Australian racing has a new sweetheart. Atlantic Jewel made a smashing return from injury Aug. 31 at Caulfield and easily won the New Zealand Bloodstock Memsie Stakes (Aus-I) to remain undefeated.
Entering the straight three deep on the outside of the leaders, the 5-year-old Fastnet Rock mare uncoiled a devastating turn of foot, cruised into command, and drew clear to 2 1/4-length triumph, making her 13 opponents, including eight other group I winners, appear quite ordinary.
Ridden by Michael Rodd for trainer Mark Kavanagh, Atlantic Jewel was making her first start in 490 days since becoming the first filly in 70 years to win the All Aged Stakes (Aus-I) April 28, 2012, at Randwick.
She completed the Memsie's 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) in 1:24.43 as the 2-1 favorite on a track rated as dead and improved her record to eight wins from as many career starts. Australia's champion 3-year-old filly of 2011-2012, her resume includes the 2011 Schweppes Thousand Guineas (Aus-I).
Australian Guineas winner (Aus-I) winner Ferlax, at 21-1, led at the start and then settled in sixth before advancing to chase the winner in the home straight to take second. Atlantic Jewel's stablemate, Darley Australian Cup (Aus-I) winner Super Cool, angled wide in the straight and rallied to finish third, a short half-head back.
Sydney Triple Crown winner It's A Dundeel finished fourth while respective 2012 Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner and runner-up Green Moon and Fiorente finished fifth and sixth. All encountered trouble in the straight.
Kavanagh, choking up after race, called Atlantic Jewel's victory "poetry".
Words came easier for Rodd.
"The only thing today that was going to beat her was bad luck or a bad ride," he said.
"It's a massive effort from Kav and his training team there at Flemington to bring her back from a serious injury, a tendon, and not knowing how long she was going to need to have off.
"How many horses win first up over 1,400 (meters) after 16 months off? Not many and she could probably go around and do it all again because she's such an athlete."
Atlantic Jewel's next start is expected to be the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (Aus-II) at 1,600 meters (about one mile) Sept. 14 at Moonee Valley.
Australian-bred Atlantic Jewel is out of the winning Zabeel mare Regard, who also is the dam of 2012 Schweppes Thousand Guineas winner Commanding Jewel, by Commands. Second dam Nanshan is a half sister to European champion Embassy.
Leading sire Fastnet Rock stands for Coolmore in Australia.
Coolmore bloodstock adviser Demi O'Byrne purchased Atlantic Jewel for $320,000 ($293,664 in United States funds) at the 2010 Magic Millions Gold Coast yearling sale. He retained a share in the filly and races her in partnership with Coolmore and associates, Laurie Macri, C. Murphy, and Mathilde Texier.
While the Memsie marked the first Australia group I race of the 2013-2014 racing season, New Zealand also kicked off group I racing, with Survived scoring a dominant win in the Makfi Challenge Stakes (NZ-I) at Hastings.
The 4-year-old Zed gelding won by a length from Australian group III winner Full of Spirit, with reigning New Zealand champion sprinter Final Touch finishing third.
With Opie Bosson aboard, Survived was timed in 1:32.78 for one mile while earning his first win at the group I level. He tallied his third group victory and took his overall record to six wins and two second from 10 starts for John Bary, who trains him for a partnership that includes breeder Don Gordon.
His dam is the winning Generous mare Liberal. Sire Zed stands at Grangewilliam Stud in New Zealand.