I victory.
Starting a raging hot favorite, Australia’s premier sprinter had to reach very, very deep into his bag of tricks to beat the brilliant mare Vormista by a long neck to claim the $405,000 BATC Cup over six furlongs.
The pair had sat third and fourth respectively until straightening, and then made their runs together. Vormista drew level with a furlong to go, and the entire crowd stared in disbelief. But the Apache Cat attacked when he extended, lifted and narrowly won.
“She has run an enormous race and you have to take your hat off to her,” said Apache Cat’s trainer Greg Eurell. “But this is a real champion racehorse, and he fought it out beautifully. He seems to race his best when kept fresh, so now that he has won four group Is in a row, we’ll give him another one to claim in two weeks in the Doomben 10,000 (Aust-I), then tip him out again for another spell.”
That all but closed the door on Apache Cat heading to England this year.
Third home was local sprint star Swiss Ace (Secret Savings--Rapid Serve), who had won seven of his previous eight starts. But he’d never before met anything quite as imposing as Apache Cat. Swiss Ace was second from the outset and fought on gamely, losing no cast in the straight, and finishing just over a length from the winner.
Aside from Apache Cat and 4-year-old Vormista (Testa Rossa--Truly), there were some other runs of note, including Swick from the Bart Cummings yard, who got home well over the last furlong for fourth.
Dance The Waves, trained by Gillian Heinrich, led the field up at a reasonable pace and held on well while racing way out of his right class.
Corey Brown rode Apache Cat to victory, lifting him over the line for his 15th career win. In fact, the gelding was given the run of the race by Brown, who had been aboard the 5-year-old in his previous three group I victories in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington, Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley, and TJ Smith at Randwick.
Brown, who collected his 25th group I victory with Apache Cat's win, had no hesitation rating him the best sprinter he has ridden.
"He's a superstar," Brown declared. "I've never ridden him like that before, so close early. But he was very relaxed, and the speed was so slow throughout until the final three furlongs, which Apache Cat ran in a tick under :33! He's the best sprinter I've ridden. Exceed And Excel was the best sprinter I've ridden up until now, but this horse has now gone to the top."
Trainer Mark Minervini was thrilled with Vormista's performance and is not scared of running against Apache Cat in the return bout in the Doomben 10,000 (Aust-I) over six and a half furlongs in two weeks.
"I didn't think she could win at the top of the straight,” he said. “It was her first run for seven weeks, and she's going to be hard to beat in the 10,000--Apache Cat or not," Minervini said.
Apache Cat has now had 30 starts and has earned $2,926,500 in Australian funds (about U.S. $2.8 million). The BATC Cup was run in 1:09.30.