Kiwis take home Sydney Championships spoils

Verry Elleegant’s connections celebrating after her G1 Australian Oaks (2400m) victory. Photo credit: Bradley Photography

It may have been a day of celebrating the career of world champion Winx at Randwick on Saturday, but there was no one happier in the crowd than the connections of her talented stablemate Verry Elleegant.

The daughter of Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed took out the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) and a tremendous roar emanated from her supporters when she struck the lead down the home straight.

Verry Elleegant returned $2 with online bookmaker Neds.

There’s a distinct Kiwi flavour behind the talented New Zealand-bred filly. She is trained and ridden by two expat Kiwis in Chris Waller and James McDonald, and the majority of her ownership group is made of New Zealanders, including former trainer Nick Bishara.

“James McDonald and Chris Waller have done a magnificent job with the filly, I am just over the moon,” Bishara said. “She was the complete racehorse on Saturday.”

Verry Elleegant has been a notoriously quirky racehorse and has thrived since transferring to Waller’s barn, winning three of four starts, including two at Group One level, and remains unbeaten in Sydney.

Bishara has put that success down to the guidance of both Waller and jockey James McDonald.

“James is world class and has got terrific hands,” he said. “She has become his project horse I really think.

“He’s worked her out and Chris and his staff have done a terrific job with her. We all know what she looked like in the spring, she was awkward and she was awkward to start with when she got to Chris’.”

While most of the attention on Saturday was focussed towards Verry Elleegant’s famous stablemate, Winx, Bishara said he was delighted with how his charge presented before the race and said he was able to capture a moment for posterity on the big occasion.

“I went down and had a look (before the race) and she looked terrific,” Bishara said. “She was stabled next to Winx in the tie-ups, that will be a once in a lifetime photo with Winx and Verry Elleegant together. I’ve got that photo in my book for the rest of my life.

“She’s a champion and if this filly can be half as good as Winx I’ll be very happy. Even one Cox Plate (G1, 2040m) would be terrific.”

Bishara trained Verry Elleegant to two victories, while she was runner-up in her only other New Zealand start before being sold to clients of Darren Weir.

Weir out-bid Waller to acquire the mare, but Bishara said it was a good feeling that her current trainer was able to get his hands on the filly he saw so much ability in.

“He was about $200-300,000 short (of Weir’s offer),” Bishara said. “They were a long way off the pace, but it’s nice that it has gone full-circle.

“She’s about 50-60 percent New Zealand-owned. Jomara Bloodstock (John, Mark and Rachael Carter) have 25 percent, we have got 20 or 25 percent and Tim Barry from the Auckland Racing Club has got a share. So a lot of that money is coming back to New Zealand, which is great for Kiwis.”

Verry Elleegant will now head to the spelling paddock before targeting some rich spoils on offer during the spring.

“We got an email to say she has come through the race well and she is going to be let down and spell now,” Bishara said.

“My gut feeling is that she is still a year away. She is still a maturing horse and she will probably come back in the spring, with Chris’ tutelage under her, a far better horse.

“We’ll probably have a telephone conference with everyone in a couple of weeks’ time and plot it out. But looking at the way Chris has managed Winx’s career, you’re probably better to leave it up to him. He’s in touch with the horse every day.”