After a dominant and hard-fought win in the QTC Cup last Saturday, the Tony Noonan-trained Varenna Miss could still bypass a run in the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) this weekend and even if she does start, she will have to overcome the odds and defy history to win.
Smart Redoute’s Choice mare Varenna Miss earned a ballot free ride into the Stradbroke Handicap field after the four-year-old overcame a horror barrier draw and a quality field of rivals in winning the QTC Cup ahead of a revived Phelan Ready and Winter Stakes-bound Zingaling.
Mornington-based trainer Noonan was pleased that Varenna Miss was not penalised for her win, leaving her with a very manageable weight for the Stradbroke on Saturday, but he was yet to confirm whether he would back her up in Queensland’s richest sprint feature.
“We just found out this morning that she hasn’t got a penalty for last Saturday so that makes it (the Stradbroke) appealing again,” Noonan said.
With the dismal record of QTC Cup winners in the Stradbroke and the class of horses Varenna Miss would have to run against, Noonan is seemingly leaning towards skipping the Stradbroke and targeting instead the $500,000 Group 1 Winter Stakes (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 25.
“She will run in one or the other but not both,” Noonan said in keeping with his word to not overburden Varenna Miss.
“We need to give it a lot of thought.
“We will do a blood (test) on her tomorrow and just see how she comes through the next couple of days.
“Obviously backing up is not ideal, especially where she is at this stage of her career, but you don’t get many cracks at these sorts of races and to be in that position.”
It seems likely that the Doomben 10,000 is the premier Stradbroke Handicap indicator this year, a race that does not come with the same hoodoo as the QTC Cup.
No QTC Cup winner in the race’s 32 year history has gone on to win the Stradbroke.
To place is also no given as only three of the 13 QTC Cup winners in the past two decades who backed up in the handicap feature were able to finish in the money.
One of these was the fellow Noonan-trained mare Ortensia who back in 2009 saluted by a mere nose in the QTC Cup before running third, beaten one and a quarter lengths by Black Piranha in that year’s Stradbroke.
While Varenna Miss sits as an $11 chance in the latest Stradbroke Handicap odds, it is Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded leading the way at $5.50.
Peter Snowden’s in-form Lonhro mare has finished out of the money in only one of her 20 career starts to date, and that run was when Beaded finished just under half a length away fourth behind Black Piranha in last year’s Stradbroke Handicap.
Beaded looks in ideal form for a Stradbroke win, coming off a gritty final-stride victory over fellow Stradbroke hopeful Love Conquers All in the Doomben 10,000 over 1350m on May 28.
The Doomben 10,000 has produced seven of the past nine Stradbroke Handicap winners, stat punters have focused on as the money continues to roll in for Beaded.
Well aware that Beaded has 12 months and a wealth of racing experience on his mare, Noonan admitted he would find it hard not to continue on with Varenna Miss, the prize money for the Stradbroke making for a very tempting dilemma.
“The 1400 (metres) of the Winter Stakes will suit her perfectly, but it’s terribly hard (to pass up the Stradbroke) when you’re there and the horse is going well.
“We’ll sit on it for 48 hours, at the moment it is an open book.
“She would want to really please me, everything would need to be right for me to warrant running her.”