Shillelagh seeking further Victorian riches

New Zealand-owned mare Shillelagh is favourite for the Gr.1 Toorak Handicap Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

Consistent mare Shillelagh will attempt to double her career Group 1 tally when she tackles the Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on Saturday.

The Chris Waller trained seven-year-old finished an eye-catching fourth at her last run in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick, motoring home in the closing stages to finish just over a length behind the eventual winner Hartnell.

The performance convinced Waller that the mare, who has won seven of her 27 starts including the Group 1 Cantala Stakes (1600m) during last year’s spring carnival, was worth sending south from his Sydney base to contest some of the upcoming Melbourne features.

“We sent her down here (Melbourne) because of the wet weather in Sydney,” he said. “I was expecting to run her over 2000m but I feel the mile on a better track is going to give her a better chance to perform.

“She gets in pretty well at the weights considering her high rating, her two runs back from her spell have been very good and her run in the Epsom was as good as any in the race.”

While Waller feels the run of Shillelagh might have been overlooked by a number of pundits, the Savabeel mare has been well-supported by punters who have made her a $5 favourite for the Toorak.

“Everybody has spoken highly about the first three home (in the Epsom) but Shillelagh has been the forgotten horse,” he said. “She came from fifteenth at the 400m and was beaten only a length.

“In my opinion, she is a very worthy chance of putting another Victorian Group 1 next to her name.”

Shillelagh is raced by owners Christopher and Susanna Grace and was sent to Waller’s Sydney stable after winning four of her first six starts from the powerful Te Akau Racing stable at Matamata.

Ex-pat kiwi Michael Walker will take the ride on the mare who has drawn barrier nine in the eighteen-horse field.

Shillelagh will be joined in the Toorak by another former kiwi galloper in Kingsguard. The Rip Van Winkle six-year-old, who races for an ownership group that includes Windsor Park Stud, comes into the race off the back of a gritty Group 2 second placing over 1500m behind race-rival Noire at his last start.