Longshot River Lad sweep past pacesetter Srikandi and Temple Of Boom in the stretch and won the AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (Aus-I), Queensland's premier race, June 7 at Eagle Farm racecourse in Brisbane.
The race was one of three group I races on the card that also included Sonntag's win in the Channel Seven Queensland Derby and Almalad's victory in the Tatts Group J. J. Atkins.
River Lad powered from post 14 in the 18-horse field and won the Stradbroke by a nose from Temple of Boom while covering 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) in 1:21.66. His victory marked breakthrough wins at the top level for himself and trainer Natalie McCall. Jockey Damier Oliver, who picked up the mount when the booked rider gave up the ride, notched his 102st group I triumph and first in the Stradbroke.
Race favorite Srikandi was first out the gate and into the lead, followed by Temple Of Boom, Hucklebuck and River Lad. At the home turn, Srikandi and Temple Of Boom were joined by Spirit Of Boom and, briefly, Conservatorium. But River Lad was poised for the career-defining win after Oliver quickly rode him into contention from the wide post position.
A homebred of Sarna Syndicate, River Lad is by Top Echelon out of the Canny Lad mare Ikeymo. He has a 13-7-4 record from 37 career starts that includes two group III wins, most recently the Darley BRC Sprint (Aus-III) May 17 at Doomben.
Sonntag fought out the finish with Pinstripe and won the Queensland Derby by a nose with Chad Schofield in the irons.
The Teofilo colt was settled in behind the front-runners as leader Rudy got loose on the lead and opened a commanding advantage. Pinstripe Lane raced in second in company with Takewing and Sonntag.
Rudy still led into the stretch, his lead diminishing with every stride before he was swamped at the 200-meter mark. Sonntag rallied down the center of the track to win by a neck, providing young trainer Harry Dwyer with a first group I win. Fast-finishing favorite Vilanova was third in the 18-horse field.
Sonntag finished 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in 2:28.30 for his second win from seven starts. His dam is the winning Strategic mare Parfaits. From the first Southern Hemisphere crop of Teofilo, he was bred in Australia by Darley and campaigned early in his career for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Dwyer bought him Darley's consignment at the 2013 Inglis Melbourne August Thoroughbred sale for Aus$58,000. He is owned by a partnership.
Favorite Almalad is perfect in three career starts after winning the J. J. Atkins by a neck from favorite Brazen Beau, covering 1,600 meters (about one mile) in 1:35.39.
Trained by Gai Waterhouse for a partnership, the 2-year-old Al Maher gelding swapped leads throughout with Time For War until Beau Brazen came calling with a serious stretch challenge. Almalad pricked his ears, and under vigorous riding by Tommy Berry lengthened stride to snatch the close victory.
Looks Like the Cat was third in the 11-horse field.
Bred in Australia by Emirates Park, Almalad is out of the unraced Secret Savings mare Ilhaam and from the family of Australian group I winners County Tyrone and Samaready. He was bought by Waterhouse and bloodstock agent James Harron for Aus$50,000 out of his breeder's consignment at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast yearling sale.