Trainer Chris Waller has called top jockey Nash Rawiller off the bench to replace James McDonald aboard classy four-year-old Verry Elleegant in Saturday’s Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
The New Zealand-bred daughter of Zed has been in career best form this autumn, running out a soft winner of the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) last start, having run slashing second placings behind race rivals Adeybb and Te Akau Shark at her two previous starts. With regular rider James McDonald committed to partner Japanese Group 1 winner Danon Premium in the Queen Elizabeth, a race not originally on Verry Elleegant’s radar, Rawiller is hoping to prove the super-sub.
Rawiller got a feel for the quirky mare, who is known for her high-head carriage, when partnering her in a gallop on Tuesday on the outside of the Rosehill course proper. “She seemed to enjoy my company and she can at times be a little keen in her work, but she got in a beautiful rhythm and relaxed well,” Rawiller said. “I got her to get her head down a little bit, which was good and the feeling that she gave me was terrific. It gave me a good confidence boost going into the weekend.”
Rawiller said in the absence of champion mare Winx, who retired from racing last year when winning the Queen Elizabeth for a third year in succession, the race looked to be very open and competitive. “It’s a great race,” he said. “It looks as good a rendition of the Queen Elizabeth as I have seen and without a Winx, everyone has got a genuine chance. “I think the whole meeting on Saturday looks unbelievable on paper and for everyone that can tune into it, it’s going to be a good day of racing.”
With rain still lingering in Sydney, the Randwick track remains a Soft7, which will not be a bother to Verry Elleegant, while a truly run race would also suit the former Kiwi. “We haven’t really had great drying weather since the weekend,” Rawiller said. “It will be a very fair and even track but it will still make the 2000m very genuine and with the bigger field that we’ve got this year, it will be a real race.”
Verry Elleegant won two of her first three starts in New Zealand and despite her sale and relocation to Australia, her original syndicate of owners, which includes former trainer Nick Bishara, remain in the ownership. The lightly-framed mare has won in excess of A$2.7 million in prizemoney to date and is rated a $6 chance to snare the lion’s share of the A$2 million prizemoney of the Queen Elizabeth.