Favorites Alinghi, Lonhro Win Big Races in Australia

Onlookers might have suffered a heart flutter when Alinghi settled at the rear. Someone had to be second last of the 12 Blue Diamond (Aust-I) aspirants in the $1 million (Australian funds) juvenile feature, but it isn't supposed be the heavy favorite.

Just over an hour earlier, Lonhro had prepped for next month's Australian Cup (Aust-I) in a manner that bodes ill for his rivals come March 8. Nothing had happened in the Oakleigh Plate (Aust-I) to suggest Lonhro's St George (Aust-II) win wouldn't provide the day's highlight.

Nothing had changed well into the Blue Diamond's 1,200 meters. And for Alinghi to become just the fourth favorite to win in 29 editions would take a minor miracle. But the 10-9 favorite, named for Switzerland's 2003 America's Cup winning yacht in New Zealand, delivered down the stretch. She powered through the field to cut down Sydney filly Wager near the wire.

Such was Alinghi's finishing speed of Damien Oliver's first Blue Diamond winner, scoring by a length while eased up at the finish. The Danehill filly World Peace was 3 1/2 lengths back in third to complete a shutout of the males.

Lee Freedman's third Blue Diamond was his 98th grade I success as a trainer.

Alinghi is the fourth group I winner for emerging Fairy King son Encosta de Lago, whom Freedman prepared for several group wins. The runner up, Wager, is also by the son of a former shuttler. Flying Spur emerged from Danehill's second southern crop to run second in the 1992 Blue Diamond. He won three group Is including the Australian Guineas before going to Arrowfield.
Encosta de Lago heads the roster at Victorian farm Blue Gum, owned by former international golfer Graham Campbell and his manager, son Phillip.

Alinghi's dam, Oceanfast, is one of eight winners from the Shirley Heights mare Affluent and inspired the yachting theme for the filly's syndicate of owners. They were formed by Rob and Corinna Slade, purchasers of the mare from Blue Gum for $80,000 at last year's Melbourne premier sale. She has earned $811,000 in three unbeaten starts.

The Oakleigh Plate fell to Geiger Counter mare Reactive. The 5 year-old provided shuttlers (and former shuttlers) with just their sixth individual group I winner in 27 such races this season. Reactive held off another mare, Ancient Song (by Canny lad) to win by a neck, with 9 year-old Suit a game third three-quarters of a length back.

Geiger Counter shuttled for five seasons from 1992 after the Mr. Prospector son was purchased out of Canada by Coolmore. Arrowfield bought him as part of the Danehill deal and he died of cancer at Chatswood Stud, Victoria, in September 2000.

Lonhro, a black son of Octagonal, cruised home 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Sound Action at the end of the 1,800 meters in 1:50.98.

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