With the big names resting on their four group I win classic season laurels, the understudies grabbed the opportunity to rack up their maiden success at the level at Morphettville on April 21.
Anamato is ‘the other’ Redoute’s Choice filly in the David Hayes’ barn, playing a decidedly second fiddle to Miss Finland to whom she was third in the Victoria Oaks (Aus-I) last November.
Only a neck separated them at their only other meeting, as Miss Finland scrambled in with the Tranquil Star Stakes (Aus-III) in September.
With Miss Finland the stable’s main fall classic elect, the Julie and Royce Ritchie bred and raced Anamato was diverted to shorter goals against older horses in Sydney. She finished down the track twice, lastly in the Doncaster (Aus-I).
Miss Finland attempted a sixth group I in the Australian Derby (Aus-I) and, when spelled after a disappointing sixth, it left the barn without an Oaks runner.
But another classic window opened for Anamato in the AUS$250,000 Australasian Oaks (Aus-I), for 3-year-old fillies over 2,000 meters of Adelaide’s major oval, Morphettville.
As an 11-4 favorite against 15 others, the filly and Michael Rodd gave the others a start into the final 800 meters before circling them all to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths in race record time.
Rodd seemed happy to sit five and six wide over the last 800 meters.
“I rode her like a good thing and she was always going to win,” Rodd said.
It was his third classic this season, the others the Victoria Derby on Efficient and the Australian Oaks on Rena's Lady.
Her 2:02.20 skimmed a mere 2/100ths from a race mark which had survived for 15 editions.
Cancanelle (13-1) and Devil Moon (9-2) filled the minors, a nose separating the daughters of shuttlers Danehill Dancer and King Cugat.
The 11th group I winner for Redoute’s Choice has earned $813,350 from 17 starts, her four wins all in graded races complemented by four seconds and as many thirds.
She is the 10th and penultimate foal from Voltage, who died last year in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus . She is also the dam of Oakleigh Plate (Aus-I) hero Drum. Her sire is Whiskey Road, the Nijinsky reject who gained fame as the sire of international star Strawberry Road.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this South Australian classic is that it is the first hometown success of more than 51 group I winners prepared by Hayes since he was handed the reins of the Lindsay Park empire by his late father, Colin, in 1990.
The Morphettville Oaks gave Hayes 11 group I winners this season, edging him one ahead of Gai Waterhouse.
Anamato’s win also gave the Hayes barn a new Australian record for seasonal stake-earnings by a trainer with $AUS18.5 million, since Aug. 1 last year, and with three months of the racing year remaining. The record had stood at $18.3 million by the powerful John Hawkes stable.
His career group I wins have come in 6 1/2 years, either side of a 10-year stint in Hong Kong, to revive a dwindling family fortune.
But there were more surprises: Hayes intimated that he and Anamato’s owners are looking beyond the SA Derby (Aus-I) on May 6, a long way beyond.
The classic Hayes has in mind is the Hollywood Park American Oaks (gr. IT) in July.
The future for another Hayes group I winner is more certain. Rewaaya retired to stud after finishing eighth in the other Morphettville group I, the Robert Sangster Stakes (Aus-I).
Hayes said the Singspiel daughter has reached the end of her tether.
“Rewaaya has an outstanding record in group I races, winning or placing five times from 13 attempts,” Hayes added.
Bred and raced by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell operation, the 4-year-old daughter of At Talaq mare Nasmah won $728,000 from 19 races.
The Robert Sangster fell to Universal Queen, giving the Lee Freedman barn a third straight win in the AUS$300,000 race for distaffers.
The daughter of former shuttler Scenic always had control of the 1,200-meter event, winning by 1 1/4 lengths after Corey Brown camped the 2-1 elect on the speed.
The sibling to Australian Derby winner Universal Prince easily held the lead in the run to the wire, winning in 1:08.38. Another Freedman barn entry, Media (10-1), escorted the Queen home a length clear of Flying Object (by Peintre Celebre).
Media is a 4-year-old by former Vinery commuter Gilded Time. Before her recent transfer to Freedman, she had also placed second in The Galaxy (Aus-I) at Randwick a year earlier. At 2, Media finished third in the rich Golden Slipper Stakes (Aus-I).
Universal Queen’s initial group I win was also the first for the team of Freedman and Brown.
The former top Sydney jockey had found himself in racing limbo when outed on a cocaine charge in Hong Kong last year. After subsequent moderate success in Sydney, the 30-year-old jumped at the chance to become Freedman's number one stable jockey in Victoria.
Brown told breeder-owner John Singleton that he could not hold her any slower rounding the bend.
“She really deserved it today,” he told the media. “She has bad legs and bad feet, but she's danced every beat we've asked of her.”
When asked to compare his three Sangster winners, Freedman said: “Nothing compares to Alinghi, but I’m firmly of the belief that when this filly matures a bit more and we get her feet right, she could rival Miss Andretti.
“Her form says that, and she is probably doing it with one hand, one leg, tied behind her back.”
With four group I wins this season, Miss Andretti soon heads to England for the major sprints. Success there could tip the Horse of the Year her way ahead of grand warrior Desert War and Miss Finland.
But this fall day wasn’t about the established stars, it was all about the understudies. And the standbys are doing very well.