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Image: Darren Winningham

Trainer David Vandyke is a master strategist who stays focussed on particular objectives no matter what hype any particular horse is surrounded with at any time, or what temptations in terms of race scheduling might apply, or what distractions (and aren’t they always there) that might be in play.

Vandyke’s three-year-old filly Gypsy Goddess could certainly pull all of those triggers but, after what Vandyke has described as an ‘arduous campaign,’ his Group 1 Queensland Oaks winner will be allowed some well-deserved time off and will have a very light summer racing schedule … with the long term 2023 Grand Final target being set all of seventeen months away.

“The Melbourne Cup … not this year, next year … when she is a five-year old,” was Vandyke’s firm response to the Melbourne Cup question after Gypsy Goddess’s stunning Oaks’ success.

There are parallels between Gypsy Goddess’s rapid rise to fame and that of Incentivise, who along with Zaaki, was one of the boom horses to emerge out of the 2021 Winter Carnival. The parallels are in part only, but they are there.

Neither Vandyke nor Steve Tregea (Incentivise’s trainer at the time) held their runners in any high regard when they set out on their respective racing careers.

Incentivise, in fact, finished unplaced in his first three starts (he was a late starter only kicking off his career as a four-year-old) … but then, without any apparent warning, he suddenly flourished, running up a hugely impressive six-race winning sequence in just two-and-a-half months.

Gypsy Goddess, similarly, had not shown anything of note in her three trials prior to making her debut, but then, she also suddenly clicked into gear when faced with real race action, storming home on debut, a result which was the start of a hugely impressive four race winning sequence over just a two month period.

Both of those winning sequences culminated in a Group 3 win … with Incentivise winning the Tatts Cup and Gypsy Goddess winning the Grand Prix.

Interestingly enough, apprentice Kyle Wilson-Taylor had ridden Incentivise and Gypsy Goddess by this time. He had won on Gypsy Goddess on her debut and partnered Incentivise to an inglorious tailed off finish in one of her teething problem starts but, at least, he can claim to have ridden these two very good horses.

That Tatts Cup win by Incentivise came at the very end of his four-year-old season. Bigger things awaited though and, after moving stables to Peter Moody’s yard, he duly extended that six-race winning sequence in extraordinary fashion winning three Group 1’s on the trot … that being no less no less a trilogy than the Makybe Diva, the Turnbull and the Caulfield Cup.

Gypsy Goddess also extended her winning sequence after that two-month winning streak, making it five in a row when she re-emerged after a three month layoff. Kyle Wilson-Taylor was again in the saddle.

David Vandyke then raised the bar considerably for his charge (to Group 1 level) and, as was the case with Incentivise when set a similar challenge, Gypsy Goddess responded magnificently.

Yes, she didn’t win any of her next three starts, but she was being asked to cope with a set of circumstances … travelling interstate, rescheduled meetings, extra heavy racing surfaces … all of which combined to complicate her task.

The fact that she came away with a third place finish in the Group 1 Vinery and a second place in the ATC Oaks both represented fantastic efforts as did her second place in the Listed Bracelet when back in Queensland … a race that was used as her lead-up run to the Queensland Oaks, in which she ultimately joined Incentivise as a Group 1 winner.

It had taken Gypsy Goddess nine starts to salute for the first time at the elite level. Incentivise had done it in ten starts.

In his ‘unlucky’ thirteenth start, Incentivise ran in the 2021 Melbourne Cup as a five-year-old. He was very game in defeat when earning a fine second place behind Verry Elleegant, but, sadly, he pulled up with an injury after the Cup which turned out to be worse than first diagnosed. He has not raced since then.

That injury situation is one we would hope would never be found as a similarity in the comparison between Incentivise and Gypsy Goddess moving forward.

The younger Gypsy Goddess does have plenty of ground to make up on Incentivise. currently two Group 1 wins … and a very substantial amount of prizemoney behind Incentivise from four less runs (just a cool $4.7 million would you believe), but she has two years spare in which to make up that ground until she is at the end of her five-year-old career as Incentivise is now.

All things being equal, the chances are that Gypsy Goddess will also follow the path to the Melbourne Cup as Incentivise did.

If she does, that will be a plan seventeen months in the making.

You can make that note, but remember … ‘Not this year, next year.’

 
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