Warwick Farm will be host to the much awaited race return of Neville Layt’s sprint champion Karuta Queen, the 2012 TJ Smith Stakes-bound filly nominated for $70,000 The Farm Flying (1000m) this Saturday.
Winner of last year’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic on the Gold Coast, the daughter of Not A Single Doubt’s other biggest turf triumphs to date came in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill last September and the Group 3 1300 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on October 22.
Last seen finishing a brave second to Michael Moroney’s boom three-year-old African Pulse in the Schweppes Tonic (1000m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, Karuta Queen is ready to hit the turf again and hopefully salute this season in that elusive Group 1 race.
Showing her autumn potential earlier this month the $1.74 million earner, purchased for a moderate $30,000 at the 2010 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sales, obliterated her rivals in a 900m trial at Canberra by an incredible 17 and a half lengths.
“The horses she beat were only babies but I’m happy with how she’s doing,” Layt said.
“She was going to have six weeks off but she put on too much weight so she came back to the stable earlier than intended.”
She will now race first-up on Saturday at Warwick Farm, one of eight nominees for The Farm Flying.
Weights for the handicap showdown are due out on Tuesday afternoon, Layt sweating on the allocation for Kartua Queen.
“She’s ready to race,” he said.
“I just hope the handicapper doesn’t hammer her.
“I’d be happy with around 56 (kilograms) or less.”
It is shaping up as a top early season clash with other notable entries including Matthew Dale’s last-start Listed Canterbury Classic winner Unanimously who is more likely to return at Caulfield this Saturday, the Paul Perry-trained Social Rank coming off a win at the track and distance, Group performing sprinter Winter King and the Joe Pride-trained duo of La Remlap and Phenomenal Lass.
Although well-tried in Sydney Kartua Queen will be having her maiden Warwick Farm run on the weekend, but Layt is confident she’ll take some beating over the short distance.
Her first-up record is also an impressive one giving camp Karuta even more assurance of a successful turf return for their darling.
Layt has named the $1 million Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 4 during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival as one of the major season aims for Karuta Queen.
The 2012 TJ Smith Stakes also hasn’t been ruled out as an option for the world’s highest-rated mare Black Caviar who posted win No. 17 when she resumed in the Group 2 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley last Friday night.
Karuta Queen has faced off against Black Caviar once before when she finished a brave second, albeit beaten a notable four and a half lengths, by the superlative star in the Group 2 Schillci Stakes (1000m) at Caulfield back in October last year.
While connections and the public are pushing for a Sydney appearance by Black Caviar this autumn, Layt is hoping the unbeaten champ bypasses the TJ Smith Stakes to give his filly a genuine shot at elite level glory.
“I’ve always had the TJ in mind for Karuta Queen,” Layt said.
“But I’d rather Black Caviar didn’t come.”
Follow Saturday’s run at the Farm, Kartua Queen will go on to run in the $175,000 Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) back at the same track on February 18.
This year’s edition of the Light Fingers Stakes has also been named as a target for other good three-year-old fillies including Group 1 Flight Stakes winner Streama, Dan Morton’s top Perth filly Bliss Street and the John O’Shea-trained Sea Siren.
“I think that’s a good race for her,” Layt said of Karuta Queen and the Light Fingers.
“She will be fit and gives her a chance to beat a filly like Streama who might be vulnerable first-up.”
Stay tuned to Races.com.au to follow all the latest autumn racing developments, including how Karuta Queen goes in her first-up assignment this weekend.
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