Gai Waterhouse declared Speak Fondly the benchmark filly in Australia after she gave the trainer a record eighth Flight Stakes victory at Randwick.
But the three-year-old won’t be seen again this spring and will head to the spelling paddock.
Ridden by Tommy Berry, Speak Fondly raced outside leader and stablemate Flamboyant Lass and was under siege as the challengers came at her in the straight.
Berry thought his race was over but his filly’s class kicked in and Speak Fondly, the $2.30 favourite, rallied again to score a short half-head win over Honesta ($9.50) with Perignon ($17) the same margin away third.
“I was on a tough filly, the best filly, the classiest filly in the race and that’s what won it,” Berry said.
“She didn’t run the mile out at all, I don’t think. The last 200 (metres) she was a beaten horse but she was just too tough.”
Speak Fondly’s win in the Group One race gave her three of the four legs of the Princess series and she didn’t contest the other, instead taking on the colts and geldings in the Golden Rose and finishing runner-up to Exosphere.
On the corresponding program four years ago, Waterhouse watched Pierro win the Breeders’ Plate and declared he would return in the autumn and win the Golden Slipper, which he did.
On Saturday at Randwick she anointed Speak Fondly as next year’s Coolmore Classic winner.
“You can’t take anything away from her, she’s the best three-year-old filly in Australia,” Waterhouse said.
“She’ll come back for the autumn and she’ll win the Coolmore Classic.”
Leading into Saturday, Waterhouse shared the Flight Stakes training record of seven wins with her father, the legendary TJ Smith, but came away holding it outright after Speak Fondly’s success.
“It wasn’t intentional but dad taught me well,” she said.
Tye Angland believes Honesta can feature in the VRC Oaks after her effort to finish second while Hugh Bowman was rapt with the run of Perignon.
“The winner was the best horse on the day but I was delighted with my filly,” Bowman said.
Pearls firmed from $7 into $5.50 and made ground to finish fourth.