Annabel Neasham celebrated a third career Group 1 success and her second with rising star Mo’unga after the four-year-old’s gusty victory over Verry Elleegant in the $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m).
Group 1 racing kicked off for the season at Royal Randwick in the form of the Winx Stakes, but it was a marred edition of the weight-for-age feature following the tragic fatal fall of Brandenburg.
It was the second fall of the day after Xtremetime had to be euthanised earlier on the card after breaking down in the Group 2 Silver Shadow Stakes, but both her hoop Brenton Avdulla and Brandenburg’s rider Rachel King look to have escaped serious injury.
Winner of the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) in the spring to hand Neasham her maiden elite level success as a trainer, now four-year-old Mo’unga was excellent first-up in the Winx Stakes atoning for his last start seventh in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) back in April.
Second to Addeybb in that ‘The Championships’ event to see out her autumn was Waller’s eight-time Group 1 winning Zed mare Verry Elleegant who also kicked off her spring campaign in the Winx Stakes.
Verry Elleegant defeated stablemate Star Of The Seas in last year’s Winx Stakes quinella, and was so brave in her bid at back-to-back wins.
Waller was narrowly denied his seventh victory in the race with Verry Elleegant fighting all the way to the line, but unable to get past the gutsy winner Mo’unga whose run was timed to perfection by jockey Tommy Berry.
In a surprise third coming from last to finish in the money at generous odds was Bjorn Baker’s staying mare She’s Ideel, runner-up in the Tancred Stakes before a Sydney Cup fourth over the two miles last prep.
Neasham was thrilled with the Winx Stakes win by Mo’unga who could face off against Verry Elleegant and his seven-length Doomben Cup winning stablemate Zaaki in the Group 1 $1 million George Main Stakes (1600m) back at Randwick on September 18.
“I think he looked the winner a long, long way out but when he came up the outside of Verry Elleegant I knew he was in for a tough battle because she’s such a fighter too,” Neasham told Sky Thoroughbred Central after the win.
“It was a super ride.
“He’s in for a great prep.
“I don’t know where we’ll go now, but I think we’ll have a fun spring!”
Verry Elleegant leads all-in George Main Stakes betting at $2.80 currently through Ladbrokes.com.au to win the event Winx did on the back of all three of her Warwick Stakes / Winx Stakes wins from 2016-18.
She is followed in the pre-nomination markets by the Neasham duo of Zaaki ($3.40) and Mo’unga ($8).