The remarkable Lightning Sisters

By Dennis Ryan

26 Oct 2022

The remarkable Lightning SistersSoliloquy Stakes winner Legarto and Sprinter of the Year Levante strike a near identical pose at theThe remarkable Lightning Sisters

Last Saturday at Te Rapa racegoers were treated to an extraordinary sight as Legarto staged a last-to-first win in the Gr. 3 Super Seth Soliloquy Stakes.
It was something to behold as she swept her rivals aside, taking her unbeaten record to three from three and confirming her place at the top of the market for the Gr. 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas.
But there’s a whole lot more to this story, one that’s all about the parallels to be drawn between Legarto and her three-year older Group One-winning stablemate Levante. The obvious similarities are that they’re both by Rich Hill stallion Proisir, both are trained by Ken and Bev Kelso, and both carry the Ancroft Stud colours of part-owners Philip and Catherine Brown.
You can also throw in the physical similarities; both are straight bay in colour – albeit Legarto a slightly darker shade – and low-slung but nonetheless scopey and possessing a massive stride that allows them to stroll along and from nowhere produce scintillating acceleration.
That all-important attribute has been a hallmark of reigning Sprinter of the Year Levante’s career, with a series of final 600m sectional times either side of 33 seconds on her 10-win CV. Now Legarto, blessed with the same bomb-proof temperament, is making rapid inroads to emulating her paternal half-sister’s record.
On Saturday, the first time she has struck a good track, she ambled along at the rear before being set alight to loom up wide but still lengths from the leaders. A couple of quick flicks from rider Ryan Elliot and she was off, devouring her rivals with ease and racing clear to score by three lengths, flicking her ears as if she had been taking lessons from her stablemate.
Even without being pushed once she had broken clear, Legarto’s 800, 600, 400 and 200m sectionals were clearly the best in the race. Her relaxed style and ability to quicken give every reason to believe that the 1600m of the 1000 Guineas at Riccarton will hold no fears.
Levante, a member of Proisir’s first crop, was a bargain buy from her breeder Scott Williams when she was a weanling at Ancroft, however Legarto cost considerably more as a yearling at the 2021 National Yearling Sale.
That followed Levante’s maiden black-type win in the Counties Bowl in late 2020, which prompted the Browns and Kelsos to try and find another in the same mould. They first considered Hallmark Stud’s Proisir-Donna Marie filly in the Karaka Book 1 catalogue, but quickly realised the level of interest in the well-made bay would count them out. They were proven right when Cambridge training partners Roger James and Robert Wellwood went to $230,000 for the filly now known as Prowess, the winner of her first two starts before finishing third to Legarto on Saturday.
So to Karaka Book 2, where the Highline Thoroughbreds filly from Geordie Girl was identified as being more within budget and Brown was able to secure her for $90,000. At the time similarities were acknowledged between the new purchase and the one back in Matamata, who by then had added a Gr. 1 Railway Stakes third and a Gr. 2 Westbury Classic win.
But even when Legarto made an impressive winning debut on her home track last June, there was a reluctance to agree with the suggestion from others that lightning might have struck in the same place. The most fervent in that respect was Brown, but on Saturday he finally had to concede, as Ken Kelso revealed afterwards.
“I said to Philip as they pulled up, ‘Could lightning strike twice?’ He said ‘I think it just did’.”
The Soliloquy Stakes took Proisir’s tally of stakes winners to nine and continued a big spring for the son of Choisir headlined by Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy winner Dark Destroyer. Which raises another common denominator, as that horse’s breeder, Bay of Plenty farmer Warwick Jeffries, can also take the credit for Legarto, along with 2018 Gr. 1 ATC Champagne Stakes winner Seabrook.
The near future promises further excitement for the connections of Levante and Legarto. A week before the latter’s Riccarton classic mission on November 12, Levante will be at Flemington, the scene of her highly meritorious fourth in the Gr. 1 Newmarket Handicap last March.
Her fresh-up target is the A$3 million Champions Sprint, in which she will come up against a star-studded field likely to be headed by Nature Strip and The Everest winner Giga Kick.