Confirmation Espiona will take on the older mares in favour of a run against her own age at Rosehill on Saturday has seen Chris Waller’s smart filly shoot to the top of markets for the Group 1 $600,000 Coolmore Classic (1500m).
Waller chases his first win in the Coolmore Classic this autumn and will saddle-up four remaining hopefuls after withdrawing Kiku and Fangirl.
Kiku will instead take on a small field in the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m), while Fangirl is odds-on favourite to return to winning form against the boys in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) earlier on Coolmore Classic Day.
In the meeting’s marquee race, Espiona is now dominant favourite through Ladbrokes.com.au with the three-year-old daughter of Extreme Choice into $3.50 to best handle the Heavy (10) Sydney track.
The fillies enjoyed a dominant period winning five of the seven editions from 2003 – 2009, but Typhoon Tracy (2009) was the last to beat home the older mares in the event.
Espiona is out to break the drought drawn barrier four with just 50kg and Jay Ford coming aboard for the ride.
Lightly-raced having had four starts for two wins and two minor placings, she is fit third-up ahead of second elite level test.
After returning off a promising opening campaign that included a six and a half-length Black-Type win at Flemington on Oaks Day, she was second to Fangirl fresh in the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1400m).
Espiona then raced in the Group 1 Surround Stakes (1400m) on a mud Randwick track on February 26 when just over a length back third to stablemate Hinged, a performance the punters are saying she will improve on this weekend.
Waller’s Surround Stakes winning filly Hinged is also in the mix again looking to complete the double for the first time since Regal Cheer (2006).
Into barrier 10 at time of publish, the progressive Worthy Cause three-year-old has a 50% winning strike-rate after 12 career starts and looks well placed also third-up off the same prep as Espiona.
She won the Surround Stakes at double-figures and looks a little over in the markets again at a current quote of $7.50 in Coolmore Classic betting.
William Pike is in the saddle and the step-up to 1500m looks ideal after Hinged ran a close second behind Never Been Kissed in last year’s Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) in Sydney.
Three other runners are under double-figures to win this year’s Coolmore Classic with the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained grey Lighthouse ($6.50), the consistent John O’Shea-trained Promise Of Success ($6.50) and the in-form Expat ($7) chasing three on the trot for Mark Newnham.
American-bred Mizzen Mast mare Lighthouse won four straight over an impressive spring – summer campaign and comes into the Coolmore on the back of three consecutive second place runs.
The last two of those have been in Group 1 company behind Tofane in the C.F. Orr in Melbourne and Forbidden Love in the Canterbury Stakes at Randwick only last weekend.
Promise Of Success is also out to shrug her place-getter status this prep after two lead-up seconds in Sydney, the latest on a Heavy (10) behind subsequent Canterbury winner Forbidden Love in the Group 2 Guy Walter Stakes (1400m) in late February.
Expat brings in a different form line, the Makfi four-year-old last seen winning the Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes (1300m) at the track on February 19.
She’s been kept fresh for her Group 1 assignment back at Rosehill this weekend and is a genuine specialist at the track with four wins and a third from six starts.
The 2022 Coolmore Classic is scheduled to run as Rosehill Race 8 at 4:40pm (AEDT) on Saturday’s bumper 10-race program – weather and track conditions permitting.