Secret Admirer became the first mare in 35 years to win the Group One Epsom Handicap at Randwick and in doing so turned around the spring fortunes of trainer Grahame Begg.
Begg has endured a frustrating carnival with a string of second placings in feature races and only last week had one of his stars, Ilovethiscity, ruled out until the autumn with injury.
The Epsom had also been a bogey race for him but Secret Admirer turned all that on its head on Saturday when she produced a withering run down the outside to become the first mare to win the 1600m feature since La Neige in 1976.
“It’s been shit,” Begg said of his run of outs this spring.
“It’s been up and down but it’s a matter of getting the horse right on the day.
“I’ve had a couple of seconds in this race over the years (with Telesto and Our Egyptian Raine) so it’s good to get one over the line.”
Secret Admirer had been among the favoured runners for the Epsom until last Saturday when she finished a lacklustre fourth in the Shannon Stakes.
Plenty of punters dropped off her and she started a $9 chance but Begg said her grand final had always been Epsom day.
“She had a 1500-metre gallop last week and I don’t mean to say it was a practice, that was her work for last week,” he said.
“We’re heading down to Melbourne now and we’ll work out the right race.
“She’s in the Cox Plate or she could run in the mares’ race (Myer) and back up in the Emirates.
“We will just get over today.”
Jockey Brenton Avdulla won his first Group One aboard Secret Admirer when she claimed the Flight Stakes on the corresponding program 12 months ago and he showed his emotion with a victory salute before the line.
“What can I say? She is everything to me this little thing,” Avdulla said.
“She’s given me my two biggest thrills in racing and that’s another one today.
“We were wide but had cover and I knew on the corner she’d take beating.
“Only top-class horses can do what she’s done.”
Mares filled the placings with Secret Admirer scoring by 1-3/4 lengths from Victorian Pinker Pinker ($9) with Red Tracer ($19) another half-length away.
Greg Eurell, trainer of Pinker Pinker, said she fell short on the day but would press on to the Cox Plate.
“It was a good solid effort, there were no excuses. She tried hard but the winner was just too good,” Eurell said.
Red Tracer’s trainer Chris Waller said her run might force him to change path.
“I was going to freshen her up and go to a sprint race but she’s shown she gets a mile so we’ll probably go to the Myer,” Waller said.
Sincero started the $4 favourite but never threatened and finished eighth, although jockey Chris O’Brien said he was doing his best work late.
“He was never really comfortable in the going, he never really got a chance to get into it so he could travel,” O’Brien said.
“He was off the bit all the way but he found the line well under the circumstances.”
Willy Jimmy was the first gelding home in fourth place, earning himself a trip to Melbourne.