Perfect Promise First South African Group I Winner in Australasia

Perfect Promise racked up another series of firsts in taking the C.F. Orr Stakes (Aust-I) at Caulfield Feb. 11.

Most significantly, the 6-year-old mare's consummate victory in the $300,000 (Australian funds) feature saw her become the first South African-bred horse to win a group I in Australia or New Zealand.

The 1 1/2 length winner provided the first group I success for jockey Craig Newitt, and was having her first start for her owner Sean Buckley and trainer Lee Freedman.

Buckley paid $725,000 for the daughter of Nureyev horse Caesour at auction in Sydney two months earlier to disperse the horses raced by the Written Bloodstock Syndicate of Mark Peters and Larry King.

It was one of a string of distaffer purchases made in the past year or so by Buckley, CEO of the car care franchise company UltraTune.

Grahame Begg prepared Perfect Promise for the previous owners. She became the first of her nationality to win an Australian group race in taking the Emancipation Stakes (Aust-II) in April, 2000 from the Freedman barn's Uprize.

Three days after the ground-breaking Sydney win, her little full sister, Irridescence, won South African Fillies' Classic (SAf-I) at Turffontein in Johannesburg. The pair was bred by Henrik Winterbach, assistant manager at Varsfontein Stud, where Caesour is rostered.

In June, Begg set Perfect Promise for a first-up tilt at the $1 million Stradbroke Handicap (Aust-I), but she came in second. As a fresh horse in the Orr she easily belied her 10-1 quote to defeat a strong field in 1:22.36 for the 1,400 meters.

Proven weight-for-age performers Lad Of The Manor (21-10 favorite) and Fields Of Omagh (15-1) staged grand performances to fill the placings, a half-length splitting them in their first runs for 2006.

The New Zealand-bred Lad Of The Manor is considered the leading WFA horse in Australasia with the retirement of Makybe Diva, and the recent sidelining of Xcellent with an ankle injury Feb 9.

But it was all Perfect Promise in the run to the wire. Newitt had the distaffer 12th, 3-deep with cover, of the 16 runners mid-race. After turning in eighth place, her stretch run was irresistible.

The $182,000 winner's purse takes her earnings to $683,300 from eight wins, five seconds, and four thirds from 26 starts. The Orr was her second group I success, the first in the 2002 South African Guineas (SAf-I).

However, she won that race, at Cape Town's Kenilworth oval, in the boardroom as officials upheld an objection against the half-length winner Tara's Touch. She was then raced by Peter Cowley and trained by Eric Sands.

Freedman had vowed that Newitt would not ride for his barn after the jockey lied to an inquiry into stable runner Leone Chiara over two years ago. But the conditioner was impressed with Newitt's dedication and results since resuming from his 18-month ban late last year.