A change of environment has been the making of Villa Verde who has upset some of the country’s best sprinters to win the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Randwick.
The one-time favourite for the 2013 Golden Slipper, Villa Verde was transferred from Shaun Dwyer’s Bendigo stable to Anthony Cummings at Randwick to try to get her career back on track after a series of respiratory issues.
The filly had not won a race since November 2012 but shrewd punters backed her from $19 to $14 on Saturday with Snitzerland ($3.10) assuming favouritism late over Buffering ($3.30).
“She has had a few issues which we have a routine to manage,” Cummings said.
“She came from Shaun in good shape and I came here expecting to win but I’m built that way.
“She has been working like a winner and you don’t work that way unless you are ready to win.”
Buffering assumed the lead over Whittington with Snitzerland three wide and ready to pounce.
The winner of the race last year, Snitzerland moved up to take the lead but with 2.5kg less, Villa Verde had the last shot at the Lightning Stakes winner and moved past to win by a half length.
Famous Seamus ($61) made ground from near last to finish another three-quarters of a length third with triple Group One winner Buffering weakening in the run home to finish seventh.
The first three across the line are likely to meet again in the Galaxy in two weeks.
“If we had drawn an alley it might have been different,” Snitzerland’s trainer Gerald Ryan said.
“Villa Verde carried the light weight as we did last year.
“Snitzerland has raced well. We will look at the Galaxy and what weight she gets but that is the likely option.”
Cummings said the Group One Galaxy (1100m) in two weeks was the logical progression for Villa Verde before the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) on April 12.
Buffering’s jockey Damian Browne said the Queensland champion felt the pinch at his first start since he won the Winterbotton Stakes in Perth in November.
“He raced a bit on the fresh side which you would expect,” he said.
“He will take improvement from that.”