Beau Mertens produced a stellar ride on the Mitchell Freedman-trained Skybird (+200) to take out the Group 2 Fillies Classic at Moonee Valley.
The daughter of Exosphere kept her unbeaten start to her career intact with the win in the Fillies Classic and looks to be one of the key chances in the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield next month.
The race wasn’t run to suit a backmarker, with Grinzinger Belle (+1100) setting a sedate tempo at the front of the field, which saw several runners make their move at the 600m mark to get into the race.
Although most jockeys pushed forward out wide, Mertens held his cool, progressed up the rail and waited for a gap to appear in between horses.
As Skybird was making up ground, Zac Purton kicked clear on the leader and appeared the winner with 200m to go.
When the gap appeared, Mertens pushed the button, and the winner let down with an exhilarating turn of foot to fly over the top of the leader to win by a neck on the line.
2023 Fillies Classic Replay – Skybird | T: Mitchell Freedman| J: Beau Mertens
After claiming the Fillies Classic, Mitchell Freedman spoke post-race.
“She’s very handy and very well handled,” Freedman said.
“He had to be patient but before the race I said to him that we’re going to leave it up to you, if you go inside them and try and get it done that way, so be it.
“She’s pretty tractable and knows how to get through them.
“I thought Craig Williams (Broadcaster) and Mick Dee (Carina Queen) were the horse to try and get on the back of and pick our way that way.
“It turned out they were right in from of him.
“I walked the track earlier in the day and I knew it was going to be tricky for her.
“Great ride. He (Mertens) can’t do much wrong for us at the moment.
“How good to get a winner on Cox Plate Day. We did it four years ago and good to do it again.”
Beau Mertens may have just found himself a Thousand Guineas ride, after producing a top steer on Skybird.
“The plan was, with the barrier and with her natural pattern she gets back, but it was obviously always going to be a bit tricky but we did a bit of work on it.
“I thought we’d get the nice run blending into it going around them or be a bit daring and try and go through the middle.
“When I found Carina Queen’s back I was happy with that and was lucky enough for that horse to take me into the race when I was just tracking the leader’s back. Gee she was impressive.
“When you asked her to go she really goes and it was probably a big benefit that she came around here on Tuesday and had a good look at everything and was able to get a guide on the track.
“She’s such a professional and handles herself so well.”
Skybird is now +400 in the Thousand Guineas futures market with online bookmakers.