Sun, 31 March 2024

Orchestral outstanding in Australian debut


CameraJockey James McDonald is all smiles when returning on Gr.1 Vinery Stakes winner Orchestral. Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

A year after winning the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) with Prowess, Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood returned to Rosehill on Saturday and achieved a repeat result with another special filly.

Orchestral headed across the Tasman as one of the most-hyped New Zealand three-year-olds in recent memory. She had won all of her four previous starts in succession, including the Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m), the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) and a runaway victory in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m). The latter performance received a further boost when the distant second placegetter Antrim Coast won last Saturday’s Gr.2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley in his next start.

Champion expat jockey James McDonald was legged aboard Orchestral as a $1.60 favourite on Saturday despite facing a well-credentialled field that included Godolphin’s Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2500m) and Gr.2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) winner Zardozi.

The pair also had to overcome a daring ride by Nash Rawiller on Tutta La Vita, who sat in third place before powering to the lead and throwing down the gauntlet with 600m remaining. He held a clear advantage over Orchestral rounding the home turn, and the superstar Kiwi faced her biggest test yet.

But McDonald got her balanced up in the straight and pushed the button, and Orchestral took care of the rest. She worked through her gears and began to eat into Tutta La Vita’s margin, surging past her in the final 100m and winning by just under a length. Zardozi finished third.

“She had to have all the quality today,” McDonald said. “She was out on her feet, but like good ones do, she overcame it. She’s just very good. It’s a weird feeling riding her, because the first time I ever sat on her, I hopped off her and thought, ‘There’s something damned, damned good about this thing.’

“I haven’t had this much confidence going into a race since I was riding Anamoe, when I knew he was just unbeatable. I thought she was unbeatable today. I thought she would win a little bit easier, but she was a little bit ring-rusty. She took the last bend a little bit awkwardly. On fast ground, she had to really dig deep and it wasn’t to our liking, and the slowly run race wasn’t really to our liking. Stepping up in trip next start is just going to be perfect for her.

“I knew two days ago, with Nash booked on Tutta La Vita, something was going to happen. So I was aware it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when and just being alert to it. I would have preferred to sit and not have to chase from that far away, but it shows how tough she is.

“She had to do all the donkey work to chase that horse, which is not that easy to do. She cornered not that well and then she was a sitting duck, so for her to fight like that was incredible. She pulled up having a bit of a blow, so she’ll improve.”

Raced by long-time James and Wellwood clients Colin and Helen Litt, Orchestral has now had nine starts for six wins, two seconds and almost $2 million in stakes.

“We're a small stable from New Zealand and to do it with horses we've bought ourselves and then bring them across and win this race two years in a row is thrilling,” Wellwood said.

“It's a great effort by the filly, coming back from a mile and a half to now win over 2000m. That residual fitness kicked in at the end.

“I thought we were tracking into it nicely, but Tutta La Vita got a little break on us. Halfway up the straight, I thought we were going to have to be very tough to win, and she was that.”

James and Wellwood will now decide whether Orchestral will carry on to the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick next Saturday or the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) a week later.

“No decision will be made until we see her trot up and have a chat to connections, but the best thing is she has ticked the first box and got a Group One in Australia,” Wellwood said.

Orchestral was bred by Barneswood Farm and is one of 33 individual Group One winners for Waikato Stud’s champion sire Savabeel.

She is the first named foal out of the O’Reilly mare Symphonic, who herself won four races and placed in the Gr.3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m). Offered by Haunui Farm in Book 1 of Karaka 2022, Orchestral was bought by James and Wellwood for $625,000.

Orchestral was bred on the Savabeel-O’Reilly cross that has produced more than 30 other stakes winners, including Saturday’s Gr.2 Toyota Forklifts Tulloch Stakes (2000m) winner Wymark. – NZ Racing Desk.