Consistent mare Shillelagh will attempt to double her Group One tally when she tackles the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield tomorrow.
The Chris Waller-trained mare was an eye-catching fourth at her last run in the Gr. 1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick, motoring home in the closing stages to finish just over a length from the winner Hartnell.
That performance convinced Waller that the Savabeel seven-year-old, who has won seven of her 27 starts including the Gr. 1 Cantala Stakes during last year’s spring carnival, was worth sending south to contest some of the upcoming Melbourne features.
“We sent her down here because of the wet weather in Sydney,” Waller said from Melbourne. “I was expecting to run her over 2000 metres but I feel the mile on a better track is going to give her a better chance to perform.
“She gets in pretty well at the weights considering her high rating. Her two runs back from her spell have been very good and her run in the Epsom was as good as any in the race.”
While Waller feels that Shillelagh’s performance might have been overlooked by a number of pundits, she has been well supported by punters who have made her the $5 favourite for the Toorak.
“Everybody has spoken highly about the first three home (in the Epsom) but Shillelagh has been the forgotten horse,” he said. “She came from fifteenth at the 400 and was beaten only a length.
“In my opinion, she is a very worthy chance of putting another Victorian Group One next to her name.”
Ex-pat Kiwi Michael Walker will take the ride on the New Zealand-owned mare, who has drawn barrier nine in the 18-horse field.
Shillelagh will be joined in the Toorak by another former Kiwi galloper in Kingsguard. The Rip Van Winkle six-year-old, who races for an ownership group that includes Windsor Park Stud, comes into the race off the back of a gritty Group Two second over 1500 metres behind race-rival Noire at his last start.