By Jon Lees
Moonee Valley (Mar 13): All-Star Mile A$5m (£2.79m) 1m, turf, 2yo+
Mugatoo (Kris Lees/Hugh Bowman)
Australia: Mugatoo captured a muddy third edition of the world’s richest mile race when the ex-European outfought favourite Russian Camelot in front of a crowd of 9,000 in the race in which the public chose the majority of the field – but not the winner.
The six-year-old raced for David Simcock in Britain before he was bought by Australian Bloodstock. A ‘wildcard’ entry into the field for the third running of this innovative event, he found the gaps out of the turn to emerge alongside Russian Camelot and hold his rival by half a length with Behemoth in third.
In the process he landed a $250,000 windfall for construction manager Matt Forys, and wife Amanda, who won a competition to represent Mugatoo as ‘owner ambassadors’.
“This (money) couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Forys. “We’ve got house plans and it’s just going to make a hell of a lot of difference. It’s life-changing; absolutely life-changing. We’ve got three small kids.”
Mugatoo, who usually races at longer distances and finished fourth in last year’s Cox Plate, was aided by a deluge of rain before the race that turned conditions good to soft.
Arcadia Queen, the horse who topped the voting for the race, was scratched on the day of the race after she was lame.
Shall we talk about?
Kris Lees (Mugatoo’s trainer): “Coming to the corner I was thinking ‘just have no bad luck from here, please’. He was getting a bit tired once he got that clear running but up the straight I thought the other one had his measure but he really rallied and found. It was great to see. To get a quality horse like this to come into your stable it is every trainer’s dream and I’m very fortunate. I just kept looking at the sky all morning waiting for it (rain) to come. It certainly enhanced our chances, I’ve got to say.”
Hugh Bowman (Mugatoo’s jockey): “That is just so exciting. It is amazing the emotion involved with this sport. After rides in race two and five the track is not ideal for Mugatoo to run a mile against this opposition, but when the rain that was forecast came he came into contention. I did not expect to ride him like that. I was hoping to be three deep, getting a trail up. I stayed on the rail, gave him the shortest way home. He got into a really good rhythm, but it was not as frantic as I expected it to be with the rain coming.
“Kris Lees has eyed this race off for a long time. He gave him one run in Sydney to prep for it. We all know his best distance is a bit further, but he’s come here in the right order and delivered on the big day. Full credit to the Australian Bloodstock team. They’re fantastic at identifying these European horses, bringing them here and racing successfully. I’ve had a long association with them and to deliver the All-Star Mile means a great deal.”
Damien Oliver (Russian Camelot’s jockey): “Super run. Had a great run through but just found a better wet-tracker on the day.”
Tom Marquand nets first Group winner of Sydney visit
Rosehill Gardens (Mar 13): Sky High Stakes G3 A$350,000 (£195,000) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
Toffee Tongue (Chris Waller/Tom Marquand)
Australia: Tom Marquand didn’t have to wait long before recording his first big-race success of his visit to Australia, steering the Chris Waller-trained Toffee Tongue to victory in the G3 Sky High Stakes.
The filly responded to a typically power-packed ride from Marquand to reel in Spirit Ridge in the straight and snatch the verdict by a short head at Rosehill Gardens.
“She really pulled it out of the bag nicely for me there,” Marquand said. “I didn’t think I had won on the line but she was gutsy and stuck her head down in the right place.
“I was really happy with her how she jumped. She was able to get a nice tow into the race off James (McDonald, on Mustajeer) and at the bottom of the straight I was pretty conscious of getting moving early enough knowing that it was her first go at 2000m this time around.
“She took a bit of shaking up. She was all out to the line.”