New season preparations already underway for Group One fillies

By Dennis Ryan

7 Jun 2023

New season preparations already underway for Group One filliesTrans-Tasman Group One winner Legarto has been in work for a month as she prepares for Australian sp

The curtain came down only last weekend on the Australasian classic season, however spring preparations are already coming together for stars of the past season.
High on the list of 2022-23 achievers are a trio of New Zealand-bred, owned and trained fillies, Legarto, Pennyweka and Prowess. All three were big winners on the local scene before taking that form across the Tasman for a Group One win apiece as part of an Australian feature season chock-full of Kiwi-bred success.
Likewise all three are back in work after autumn breaks, their progress coinciding with the timelines around the final starts of their three-year-old campaigns.
Legarto won four of her five domestic starts headed by the Gr. 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas and Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic and bounced back from a career-first defeat in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic for her historic victory in the Gr. 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington.
Other races could have been considered for the Proisir filly after that March 4 win, but connections instead opted to send her home and straight to the spelling paddock at part-owners Philip and Catherin Brown’s Ancroft Stud.
“The All-Star Mile was suggested as a logical target two weeks after the Guineas, and we might have been tempted if it had been at Flemington, but we just felt taking on the older horses at Moonee Valley wasn’t ideal,” co trainer Ken Kelso said.
“After such a big season she really had nothing left to prove, and we were all very comfortable with the decision to pull stumps. That meant she would be spelling while the weather was still good and back in the stables before winter.”
Legarto returned to the Kelso stable just over a month ago, allowing ample time heading into spring. “She came back in big and strong, she looks great and we’re very happy with how things are progressing,” Kelso told RaceForm. “Nothing’s set in concrete at this stage, but it depends entirely on track conditions as to which way we go.
“More than likely that means she’ll head to Melbourne after trialing here, and it’s a help that she’s already been around the Cambridge synthetic, so we’ve got that covered.
“The Let’s Elope Stakes over 1400 metres at Flemington in the middle of September could be the right sort of race to kick off in. At some point we’re going to have to decide what race to target, whether we head up to Sydney for the Golden Eagle or to stay in Melbourne.”
The A$10 million Golden Eagle, over 1500m at Rosehill, is scheduled for October 28, the same day as the A$5 million Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
“Being for four-year-olds only, the Golden Eagle is very attractive, but there’s a whole range of choices in Melbourne, from the Cox Plate to races like the Empire Rose and Champions Stakes during Melbourne Cup week.”
The connections of fellow Proisir filly Prowess share a similarly luxurious position in lucrative spring options, however senior co-trainer Roger James has a definite leaning towards one race, the Cox Plate, with the horse he rates as potentially the best he has ever had.
Former Kingsclere Stables star Silent Achiever finished third in the 2014 Cox Plate, just a short neck and half a head behind Irish raider Adelaide, and James still harbours ambitions for the weight-for-age classic.
“The Cox Plate has been a race I’ve wanted to win for a long time, but I’ve only ever had that one runner,” said James, who shares training duties with Robert Wellwood. “Given her profile the practical option a race like that around 2000 metres is the practical option.”
Prowess is unbeaten in three starts at that distance, having followed her Karaka Million 3YO Classic win at 1600m with a 2000m hat-trick comprising the Gr. 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic, Gr. 1 Bonecrusher NZ Stakes and Gr. 1 Vinery Stud Stakes.
Prowess had close to two months in the paddock following her late March Vinery Stakes win at Rosehill, and after being slow to thrive during her time out, James was more than satisfied with her condition when she returned to training.
“As always it’s one step at a time, but I’m very happy with her and Aussie looks the obvious focus,” he said. “I don’t expect she’ll race at home beforehand when you’ve got such a range of choices over there.”
Masterton filly Pennyweka, who completed a rare New Zealand-Australian Oaks double in her last two autumn starts, has just returned to training and according to her trainer Jim Wallace, she won’t have a lot of pressure put on her through the opening months of her four-year-old season.
“We’ll be picky with her this side of Christmas particularly,” Wallace, who bred the Satono Aladdin filly with his brother Les, told RaceForm. “She’s never going to be the biggest horse in the world, but she’s thickened up and has developed as we would have hoped.
“I’ve yet to study programmes, but one thing we do know from her first trip away to Sydney is that she’s a good traveller, so that takes care of one important aspect of what we might plan for her.”