Miss Finland Upset in Futurity Stakes

Miss Finland Upset in Futurity Stakes
Photo: Mark Gatt
Niconero wins the Futurity Stakes with Miss Finland in third.
Craig Williams, who steered the great Australian Miss Finland to over $4 million in prize money before sensationally and publicly sacked from riding her two weeks back, was smiling broadly half way down the stretch in the group I Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on March 1.

Partly because he was on perennial group I place-getter Niconero, who was humming with a furlong to go. But mainly because Miss Finland was in his wake and had no chance of catching him.

Niconero (Danzero-Nicola Lass), roared home from second last on the home turn, down the center of the track, to win the Aus$700,000 one mile affair drawing away. Longshot Cargo Cult (Spectrum-Cult Figure) battled on gamely for second, two lengths behind the winner while fallen star Miss Finland improved on her recent efforts for third. She came from last on the bend and her run was eye-catching. But Williams was as happy as a pig in mud by beating her home.

Williams had ridden her to 11 wins -- five at group I level --  but to beat her was satisfying. David Hayes trains both Miss Finland and Niconero.

"I'm just so pleased for this horse, I think he's run six group one placings in the last twelve months, so to win that was just fantastic and to win so decisively was actually quite a soft win," said Hayes, who quickly added, "I was surprised with the way that Niconero dominated Miss Finland though. She sat behind him but he kicked away from her in the straight."

Hayes had told the media the day before that he thought Miss Finland was back to her best and would win. Hers was a terrific run but connections will decide if she retires or continues on for the 10-furlong Australian Cup (AUS-I) at Flemington next week. Part owned by leading breeder John Messara, Miss Finland was to be retired from racing if she didn't win the Futurity.

A decision was expected within the next 48 hours.

Hayes provided three out of the first four place-getters with Molotov running a cracking race under the unsuitable weight-for-age conditions to finish fourth, a half-head behind Miss Finland.

Hayes suggested he'd probably aim Niconero at the Australian Cup and stepping him up to 10 furlongs for just the second time. This time last year in the Australian Cup he failed beating just two home.

Shinzig, a group I winner in his last start, ran a game race for fifth. "I think the edge was taken off him a bit first-up when he won and I think that I had him a bit close to the leaders this time. So there are a few things they can look at but I wouldn't be too worried about him," rider Steven Baster said.

The overall time was a handy 1:34.77, only .49 outside the class and track record held by Fields of Omagh.

The last three furlongs was run in 34.99 seconds with the winner recording the fastest last sectional of the race, running it in 34.13 seconds. Miss Finland's last 600 was run in 34.41 seconds.

Niconero has now won 10 of his 41 races and AUS$1,794, 680 in purses thus far.

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