Melbourne Cup dream a reality for Auckland Cup winner

Ladies First wins the Auckland Cup. PIC: Trish Dunell.

A crack at this year’s Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) edged a step closer for Ladies First at Ellerslie where she passed the sternest test of her stamina with flying colours.

The mare overcame a torrid early trip to triumph in Saturday’s Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) with her never say die attitude leaving her New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock shaking his head.

“She was posted three wide around one bend and then two bends and I said she can’t win,” he said.

“I’m rapt, but I did think she had got beaten on the line. I’m a bit shocked really – I thought she had run second.
“They all thought she was a wet-tracker, but her last three wins have been on firm tracks.

Ladies First prevailed by the barest of margins to successfully execute a long-term plan and thoughts are now turning to another Cup.

“We’ve pulled her out of the Sydney Cup and she’ll go to the paddock and then we’ll be looking at the Livamol Classic and the Melbourne Cup,” Sharrock said.

The daughter of Dylan Thomas may provide owners Humphrey and Fiona O’Leary with another crack at the famous Flemington race as they are also part-owners of Who Shot Thebarman, who ran third in the 2014 Cup behind Protectionist.

After Ladies First was caught out on a limb early, rider Johnathan Parkes pressed forward to get one off the fence on the pace.

The five-year-old challenged early in the run home and rounded off a lionhearted effort to pip Five To Midnight by a nose with Wildflower a short neck back in third. Alinko Prince was just a long neck back in fourth.

“It was such a brave effort,” Parkes said. “I wanted to get handy, but she didn’t have the gate speed to get across and I got caught three wide.

“I thought I would let her roll and she fought so hard to the line. It was a very good performance.”