In a consummate display of talent by horse and rider, It’s A Dundeel has stepped up when it counted to win the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
He didn’t do it without drama, slipping over near the horse stalls before he got to the parade ring and going to the starting gates with a small cut on a hind leg.
He settled well in the race but it looked momentarily as if the jewel in the crown of Sydney racing might go the way of the Queen for whom it is named when Carlton House took a commanding lead at the top of the straight.
But last year’s three-year-old triple crown winner unleashed the finishing sprint which had deserted him early in the autumn to win by three-quarters of a length from dual Doncaster Mile winner Sacred Falls with Carlton House hanging on for third, another three lengths away.
Racing NSW chairman John Messara, the architect of The Championships which culminated in the Queen Elizabeth (2000m), will stand It’s A Dundeel at Arrowfield Stud after he runs his last race, which may or may not have been on Saturday.
“I don’t know. There’s the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot,” Messara said.
“I don’t want to make a decision on race day. “We need to let things settle but I’m so happy to see him back to his best.
“The Queen’s horse had a nice lead and I was hoping ours didn’t get there too quickly.”
Messara bought into It’s A Dundeel last spring and kept him with his New Zealand trainer Murray Baker who has now prepared for six Group One wins.
Although the Kiwis claim him, only one of It’s A Dundeel’s 19 races has been across the Tasman but he does all his pre-training on Baker’s farm.
“He has been half a race behind all the time this autumn,” Baker said.
“He’s now on his game and showed that today.”
James McDonald has been on It’s A Dundeel in all his starts bar one, last year’s Queen Elizabeth in which he finished second to Reliable Man.
The young hoop paid tribute to his New Zealand roots after earlier winning the Oaks on Rising Romance.
“It’s great to win here on a day like this,” McDonald said.
“To win the Oaks for Donna Logan who has been a great supporter of mine and then to get this horse to win today is amazing.
“He was back to his best when I worked him on Tuesday and I knew that.
“My family is here and it’s wonderful to have them here on a day like this.”
Another New Zealander, Silent Achiever, started the $4 Queen Elizabeth favourite but could not repeat her Ranvet and BMW finishes, running fourth.
“It probably wasn’t quite the peak performance the Ranvet was,” trainer Roger James said.
The hard-luck story of the race was Boban, who beat only stablemate My Kingdom Of Fife after suffering a bleeding attack.
The Queen Elizabeth was the final race for Sacred Falls who will now head to Waikato Stud.
“I thought I was going to get him at the 100 (metres) but the winner was just too strong for me,” jockey Zac Purton said.
Tommy Berry said the Queen had plenty to look forward to with Carlton House.
“He’s Group One-placed now in Australia and I’m sure he’ll improve next preparation,” Berry said.