By Nicholas Godfrey
Australia: The beers were on hold but the pizza wasn’t after Nettoyer landed a fairytale first G1 success for trainer Wendy Roche in the time-honoured Doncaster Mile at Randwick on Saturday.
And just to be clear: it’s the horse we’re talking about, as Nettoyer is a famously quirky mare whose dietary regime may not be the stuff of dreams if you’re an equine nutritionist.
The six-year-old mare swooped out wide with a thrilling last-to-first burst to claim the Doncaster Mile, the A$1.25 million (£610,000) feature among four G1s of Day One of Sydney showpiece meeting, The Star-sponsored Championships, at Randwick.
Dating back to 1866, it is also a G1 handicap, and Nettoyer made the most of her light weight to score a 40-1 upset by a half-length over Star Of The Seas.
In the process, the daughter of Sebring landed a first top-level success for her Warwick Farm-based trainer Roche and jockey James Innes, who is expecting his second child.
Under normal circumstances, such a famous victory would have been cause for serious celebrations. These, however, as we all know, are not normal circumstances and The Championships are taking place behind closed doors owing to coronavirus.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do because all the restaurants are shut!” said Roche. “We normally stop at the Doncaster and get beers so I don’t think we can do that either.
“But she’s going to get pizza tonight. She eats supreme pizza with capsicum sauce.”
In the past, Roche has outlined Nettoyer’s fondness for beer, champagne, pizza and chicken-snitzel burgers – plus bacon-and-egg toasted sandwiches with sauce for breakfast and strawberries and scones at the racetrack. Taking an ‘if she likes it, she gets it’ approach, the trainer explains that such a range of treats make the temperamental mare easier to manage.
“I’m just so emotional, this mare is such a sod,” said Roche after Saturday’s victory. “All week I couldn’t ride her. I just freshened her, I did 200m sprints, she bit the strapper in the head, he had to get stitches.”
Nettoyer, fourth to the William Haggas-trained Addeybb on her previous outing in the Ranvet Stakes, showed her recalcitrant side in the preliminaries.
“She wouldn’t take grass, I had chips in my pocket, she wouldn’t do any of it,” Roche went on. “I really thank the clerks of the course for getting her there and I think the barrier attendant actually backed her because he jumped out of the car and chased her all the way.
“I really thank the boys and I think she does too. I’ve told everyone she would win today and she’s won.”
Winning jockey Innes added: “It is very surreal. It still hasn’t sunken in and I don’t think it will for a little while.
“I am flat out getting a ride most days. The fact I can ride light and get an opportunity like this, it is just unbelievable.
“My partner is at home and just about to have our second little baby boy,” he added. “(My first son) is my biggest fan. He sits there and he loves touching the screen when I’m riding. I’ll be happy to get home and give him a big kiss.”
The other G1 winners on the card at Randwick were top sprinter Nature Strip (Chris Waller/James McDonald), totally dominant from the front in the TJ Smith Stakes, plus New Zealand’s Quick Thinker (Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman/Opie Bosson) in the Australian Derby and King’s Legacy (Peter & Paul Snowden/Hugh Bowman) in the Sires’ Produce for two-year-olds.
• For Australian cards and form, visit Racing and Sports