All eyes will be on resuming Blue Diamond Stakes – Golden Slipper winner Sepoy at Caulfield on Saturday as Darley’s ace asset races first-up in the Vain Stakes shooting for their sixth career success and looking to stamp their authority as not just a brilliant juvenile, but a champion three-year-old as well.
Sepoy dominated on the turf as a two-year-old last season, achieving feats only the smartest of his type could hope to attain.
From six career starts, the son of Elusive Quality from Danehill mare Watchful secured five impressive wins including a Group 1 double.
Snowden knew he had something special in the stable from the get-go, Sepoy winning with ease on debut in the Listed Maribyrnong Trial Stakes (1000m) at Flemington during in October last year.
Following a four month break, Sepoy returned to the track and proved his potential start after start winning the Listed Blue Diamond Preview and Group 3 Blue Diamond Prelude back-to-back at Caulfield by an emphatic three and a half lengths each time.
His autumn stardom continued when Sepoy defeated a crack field by nearly five lengths in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m), the first of his two elite level victories to date.
After a shock loss to Anthony Cummings’ Smart Missile in the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) at his Sydney debut in March, Sepoy bounced back in the finest of styles to salute in the lucrative $3.5 million Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill on April 2.
The Golden Slipper win saw Sepoy become the first horse since Courtza in 1989 to take out the Blue Diamond – Golden Slipper double.
Having amassed over $2.85 million in prize money for connections already, Sepoy is out to ignite his Melbourne Spring Carnival campaign with a win in Saturday’s $100,000 Vain Stakes (1100m).
Sepoy was one of 10 three-year-old colts and geldings accepted for the 2011 Vain Stakes final field and is likely to start odds-on in the Caulfield Race 3 betting markets at Luxbet.
Snowden is looking forward to Sepoy resuming having seen all the signs of more brilliance to come in the colts work over the past few weeks.
“It’ll be exciting, he was such a dominant two-year-old,” Snowden said.
“He’s come back just as good as ever, his work’s been terrific.
“He has physically changed but his approach is the same.
“He’s very laid back, you never year a peep from him.
“He’s a very nice horse to work with.”
Sepoy has drawn barrier six and is due to be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, aboard for their past three starts during the autumn, on Saturday.
Snowden is leaving the riding tactics up to McEvoy, the trainer saying they were flexible on how Sepoy could be ridden but that his speed would ensure he was never far from the front.
“I think we’ll always leave the options open,” Snowden said.
“Different races require different riding tactics but he’s a natural speed horse and he’ll always be in the first four or five of his races.”
While there is no doubting Sepoy’s ability, there is a certain hoodoo that will be hanging over his head on Saturday.
Of the two Golden Slipper winners and three Blue Diamond Stakes champions that made their three-year-old debuts on PB Lawrence Stakes Day, none have lived up to the challenge.
Twelve months ago last year’s Blue Diamond winner Star Witness failed in the Vain Stakes when beaten into third place behind Toorak Toff and General Truce, while Golden Slipper winning filly from 2010 Crystal Lily also went down in the Quezette Stakes on the same day crossing second behind Panipique.
Others to have tried include 2008 Blue Diamond winner Reaan who ran a well beaten fifth in the Vain Stakes when launching their three-year-old season, as well as 2007 Golden Slipper and Blue Diamond winners Forensics and Sleek Chassis who were both defeated in the Quezette four years ago finishing sixth and second respectively.
One man that is confident Sepoy has the capacity to overcome the curse is Peter Snowden’s son and Melbourne foreman for the operation, Paul Snowden.
“It is a bit of a hoodoo race in recent years for a lot of horses, so obviously you do want to see them come back and improve into their three-year-old year,” he said.
“But he’s a much more mature horse.
“Obviously he’s a lot older now, he’s strengthened up, he’s gown a lot more and he’s just a lot more laid-back in himself.
“He’s a pleasure to have around the stable.
“He’s not wound right up, a lot of horses aren’t this time of year, their Grand Finals are six to eight weeks down the track, but we’re confident that he’s around the mark.”
With his connections eyeing off an international campaign at Royal Ascot next winter, Sepoy will look to add to his stallion potential by clocking another one or two elite levels to his name with Snowden identifying the $500,000 Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day as the ultimate aim.
“Ultimately the Coolmore is the race we want,” Snowden said.
Following the Vain Stakes, Snowden said there was flexibility in regards to the exact path Sepoy would race along this prep but that the $250,000 Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on September 3 would be the best next-up target for him with Sepoy already performed at the track.
“There’s flexibility everywhere,” Snowden said.
“I’m sure he’ll run well on Saturday and all going well we’ll go to the Danehill after.
“He did have his first start down the (Flemington) straight, so he has been there before.”
Snowden has a strong book of representatives resuming at Caulfield on Saturday along with Sepoy including Glissade in the $100,000 Quezette Stakes (1100m), Parables in the $125,000 Group 3 W.W. Cockram Stakes (1200m) and Bullbars in the $100,000 Listed 60th Anniversary of National Service Stakes (1200m) formerly the Regal Roller Stakes.
Elusive Quality four-year-old Bullbars secured their first stakes success in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington last February before running a game second behind Danny O’Brien’s champion filly Shamrocker in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) in March.
They were last seen finishing sixth to Blackie in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) a fortnight after their big Guineas run after having been bought back home to Sydney.
Snowden is yet to allocate a specific spring target for Bullbars, but believes a good prep will start with a good run in the Regal Roller.
“I expect him to run well, he’s a horse that performs really well,” Snowden said.
“Not sure where he fits in at the moment….there’s a real gap between three to four-year-old horses.
“No doubt we’ll find a race for him.”
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2011 Vain Stakes Final Field & Barrier Draw
|#||Form (Last 10)||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Hcp. Rating|
|1||1X11121X||SEPOY||Peter Snowden||Kerrin McEvoy||6||58.5kg||111|
|2||1131114X||GOLDEN ARCHER||Peter G Moody||Ben Melham||8||58.5kg||92|
|3||211X3314X8||MORE AWESOME||Dean Wells||Craig Newitt||2||57.5kg||74|
|4||142483X||GRAND BRITANNIA||Robbie Laing||Glen Boss||3||56kg||75|
|5||2X1368X||DELAGO’S LAD||John McArdle||Chris Symons||1||56kg||74|
|6||3172X||REDANGELO||Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra||Damien Oliver||10||56kg||74|
|7||12X||AFRICAN PULSE||Michael Moroney||Ms Lisa Cropp||5||55kg||70|
|8||88X25X||VATICAN||Byron Cozamanis||Michael Walker||7||55kg||68|
|9||3||SNITZEM||Leon Corstens||Steven King||9||55kg||64|
|10||5||AWAKEN THE DRAGON (NZ)||Leon Corstens||Danny Nikolic||4||55kg||64|