Thursday, 16th August 2018


Chautauqua (T Berry)
2017 Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick

In 2014 The Championships was launched as 'The Olympics of Australian thoroughbred racing' - the best versus the best.

And each year it hasn't disappointed especially in the Group 1 T J Smith Stakes (1200m).

In the inaugural year we witnessed the highest rated sprinter in the world Lankan Rupee defeat Rebel Dane and Buffering.

2015, 2016 and now 2017 has heralded a new sprinting marvel and like the name of the event suggests - a champion performance.

When Chautauqua came from last to first in the home straight on Day One to make it a treble of Group 1 T.J. Smiths racing fans witnessed a stunning equine performance to last a lifetime.

His astonishing victory set a new Group 1 benchmark and already made the 2017 The Championships a highlight of the racing year.

Winx (H Bowman)
2017 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick

Last year's The Championships saw racing's 'Queen of the World' Winx win the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m).

To win the Doncaster with 56.5kg on a wet track by two lengths was an enormous effort by the Champion mare and Chris Waller decided to bypass the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and head to the spelling paddock.

Waller's patience and wisdom paid off 12 months later with Winx's memorable victory in the race and one racing fans will cherish.

Here is a review of these magical moments and many others from the 2017 The Championships.



Winx (H Bowman)
2017 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick

If there is possibly anything missing from the script of one of the greatest horses in the world winning 17 straight it is the crowd.

Although 26,801 witnessed a moment in racing history there is no doubt if Winx was racing in the era of pre-internet and mobile phones the Australian Turf Club would have been forced to close the Royal Randwick gates early for the capacity crowd in attendance.

But that is the world today as Winx takes her stroll around Randwick and we all simply applaud.

Rarely would the build-up to a A$4million Group 1 feature simply be a debate as to which runners would fill the placings.

Such is the dominance of this Champion mare.

Although her official winning margin for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) win on a soft 7 track was 5.3 lengths over Hartnell (J Doyle) and a further 0.4 of a length to Sense Of Occasion (C Brown) it was not as dominant as her previous 7.3 length victory on a heavy 10 in the Group 1 China Horse Club George Ryder (1500m). (Winx's previous win in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) was also on a heavy (9) track.)

One wonders if the Ryder win might have taken a little more out of her than first realised, jockey High Bowman for the first time this writer has witnessed using the whip - one tap on the rump at the 120m mark - her three length margin quickly going to over seven by the time the finish line was crossed.

"I don't whip her too often," explained Bowman, "but I wanted that supreme effort today, the Grand final and when I gave her one she extended again, I could really feel the crowd's love for her."

"Just look at her she's a supreme athlete, she's the ultimate professional, I love her."

Put simply, it was Winx in one world and the rest of the field in another.

"She is just so dominant," shared Bowman. "There wasn't a lot of pace on paper, I wouldn't say it was a high pressure race today. Everyone found their spot and even slowed it up mid-race and it was a bit of a sprint home."

"I don't think you see the best of her when it is that sort of race, I mean she is obviously still good, she wheeled passed them at the top of the straight and she still let down."

"Honestly I think when she gets in a high pressure race, when there is a lot of pace from the start like there was in last year's Cox Plate, that's when you see the best of her."

For trainer Chris Waller the win in The Championships main event was as much about relief as continued awe for the wonder mare and her jockey.

"She's had a perfect preparation, pretty much, she makes everything look perfect really though," shared Waller. "She makes me look like a genius."

"It should all be about Winx. Everywhere she goes people follow her and it's very heart-warming."

"It's just a big relief for the day to be finally here and to have the job done. It's indescribable really. We take it as it comes. She's doing great things."

"It's the same every start, you shouldn't look into patterns with her. They're different athletes you can't just see how they are going every day and ask them how they feel - 21 days is a long time between runs."

"You don't expect to win every start, and she'll get beaten one day, but she'll bounce back. She's a champion."

"It was Hugh Bowman at his very best. He's definitely part of Winx, I think the story should be about Winx, but Hugh and what he has done is very special."

The win took Winx's prizemoney to $12,893,425 - now only behind Makybe Diva ($14,526,690), her picket fence of 17 joining Mainbrace and only trailing Ajax (18), Gloaming and Desert Gold (19) and Black Caviar (25).

Her now 12 Group 1 wins are only behind Tie The Knot (13), Sunline (13), Kingston Town (14) and Black Caviar (15). She also equalled the record of most Group 1s in a season of six, joining Kingston Town (1979-80), Weekend Hussler (2007-08) and Black Caviar (2010-11).

Winx now heads for a spell before returning in the spring and hoping to emulate the legendary feat of Kingston Town of three consecutive Cox Plates, with victory surely cementing her star in 'racing's hall of fame' as one of the greatest ever, if that title hasn't already been achieved.


Bonneval (H Bowman)
2017 Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Royal Randwick

Murray Baker became the first trainer to win the Group 1 ATC Derby(Jon Snow)/Oaks (Bonneval) double with different three-year-olds since TJ Smith in 1980 - Kingston Town and Lowan Star. Clarry Conners also did the double with champion filly Research in 1989.

What added to Baker's feat was only 10 minutes earlier back home in New Zealand he won the Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) with Charmont.

Incidentally, Charmont is related to Bonneval, her dam Imposingly is a three-quarter sister to Champagne (Group 1 Mackinnon, Group 1 Vinery (former Ansett) and runner-up 1998 Group 1 Melbourne Cup (Jezabeel), and also grand-dam of Charmont.

Bonneval's $1,000,000 Group 1 James Boag's Premium Australian Oaks (2400m) win was the 60th Group 1 for Sir Patrick Hogan's Zabeel (NZ) as a broodmare sire (courtesy Arion Pedigrees). It was the second consecutive Group 1 Australian Oaks for sire Makfi (GB) - 2016 Sofia Rosa (NZ). Makfi initially shuttled from the UK to Westbury Stud, New Zealand and now stands in Japan.

It was also Baker's 20th Australian Group 1 win and a record for a New Zealand-based trainer.

Baker has a very high opinion of the filly and what goals lay ahead for her.

"I hope she might be a weight for age horse and we will have to have a look at something for her in the spring maybe, it's a long way away," shared Baker.

"They were going pretty hard up front and it is hard to keep going at that pace, I knew she would stay."

"I was a bit worried about the ground but the horse is in terrific order, there are two tracks at Cambridge so the way of going wasn't an issue."

There have been some impressive performances in the ATC Oaks in recent years (2015-Gust Of Wind defeated Winx by 2.5 lengths, 2013-Royal Descent by 10 lengths, 2010-Once Were Wild by 3.5 lengths, 2004-Wild Iris by 3.3 lengths) but few would match Bonneval's commanding four and half-length victory after being the best part of 15 lengths behind 'catch me if you can leader' and last season's Group 1 Victoria Oaks winner Lasqueti Spirit, at the 1200m mark.

But Hugh Bowman showed why he is as good as any rider in Australia today, calmly allowing Bonneval to stoke up her big motor, gobble up the field and cruise away for an easy win - Bowman even having time to show his trademark 'she's apples' for the cameras in the last 30m.

Last week's Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) runner-up Perfect Rhyme (T Angland) was second - yet another Group 1 performance in the Oaks by a filly which had raced at Kembla Grange as part of their Oaks preparation - and 0.4 of a length ahead of tearaway leader Lasqueti Spirit (J Ford) courageous in third. Lasqueti Spirit's run was enormous having been slowly away at the start then doing some work to find the front before setting a solid tempo especially enjoyed by Bonneval.

"She was very gallant," explained Ford. "Gate two proved to be a bit of a hindrance, it took a bit of navigation to get to the front, but I thought she was very gallant in defeat."

Bonneval won the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at her previous start. Bowman rode the daughter of Makfi at Warwick Farm trackwork on the Tuesday leading up to the Australian Oaks and had been very impressed with the way she looked in her coat and how she went about her work.

Bowman has had a special association with Baker, the trainer providing Bowman with his first Victoria Derby.

"It is an honour, obviously they've made a partnership over the last couple of years," shared Bowman. "I rode my first VRC Derby for Murray (Baker) aboard Lion Tamer."

"This isn't a warm up, this is a Group 1 ATC Oaks, this is very special to me, this is my fourth now and the third one aboard a New Zealand filly."

Bowman has also won the ATC Australian Oaks on Daffodil (2009), Streama (2012) and Sofia Rosa (2016).

"It was a funny race, I had to make a few decisions today," Bowman explained. "I expected to be first four with Lasqueti Spirit out in front."

"When it was slow away I thought what do I do here, do I press on or do I just be patient and bide my time, that's exactly what I did and this filly didn't let me down."

"I was humming on the turn, but I did have a good 150m to make up and I don't care what level you are at, that's hard to do, she had it made up by the 100m mark and I could enjoy the ride with everyone else for the last few strides."


Foxplay (K McEvoy)
2017 Group 1 Legacy Stakes (former Queen Of The Turf) (1600m) at Royal Randwick

Foxplay (K McEvoy) by Foxwedge, became her sire's first Group 1 winner when successful in the $1,000,000 Group 1 Coolmore (former Queen Of The Turf) Legacy Stakes (1600m).

An unlucky fourth at her previous start in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) Foxplay has always possessed above average sprinting prowess and although sitting four and five wide for the race, when McEvoy pressed 'go' in the straight the athletic grey filly did the rest, sprinting clear for a half-length win over the fast-finishing Zanbagh (D Lane). Dixie Blossoms (S Clipperton) was game in running third only a half-length away.

"It was a lovely win by this filly, she's just done a great job," shared McEvoy.

"I wanted to be a bit closer with the lack of speed in the race, I gave her a kick out of the gates and she was much closer than I thought I'd be."

"I was wide, full credit to the horse she did a good job, I just had her travelling and she picked up well."

"We were finishing strongly and I was a happy recipient of a tough little filly, she deserves a Group 1."

It was the second Group 1 of the day for trainer Chris Waller after Winx's memorable 17th straight win in the $4,000,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).

"She has been a very special horse to us, call her the Winx junior but there are lots of similarities, she started off with a winning bang and has sort of been a little bit forgotten, had a few hard luck stories go against her and funnily enough has run in the same races as Winx," said Waller.

"Winx didn't win the Oaks and I decided not to run this filly in the Oaks because I still think she has some brilliance and speed so fortunately we got away with it."

"It was a pretty tough effort and good ride from Kerrin, he never panicked and got caught wide but the beauty of that is that you keep them happy, keep them travelling."

The win was the 12th Group 1 for syndicator Denise Martin's Star Thoroughbreds and the first with Chris Waller in her famous colours of purple, white stars and cap, previously carried to success by such outstanding gallopers as Champion Australian Two-Year-Old and now sire Sebring and five-time Group 1 winner Theseo.

"Denise (Martin) is unbelievable, she has been the most supportive person you could imagine she has a great business and she has brought a lot of people to us, she just looks after them like you wouldn't believe," shared Waller.
Foxplay (K McEvoy) by Foxwedge, became her sire's first Group 1 winner when successful in the $1,000,000 Group 1 Coolmore (former Queen Of The Turf) Legacy Stakes (1600m).


Secret Agenda (D Oliver)
2017 Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick

Rarely a big Carnival goes by without Damien Oliver leaving his stamp and in the last of 20 Championship races - the $300,000 Group 2 TAB Sapphire Stakes (1200m) - he greeted the judge first on the Melbourne visitor Secret Agenda trained by Mick Price, defeating fellow Victorian Missrock (D Lane) by 1.3 lengths with just 0.2 of a length away to Artistry (H Bowman) in third.

Secret Agenda's last win was also on a soft track over 1200m back in September at Caulfield and ridden by Oliver.

"She's a sweetheart," shared Oliver. "She loves the soft, I think she might want to move up here. We don't get too many wet tracks in Melbourne these days and she certainly loves the soft here."

"They've [Victorians] done well, it's nice to share it around, the prizemoney is so good up here, it's nice to be a part of it."

The astute Mick Price agreed with Oliver's assessment of the filly's appreciation for wet tracks.

"She had one run (back from a spell) where she was disadvantaged from a wide gate at Mornington, had to get a long way back," explained Price. "We targeted this because she's a good wet tracker."

"From here she will go to the two Group 1s at Morphettville, the Sangster and the other one is the Goodwood which is worth $1 million. She'll be set for those two races, they are two weeks apart. We won one of those races a few years back with Velocitea."

"She's honest and strong, we'll keep her fresh and stay at the 1200m."


Derryn (M Zahra)
2017 Group 2 Arrowfield 3YO Sprint (1200m) at Royal Randwick

The $600,000 Group 2 Arrowfield 3YO Sprint (1200m) could be the spring board to next year's $1million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington for the up and coming Derryn (M Zahra) after his superb length victory over Global Glamour (K McEvoy). Impending (J Doyle) was a further 1.8 lengths away in third.

At least this is the plan training partnership David, Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig realistically believe Derryn can now head towards.

"A really great win," enthused David Hayes. "Really revelled in the conditions. Jonathan Muntz beat us in the Percy Sykes but he helped us out in that one. It's terrific for Jonathan and the syndicate."

"They back up so well off soft ground. He's a horse that likes the jar out of the ground, so you have got to take advantage of it when you get it, and he's one of the few here that really loves the ground."

"I just think this horse will be perfect for a Newmarket or something like that. He's never been that far off the Group Ones of his own age, so maybe the Newmarket next year." Derryn's previous start was seven days earlier in Chautauqua's phenomenal Group 1 T.J. Smith, finishing eighth, six lengths from the flying grey. Winning rider Mark Zahra credited the trainers with today's Arrowfield win.

"We just had a nice run, we were wide with cover and was able to sort of just creep around the bend, pull him out up the rise and away he went, he let down nicely," shared Zahra.

"He's run some good races up here, it was just whether he backed up from the other day."

"It's just whether it takes too much out of them or not, obviously Hayes just had him on the quick backup and cherry ripe for today."

Gai's star filly Global Glamour - who was coming back from the 1500m of the Group 1 Coolmore where she finished 11th - showed plenty of tenacity for jockey Kerrin McEvoy.

"Good effort by her, she obviously had the freshen up and in today's race I thought I was the winner but took a nice colt to get by me, she has done a marvellous effort so will have a break now and come back in the spring," shared McEvoy.

Impending's rider James Doyle felt he was a good thing beaten in third.

"That was hard to take, we find ourselves in an okay spot with horses around me, found the right ones to follow and Damien Oliver loomed up on the outside and held me there, tough one to swallow, definitely the one that got away," said Doyle.

Super sire Lonhro, a son of the mighty Octagonal, played a hand in the breeding of two of first three. He is the broodmare sire of the winner Derryn and sire of the third placegetter Impending.


Maryore (T Clark)
2017 The Provincial Championships Final (1400m)
at Royal Randwick

One of the highlights of The Championships for so many owners and trainers across NSW, is the running of the $390,000 The Provincial Championships Final (1400m).

Canberra's Maryore (T Clark) made it a comprehensive victory by three lengths for trainer Philip Courtney over Better Not Blue (J Parr) just 0.1 of a length ahead of Ziganui (H Bowman) in third.

"I thought it was a terrific win, I was jumping up and down too much to enjoy it but as soon as she got to the front I knew it was over," enthused Courtney.

"I thought she was really good and I thought she would run the same as she had at Goulburn and it has been proven."

"I think as long as it was a big track it didn't matter as her pattern is to get back and she needs to finish off so the big track was the key for going to Kembla Grange but Goulburn has a long straight and it suited her anyway."

"I have been training for about five years but mostly as a hobby until the last 12 months and I do it full time now and have eight in work, this is a shot in the arm for us I can guarantee you." "One of the owners I train for had her in Adelaide and he decided to bring it to Canberra so they could race in Sydney where the prizemoney is a lot better obviously."

"At this stage it has paid off and you know what it is like there is lots of highs and lots of lows."

"The heat was our biggest win before today and these provincials have been very good for us, we will go home and have a look what to do with her, I don't like to make decisions on the day I am usually too excited."

Jockey Tim Clark, famous for his partnership with Les Bridge's super mare Hot Danish, had ridden Maryore - a five-year-old brown mare by Onemorenomore - to her last start win in the qualifier at Goulburn.

"She was ultra-impressive at Goulburn on similar sort of ground," shared Clark.

Maryore had settled last before Clark set her alight approaching the turn.

"She's just got to be ridden quiet, saved up for one run at them," said Clark. "She was a long way off them down the side, but they really started to pack up before the turn, I was able to get on Olly's [Damien Oliver) back and he dragged me right into it."

"If anything she quickened too well, she got there a bit soon and wanted to have a bit of a look around."

"It's a great concept these Country and Provincial Championships, it gives these country and provincial trainers a really great opportunity, this is the first year Canberra has been under the provincial banner. It's just great for Phil [Courtney] and his team."

"She's a little darling and that was a great satisfaction winning on her."

The track surface was upgraded from a Heavy 8 to a Soft 7 after the running of the race.


Shoals (M Zahra)
2017 Group 2 Percy Sykes Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick

It was the start of a winning double for Pinecliff Racing's Jonathan Munz and jockey Mark Zahra, when Shoals prevailed in a bobbing go over Formality (C Williams) in the $600,000 Group 2 IG Share Trading Percy Sykes Stakes (1200m) with Serena Bay (T Clark) one length further away in third.

Munz and Zahra were also successful with Derryn two races later.

It was also a very special win for Arrowfield boss John Messara, breeder and part-owner of the unbeaten two-year-old filly Shoals.

Messara has often paid tribute to the enormous contribution renowned veterinarian the late Percy Sykes made to him as a mentor and his Arrowfield Stud. In fact, a bronze statue of Sykes was commissioned by Messara - which Sykes saw - and stands proudly at Arrowfield today. Messara was also integral in having a race named in the late vet's honour.

Shoals was a clear last at the 400m before Zahra stoked up the two-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock, coming to the outside and commencing a winning sprint to the line.

"It was a great win, got a bit lost here and there in the run," said Zahra.

"I always thought she was going to win, but then as I got her head in front all of a sudden she half put the brakes on, I was just lucky she had a bit of momentum to hold off the horse on the inside (Formality)."

"She won her maiden race and then was okay up the straight the other day, we always thought she had the ability."

"I was actually glad today the way it panned out, because she is a lot better chaser, especially going the other way."

"She's done a great job."

Trainers Lee and Anthony Freedman know they have a serious filly on their hands.

"She didn't show us a whole lot early but this prep she's been fantastic and to be a Group 3 and a Group 2 winner, unbeaten in three starts, she's a filly of great promise," said Lee Freedman. "I don't think she really handled the track."

"We went from a maiden to the Breeders and I said if she wins this, and only if she wins this, we'll take her to Sydney. It's a great thrill to win this for John, he's been a great supporter of mine for 25 years."

"She's done a great job and she deserves a break and she may be a genuine Thousand Guineas filly the way she raced today."

Runner-up Formality, ridden by Craig Williams, lost no admirers with her narrow defeat.

"She did an amazing job and showed the quality of filly she is, she hated the ground but I kept saying to myself cuddle her cuddle her and that is why we just let her think it wasn't as soft as it was," explained Williams.


Generalissimo (B Shinn, closest to left)
2017 Listed South Pacific Classic (1400m) at Royal Randwick

In form jockey Blake Shinn produced a gem of a ride aboard Generalissimo for Hawkesbury-based trainer Garry White to just prevail over Rosa Carolina (C Reith) in the $150,000 Listed TCL South Pacific Classic (1400m). Siren's Fury (Ms K O'Hara) was a half-length away in third.

Generalissimo was a last start fifth behind smart Victorian colt Derryn in the Listed Darby Munro (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on a heavy 10 surface - a winner three races later on the programme.

It was Generalissimo's fourth win from 11 starts. Generalissimo is owned and bred by Hobartville Stud which was originally established in 1828 and is one of Australia's longest running horse studs. In the mid to late 1800s, Hobartville was owned by Andrew Town, one of the biggest owners in Australia who stood Maribyrnong, 1880 Melbourne Cup winner Grand Flaneur and Trenton. Since 1978 it has been owned by Grahame Mapp, and produced Star Watch, Toulouse Lautrec, Dane Shadow and Hurtle Myrtle to name just a few of the racetrack stars to also carry the famous Hobartville brand.

Generalissimo could now head to the $200,000 Group 3 Hawkesbury Guineas (1600m) on April 29.


Whispered Secret (J Collett)
2017 Listed Fernhill Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick

Although he was not trackside due to a bug picked up at the Easter Sales, trainer James Cummings continued his stable's winning run when Whispered Secret (J Collett) took out the $150,000 Listed Adina Apartment Hotels Fernhill Handicap (1600m) to kick-off Day Two of The Championships.

After sitting three-wide for the trip, Whispered Secret still produced a strong sprint for Collett to defeat Toga Picta (J Doyle) by 1.3 lengths, with All Too Huiying (T Clark) a further 1.5 lengths away in third after leading for most of the race.

Racing for well-known owner/breeder Gooree Park Stud - boasting a famous honour roll who have raced in the red and black stripes including Don Eduardo, Snowland, Desert War, Smart Missile, Your Song, Northern Meteor and Prized Icon - Whispered Secret may now attempt to emulate Prized Icon's 2016 Fernhill Handicap/Champagne Stakes double.

It was a significant week for Cummings who passed a career milestone reaching 100 winners as a trainer in his own right since the sad passing of his training partner and legendary grandfather Bart on 30 August 2015.


Waking Moment (J Collett)
2017 Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick

One of Sydney's most underrated trainers John Thompson provided a fitting finale to an unforgettable Day One of the 2017 The Championships with a determined win by Waking Moment (J Collett).

Waking Moment took most of the long Randwick straight to haul in courageous leader Perfect Rhyme (K McEvoy) and prevail by the barest of margins - 0.1 of a length - in the $200,000 Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m).

As The Championships not only highlights the best available equine racing in the country it also throws a wonderful spotlight on the 'bedrock' racing of the industry with The Country and Provincial Championships and showcasing their great racetracks.

There is no better example of this than city-based trainers making sure Kembla Grange's spacious and lush track is part of their horse's programme.

Winning trainer John Thompson raced Waking Moment at Kembla Grange on Arrowfield Classic (former Keith Nolan) day at the three-year-old filly's previous start as too did Warwick Farm based trainer Ron Leemon with runner-up Perfect Rhyme running fourth in the Group 3 Arrowfield Classic (1600m).


It's Somewhat (Z Purton)
2017 Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick

World class and now Hong Kong-based jockey Zac Purton made it a 'fly-in, fly-out' (FIFO) job aboard the John O'Shea-trained, Godolphin-owned It's Somewhat in the $3million Group 1 The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m).

After leading most of the way on the six-year-old Dynaformer (USA) gelding, Purton was back riding at Hong Kong's Sha Tin racecourse the next day (recording two seconds).

Purton summed up the Heavy 8 track conditions perfectly realising most winners on the day were either leading or positioned close to the lead (the freakish Chautauqua making his own rules of course!).

"It's been hard to make up ground today," explained Purton. "I went back and looked at his race when he won here over 2000m and I really liked the way he used his action. John said to me earlier in the day: 'Do you want to be positive?' and I said 'Yes'. He said: 'Good - he's fit'.

"The plan wasn't necessarily to lead but I got there comfortably and I just let him bowl along so it worked out well. In Sydney most of the races are run at pretty slow tempos, and when you roll along a little bit more you take a gamble, but I'll always back myself. If you win it's great and if you lose well at least you lose trying."

It was trainer John O'Shea's third Doncaster Handicap having won the famous mile in 2004 with Private Steer and 2006 with Racing To Win before taking on the lead role at Godolphin after Peter Snowden had left to start a training partnership with his son Paul.

"It's unbelievable to think we've won it," shared O'Shea. "Daz (Darren Beadman) and I watched it in the jockey's room and we were having an ordinary day to be fair. When he shot clear I thought, should we cheer yet. I forgot who was riding it!"

Happy Clapper (B Shinn) produced another outstanding effort over the Randwick mile finishing a closing half-length second for Randwick-based trainer Patrick Webster, following on from a second in last year's Group 1 Doncaster Handicap to champion Winx and winning the 2015 Group 2 Villiers Stakes (It's Somewhat finished third).

The Kris Lees-trained Sense Of Occasion (C Brown) - the 2016 Group 2 Villiers Stakes winner - was a further three and a half lengths away in third.


Chautauqua (T Berry)
2017 Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick

You need a spark to start a flame.

They say it wasn't until Jimi Hendrix first lit his guitar on stage that the music world started to really take notice of the legendary guitarist, coincidentally almost 50 years to the day (31 March, 1967).

Day One of the 2017 The Championships needed a spark and Chautauqua provided it.

For the fourth consecutive year the $2,500,000 Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes winner has given a 'Champion's moment'.

In 2013 (the year before The T.J. Smith was run under The Championships banner) it was Black Caviar's memorable 25th consecutive win - retiring days later as undefeated champion.

2014 and also achieving the rating of World's best sprinter it was Lankan Rupee.

2015, 2016 and now 2017 heralded a new sprinting marvel and like the name of the event suggests - a champion performance.

When Chautauqua came from last to first in the home straight on Day One to make it a treble of Group 1 T.J. Smiths racing fans witnessed a stunning equine performance to last a lifetime.

Racegoers down near the fence could be forgiven for feeling 'windburn' as the grey son of Encosta de Lago flew past like Superman - his hooves seemingly barely touching the heavy 8 surface.

So fast the John, Michael and Wayne Hawkes-trained grey travelled, he dislodged a plate on returning to scale.

Words can't really do this win justice and one is implored to watch the race video - each time the viewer left shaking their head at the grey gelding's 'Champion performance'.

His memorable win has set a new Group 1 benchmark and already made the 2017 The Championships a highlight of the racing year.

Jockey Tommy Berry and Chautauqua were two lengths last on entering the straight and appearing to be out of the race.

Berry piloted a course through the tail of the field before directing the grey to his favoured outside position and unleashing a 'champion's finish'.

"He's incredible isn't he?" shared Berry. "I said to the doubters the whole way along, don't worry about it, the Hawkes Team train him. They are freaks at what they do."

"I came up underneath them as I couldn't come around them and win. Gee, once he got through he was so good."

Team Hawkes were equally impressed with the performance which completely went against the day's pattern of racing.

"Before the race you thought he couldn't win with the track bias, what can we say now," explained Wayne Hawkes.

"It was big. He (John) said to Michael stay near the fence, stay near the fence, cut up the inside, don't come to the outside. That was the difference between him winning and losing.

"The horse has been fantastic. He was cool as a cucumber. He's a rockstar and owns the 1200m at Randwick."

Chautauqua became the greatest all-time leading earner for sprinters with the victory - $8,369,435 - eclipsing undefeated champion Black Caviar ($7,953,936).

Runner-up English (B Shinn) and third placegetter Fell Swoop (J Moreira) reversed the placings from the previous year's race.

English and Shinn appeared as great a certainty to win one could watch in racing before 'Super-Chautauqua' flew past nearing the post.

"You can never go the early crow when Chautauqua is in the race," shared Shinn. "I wasn't going to do that today but I really felt all over a winner, all bar the post. Then out of nowhere the big grey came and got me. It was a terrific effort from my mare."

N.B. Team Hawkes also trained the winner of the last race at Bendigo, Top Me Up. Appropriately on this special day, he is also a grey.


Jon Snow (D Lane)
2017 Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick

Thankfully Australian breeders have the likes of So You Think and co. starting to produce classic staying types but the Kiwis still have an 'All Black-like' dominance on these events at the Sydney Autumn Carnival.

In the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas it was the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Gingernuts who dominated, while the Group 1 New Zealand Derby third placegetter and Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) winner Jon Snow followed it up with victory in the $2million Group 1 BMW Australian Derby (2400m). (Gingernuts and Jon Snow are both sired by the imported stallion Iffraaj (GB), also sire of triple Group 1 winner Turn Me Loose. Iffraaj stands at Haunui Farm in New Zealand).

It was also a Kiwi milestone for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman. It was Forsman's first Australian Group 1 winner since entering the partnership while it was Baker's fourth ATC Australian Derby (2008-Nom Du Jeu, 2013-It's A Dundeel, 2015-Mongolian Khan).

"It's been a great ride with this horse for the owners," shared Forsman. "It's been quite a journey. He had won so well (Tulloch Stakes), he just bounced through the run and his work on Thursday morning was brilliant. He pulled up well. Everything has gone so well since he came over here."

Jockey Damian Lane who is riding in peak form was surprised when first contacted by the trainers to ride the three-year-old bay colt after they had been watching him ride on television in New Zealand and were impressed with him.

"It's a great thrill to win a Derby on such a seasoned horse," shared Lane. "I was very lucky to get on him last week and happy to stick with him today. He was too good. What a great trainer Murray Baker has been for many years now and Andrew Forsman does a great job as well so to be able to have a ride for them, let alone win two good races for them in two weeks, is a privilege."

"When I switched him off he settled beautifully and when I switched him back on at the 600m he came up under me nicely. It was just perfect. It was almost a replica of last week. Jason Collett rated the leader perfectly and I was able to just sit a length off and when I switched him back on at the 600m he was all business from there."

Jon Snow wore down the gallant Harper's Choice (J Collett) to win by three-quarters of a length with a narrow 0.1 of a length to Hardham (L Nolen) in third.


Invader (H Bowman)
2017 Group 1 Sires' (1400m) at Royal Randwick

With almost a third of the Sires' field sired by Arrowfield's crack stallion Snitzel, there was always a strong possibility the winner would be found in the son of Redoute's Choice's progeny.

But to supply the trifecta in the $1million Group 1 Inglis Sires' (1400m) is a new feat for this outstanding sire of 59 stakeswinners.

It was another High Bowman special with the maestro guiding the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Invader to a three-quarter length win over Summer Passage (Z Purton) and the same distance again to Trapeze Artist (T Clark) in third.

Invader had originally been aimed at the $3.5million Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) but missed the race through injury.

"It was a real shame he missed the Golden Slipper but it could have been a blessing in disguise," shared Bowman.

"I came and jumped him out last week, having missed the Golden Slipper through a foot abscess, and I was really pleased with the feel he gave me."

"With the fillies winning all the majors so far this season that makes this horse the best colt of his era, as a two-year-old, so that makes it very exciting for his connections, and to be a part of his ride is very special for me."

"We drew a nice gate today which enabled me to follow Tulip which I though was one of the main dangers and when I needed him to move he was able to give me the extension that I needed and I thought he won with authority in the end."

Team Snowden, who had also prepared 2015 Sires' winner, Pride Of Dubai, agreed it might have been fortunate to miss the Slipper. (Peter Snowden also trained 2013 Sires' winner Guelph and 2011 Helmet, when head trainer for Godolphin.)

"I can say that now but I didn't say that on the Friday night (Slipper eve) when we had the stone bruise," Peter Snowden said. "Anyway, it was what it was, so it might have worked for the better."

"He's always looked to us like he's wanted 1400m and (it was) an absolute peach of a ride. When you go back and look at that, I know he drew a decent gate, he drew 4 but to manoeuvre and get to where he did from where he was in the clear, was something to behold. It went a long way to the horse winning today."

The familiar colours of the China Horse Club (CHC) and partners carried to victory by Invader now joins an impressive list of CHC Group 1 winners including First Seal, Extreme Choice, Russian Revolution, Flying Artie and Dissident.


Diddums (S Clipperton)
2017 Group 3 P J Bell Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick

It is not often you see No.22 - the second emergency - greet the judge first but that was the case in the $200,000 Group 3 The Green Guys P J Bell Stakes (1200m).

The Gerald Ryan-trained Diddums (S Clipperton) led all of the way in the three-year-old fillies event to defeat Prompt Response (B Shinn) by one and a quarter lengths with a further three-quarters of a length to Smart Amelia (G Schofield) third.

John Messara's Arrowfield Stud always seem to come to the fore at the major carnival's and continued this trend standing or having stood the sires of the trifecta - Diddums (Snitzel), Prompt Response (Beneteau) and Smart Amelia (Smart Missile).

Clipperton, a great judge of pace in a race having been tutored by the very best - Ron Quinton - is currently based in Hong Kong. He returned immediately to ride the following day at Sha Tin recording a winner and a second placing. Ironically the winner was named Everest - the same name of the $10 million sprint to be held at Royal Randwick during the Spring Carnival on 14 October.

"Lovely to get the ride on this gallant little mare," shared Clipperton. "She's very brave. It's great to come home to the homeland and get a winner."

"Gerald left it up to me whether I led or took a sit. I got there effortlessly and was able to rate her and she was always going to give me a good kick. We stayed hard up against the fence."

"The track looks fairly even here today and it presents in amazing order."


Free Standing (B Shinn)
2017 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick

Without doubt one of the most highly sought races to win at The Championships, the $400,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final (1400m) saw runners represented from all corners of NSW.

Mudgee, Albury, Murwillumbah, Port Macquarie, Scone, Tamworth, Cobbitty, Cessnock, Bourke, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Goulburn, Taree, Queanbeyan, Corowa, Grafton and Orange areas all qualified runners for this special race.

This year's Country Championships trophy is headed to Coffs Harbour and the stables of Cathleen Rode, the trainer of Free Standing (B Shinn).

A previous winner at Randwick, Free Standing showed his love for the Randwick track cruising to a two-and-a-half length win over After All That (R Thompson), with Not For Export (C Reith) a narrow 0.1 of a length away third.

Shinn made full use of Free Standing's inside gate, going around just one horse in the straight, before sprinting away to a comprehensive victory.

"It's very special, obviously this is a new incentive that Racing NSW have brought in and it's been welcomed into NSW racing with open arms and given the country trainers a chance to enjoy city racing," shared Shinn. "It's taken off. This is what it is all about."

"It gives me great satisfaction to win for Cathleen and all her connections. I was lucky enough to pick up the ride, I was down to ride Pumpkin Pie but due to weight I couldn't ride it, and thankfully I got on this horse."

"He couldn't have been presented any better here today, he got a great draw, the breaks went our way, and it is just beautiful to do it for the people behind this horse."

It was a very special win for Coffs Harbour-trainer Cathleen Rode who has been training for 18 years and has just three horses in work with Free Standing her first ever runner at Royal Randwick.

"I can't believe it!" enthused Rode. "It's one off my bucket list. We did have flooding on our track. We weren't allowed to leave the area because of being trained in the area until the week beforehand. We sent him down with the foreman and he's been at Wyong for a week. I don't need to over-race him."

"I have three at the moment. We took all three to the qualifying day at Grafton. I sold one of those and I have only got a young one."

Owner Steven Thompson, Rode's partner, was over the moon with the win, explaining how the mighty Takeover Target and fellow Coffs Harbour trainer Joe Janiak, played a part in this special win.

"I said to Cathleen (Trainer) down the back, we're a little bit close (in running) but if he finds the fence he's going to find the line, because his run behind Perfect Dare (last start) was awesome," Thompson said.

"I was pretty confident we could turn the tables today."

"I just bought him because he was by Equiano, I got a stable complex next to Joe Janiak and I yelled out one day: 'I bought an Equiano, the horse that beat Takeover Target!"

"We only paid $2,600 for him and he had won over $100,000 in prizemoney leading into today, it's hard to put into words."

"He's always been a bit of a handful, I ride him at trackwork every morning, he's been a nice horse in progress."


Big Duke (C Williams)
2017 Group 2 Schweppes Chairman's Handicap (2600m)
at Royal Randwick

In 2014 the German-bred Protectionist careered by four lengths to win the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) from Red Cadeaux and Who Shot Thebarman.

Now his owners have a new Melbourne Cup dream with Big Duke.

The Irish-bred five-year-old gelding completed one of his first hurdles in fine style by easily winning the $300,000 Group 2 Schweppes Chairman's Handicap (2600m).

A last start winner of the Group 3 Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill, Big Duke was again ridden a treat by Craig Williams defeating fellow Irish-bred Aloft (B Melham) by two lengths with New Zealander Rock On (B Avdulla) a further three-quarters of a length away third.

The win was a much needed tonic for Craig Williams who had been temporarily knocked out from a fall from The Gold Trail in the Mornington Cup a week earlier after the horse broke down 100m past the finishing line in fourth place. Sadly, The Gold Trail could not be saved by vets, after suffering fractures in the near fore sesamoid.

"First of all I've got to thank the medics and the staff at Mornington Race Club on the day, as well as the intensive and emergency department at Frankston Hospital," shared Williams.

"It's been overwhelming with the support I've had from people in racing, fellow jockeys as well as family and friends."

"It's been great to get me to here, Doctor Gary Zimmerman, Greg Malham he was the neurosurgeon and Mr Stephens for all their hard work to get me back here and allow me to do what I love to do on the track."

"I'm very grateful to Darren Weir and the owners for honouring their commitment, a lot of things changed on Sunday with whether or not I could ride."

"It's obviously fantastic to get a win on one of the great days of the Australian Racing Calendar, Day 1 of The Championships at Randwick."

"Darren Weir and his team have done a great job with him, they told me he had thrived and he has."

"He had to go up in weight on a wet-track and did it well."

"If he pulls up well and they elect to go that way (Sydney Cup), it feels like he is the one they have to beat, so credit to them."

Big Duke's weight handicap will drop 6kgs to 52kg in the Sydney Cup. The Offer, trained by Gai Waterhouse, was the last horse to win the Chairman's Handicap/Sydney Cup double in 2014.


Acatour (B Shinn)
2017 Group 3 China Horse Club Carbine Club Stakes (1600m)
at Royal Randwick

The colours of dark green, gold epaulettes made famous by 2016 Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) and Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) winner Capitalist, raced to victory again with Acatour (B Shinn) in the $200,000 Group 3 China Horse Club Carbine Club Stakes (1600m).

The owner of the colours James Harron has forged a reputation in recent times as an astute bloodstock advisor and agent. His impressive Group 1 resume includes 2015 Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes winner Vancouver, plus Fiorente, Wandjina, Sweet Idea, Shamal Wind, Foxwedge, Pornichet, Almalad and Group 1 Prix du Moulin winner Vadamos.

Trained by Peter and Paul Snowden and ridden by Blake Shinn, Acatour easily accounted for dual interstate acceptor Theanswermyfriend (L Nolen) by three and a half lengths, with Veladero (H Bowman) 0.1 of a length away third.

Shinn in 'white hot' form rode Acatour to perfection for a commanding win.

"It's really good to see him back to his best," shared Shinn. "He's been working so well all prep and Peter, Paul, James and the team, and myself we've got a lot of confidence in him. His run in the Randwick Guineas we just put a line through that, he was on heavy ground, and didn't really go a yard."

"The horse really returned to his best, he had a great turn of foot. I was confident at the 600m that I was on the winner and he just ambled up to them and put the race to bed very easily at the 300m."

"Full credit to Lindsay Murphy, Navesh and the team, they have really presented this track in great order here today."

Once being set for the Doncaster Handicap, Acatour's return to form may now see him a visitor to the Brisbane Winter Carnival.

"This is a much better track today to what it was last start," Peter Snowden said. "Always been a talented horse so it's been a frustrating for us not to see him kick a goal before this."

"He's definitely a talent. I honestly thought he was a Doncaster horse but the first couple of runs this time in poured cold water on that. We thought maybe he wants further but I think probably this might be his right trip - a mile to 1800m but it was good to see him win as well as he did today."

"There's Brisbane to look forward too. As I said good to see him get back to good form and win as well as he did."

Antony and Katie Thompson's famed Widden Stud - recently celebrating 150 years - provided the winning sire Sebring - the 2008 Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes and Group 1 Sires' winner and now champion sire.

Mr Sneaky and Screamarr were late scratchings at the barriers.


Property (H Bowman)
2017 Group 3 Widden 150th Anniversary Stakes (1100m)
at Royal Randwick

An icon of Australian and world thoroughbred breeding it was appropriate Widden Stud played a hand in the race named in honour of their proud history.

The Robert Smerdon-trained Property (H Bowman) convincingly won the $200,000 Group 3 Widden 150th Anniversary Stakes (1100m) by a commanding three and a quarter lengths from Condor Heroes (M Zahra) with Sheikha (J Parr) one and a quarter lengths away third.

Property's damsire Anabaa stood at Widden while Sheikha's sire Sebring is Widden's current resident champion stallion. Widden also stand Star Witness - the 2010 Group 1 Blue Diamond and Coolmore Stakes winner - twice Group 1 placed at Royal Ascot - and arguably the best son standing at stud by Starcraft, Property's sire. Incidentally both Starcraft and Chautauqua share the same damsire - the grey son of Danehill, Lion Hunter.

Property's Widden 150th Anniversary Stakes win almost didn't happen with the two-year-old bay gelding sold to Hong Kong interests before the sale fell over due to unsatisfactory x-ray reports.

"He was sold to Hong Kong - I don't know what the figure was - but it was pretty substantial," shared Smerdon. "He had some x-ray issues and they are very, very strict on what goes there so there was no option other than send him to the races. He has had a long testing preparation."

"He had four jumpouts before he went to the races then he went through a Blue Diamond prep, then he had a breather at the stables. He has a three year olds build and mentality about him so we would soldier on and see what else we can do and he's ended up here. A very talented horse."

"I always think the programs between Sydney and Melbourne nearly mirror each other so we wouldn't come here unless there was better races for better horses."

"It was a big ask as a two year old to do what he has done, so it is a testament to the horse's constitution, naturally his ability but his constitution, to handle it."

Bowman was equally impressed with Property's performance.

"He had excellent form, two wins and beaten in the Blue Diamond, which is outstanding," said Bowman. "He ran an incredible race in the Blue Diamond."

"He handled the conditions well which was a bit of a question mark but he's a beautiful colt and I think we'll see more of him in the springtime."

"He sprinted very well. I couldn't see him going beyond a mile, whether he is even a miler I'm not sure, but he's in the right camp. They will work him out."

N.B. 15 minutes after this race in the first race at Bendigo, Widden's Sebring appropriately sired the winner, Sebring Sun.

Interesting sire stats on this day:

SNITZEL - sired the trifecta in the Group 1 Inglis' Sires (1400m)

ENCOSTA DE LAGO - sired the quinella in the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes (1200m)

REDOUTE'S CHOICE - sired the quinella in the Group 3 WA Oaks (2400m)

GALILEO - sired the quinella in the Listed Bendigo Golden Mile (1600m)

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