There may be a new favourite in the markets for next Saturday’s $1 million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) after Tony Noonan’s impeccably-bred mare Varenna Miss overcame a horror draw and the odds to win the ballot exemption on offer to today’s QTC Cup winner.
After being balloted out of the fillies and mares Dane Ripper Stakes on the Queensland Oaks Day card, Redoute’s Choice four-year-old Varenna Miss gave her connections plenty to celebrate with a powerful victory in the $175,000 Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm.
Despite her promising recent form that included a last-start victory over 1200m at Doomben a fortnight ago, Varenna Miss had been all but ruled out of contention for the QTC Cup win after she came up with a disaster barrier 18 draw.
With a number of early scratchings from the showdown, Varenna Miss moved into gate 15, but was still not fancied in the markets to make it back-to-back wins in Brisbane.
She got the money, however, Varenna Miss displaying her incredible power in the final strides to score the QTC Cup win in the shadows of the post.
“It worked out perfectly,” Noonan said after the race.
“I wasn’t concerned about the gate because she’s a big filly.”
Raging favourite for the race, and early Stradbroke top elect, Sincero only came away from his inside barrier fairly today and found himself caught just worse than mid-field, unable to make up enough ground to feature.
Trainer Stephen Farley is now unlikely to press onto the Stradbroke even if Sincero did sneak into the field, the gun three-year-olds’ disappointing run today being his first loss in seven starts.
After a well-timed ride from jockey Dwayne Dunn, Varenna Miss proved too strong when running down the leaders on the straight, grabbing the spot at the top of the field and holding on to claim her fifth race win from just nine starts.
In a great run first-up from Phelan Ready, the Jason McLachlan-trained More Than Ready gelding finished an eye-catching second in their first race since January.
It was also a brave QTC Cup performance from Kris Lees’ Sydney-based mare Zingaling who ran a big race after getting checked coming down the side, making her run for third very good.
Despite being guaranteed a start and sure to get a flood of support from the punters in Queensland’s richest and most celebrated race, the Stradbroke, Mornington-based Noonan is yet to confirm whether Varenna Miss will back up next week.
“This is only her ninth race start and she’ll only continue to improve as she’s a good mare,” he said.
“The plan was always to go to the Winter Stakes, I will have to have a think.”
The $500,000 Group 1 Winter Stakes (1400m) runs at Eagle Farm on June 25, and would give Varenna Miss the time between runs not afforded to her in the Stradbroke.
“My concern is that she’s only lightly raced,” he said.
“(A decision like this) tests you.
“She’s very dominant and the further she goes, well, the 1400 will suit her even more.”
There is a touch of déjà vu over Vareena Miss’s Brisbane Winter Carnival campaign for Noonan, who made the decision two years ago to run another one of his top mares Ortensia in the QTC Cup.
Ortensia won the 2009 QTC Cup with a nose to spare before finishing a gallant third to Black Piranha in that year’s Stradbroke Handicap at her next start.
One person firmly in the mare’s camp no matter what race connections decide to tackle with her is jockey Dunn who admittedly has been a fan of Vareena Miss’s for a long time.
“I’ve been wanting to get on her for a long, long time,” Dunn said today.
“She’s a top class mare.
“She’s probably just a year away from being in the top.
“She’s really well bred, she’s got everything there to make it.
“She will be there (in the Stradbroke), but whether it’s this year or next year we’ll have to wait and see.”