Prom Queen is on the verge of stamping her dominance of the three-year-old filly crop.
Nearly 15 years after his last taste of Group One glory, Kenny Rae is eagerly counting down to Saturday’s $300,000 Gavelhouse.com New Zealand 1000 Guineas at Riccarton.
“Four more sleeps,” the former jumps jockey told The Informant on Tuesday.
Rae first scaled the Group One mountain with Egyptian Raine, who overcame a wide gate to win the Railway at Ellerslie in January 2003. Rae also co-bred and part-owned the star sprinter, who later performed admirably at the highest level in Australia.
Egyptian Raine’s significance to Rae is clearly illustrated in the name of his Ruakaka property, Egyptian Lodge.
But a new name could join that honour roll when Rae, who now trains in partnership with his wife Lisa and their daughter Krystal Williams, saddles the $1.70 favourite Prom Queen in Saturday’s 1000 Guineas.
“With odds like that, they seem to think she’s Winx – but I certainly ain’t Chris Waller!”
The pint-sized daughter of Super Easy has scored explosive victories in eight of her nine career starts, and she boasts a perfect three-from-three record this spring including dominant Group Three wins in the Northland Breeders’ Stakes and Barneswood Farm Stakes.
“It’s strange having the $1.70 favourite for a Group One race, but I’m trying to pretend it’s just another day,” Rae said. “With odds like that, they seem to think she’s Winx – but I certainly ain’t Chris Waller!”
Rae reported that everything has gone to plan since Prom Queen’s last-start win in the Barneswood Farm Stakes at Ashburton on October 21.
“We took her to Sandy Cunningham’s place, about 10 minutes down the road from Riccarton,” he said. “It’s a nice quiet place with lovely facilities and she’s settled in really well.
“She’s been doing everything right since Ashburton and I can’t fault her. There’ll be no excuses on Saturday.”
Alysha Collett has been Prom Queen’s regular pilot, but missed the Ashburton race due to suspension and her cousin Sam filled in. Alysha will be back aboard on Saturday.
Questions over Prom Queen’s stamina have been around ever since she scored a blistering front-running debut win over 800 metres in October last year, but she has easily passed her tests over 1000, 1200 and 1400 metres. Rae believes she will have no difficultly stepping up to 1600 for Saturday’s classic.
“She wasn’t stopping at the end of the 1400 last time,” he said. “If she gets beaten on Saturday, she’ll just be beaten by a better horse on the day. I won’t be blaming the distance.
“The other filly we’ve got in the race (Inanna) needs to lead to have any chance, so she might ensure there’s a solid pace in the race.”
Inanna scored impressive back-to-back wins at Ruakaka in September and October, including a defeat of a quality field of older Rating 85 opposition. But she finished a well-beaten 10th in the Listed Zacinto Stakes last time out and is rated a $51 outsider for Saturday’s feature.
“I was hoping she’d go forward in the Zacinto, she’s a big tall filly and likes to have a bit of room,” Rae said. “She just got too far back that day and was caught wide. You can’t figure in the finish in those sorts of races after being three and four wide all the way. Matt Cameron will take the mount this weekend and hopefully give her every chance.”
According to the fixed-odds market, the only threat to Prom Queen is Awapuni filly Dijon Bleu. The daughter of Burgundy has scored impressive stakes wins in all of her last three starts – the Listed Fillies’ Stakes at Wanganui, the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings and the Listed Soliloquy Stakes at Ellerslie.
Trainer Lisa Latta is hoping to deliver a second 1000 Guineas upset in three years. In 2014 she won with Platinum Witness, who upstaged the $1.80 favourite O’Marilyn.
“Dijon Bleu’s been in outstanding form through the spring,” Latta said this week. “I’ve been absolutely rapt with her and she’s come through Auckland particularly well.
“The step up to 1600 metres this weekend is a bit of a question mark, but at least on a good track they’ll run along a bit – that will give her time to relax.
“Her recent form has been on wet tracks, but I don’t think she’ll have any problem with firmer ground. She’s trialled well on good tracks and her debut win was on a Good3.”
The third favourite is Swing Note, for the 2000 Guineas-winning combination of owners Te Akau Racing, trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards and jockey Opie Bosson.
A well-bred daughter of Encosta De Lago, Swing Note has picked up just one win from seven starts but was a close third in the Zacinto Stakes over this course and distance last start.
“The form around her is pretty good, with Ever Loyal winning that race and going on to run third in the 2000 Guineas,” Richards said.
“She has to go to another level again this week to compete with the likes of Prom Queen and Dijon Bleu, but she’s certainly going in the right direction. She’s been working very nicely and we think she deserves her chance.”
Stephen Marsh will saddle one of the best-bred runners in the field in Pierrocity, a last-start maiden winner over 1600 metres. She is by Pierro out of the Danehill mare Dane Ripper, who herself won 12 races including the Gr. 1 Cox Plate, Australian Cup, Stradbroke Handicap and Manikato Stakes.
“I’m really happy with Pierrocity,” Marsh said. “I might be a little worried on a very firm track, so I hope they water it well through the week. But I can’t fault her condition at all and I think she can run a very good race.”
Hasahalo was one of the best fillies of her generation last season, winning the Gr. 3 Eclipse Stakes and running a fast-finishing second to Melody Belle in the Karaka Million. The wet spring has had a severe impact on her build-up, and the 1000 Guineas will be just her third start this time in, but there were encouraging signs when she finished only 3.1 lengths from the winner in a strong field at Ellerslie last week.