Former star three-year-old First Seal is spot on for her much awaited return in the Apollo Stakes 2016 in Sydney next month after the John Thompson-trained mare recovered from a rare hoof condition.
The 2014 Flight Stakes winning daughter of Fastnet Rock was the headline filly of her season taking out the Group 1 over the mile at Randwick ahead of Chris Waller’s subsequent 2015 Cox Stakes superstar Winx.
First Seal also backed up from her Flight Stakes success with a second to Hampton Court in that year’s Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick and has since posted two more elite level seconds.
She was runner-up to Plucky Belle and Fenway respectively at Rosehill last March in the Coolmore Classic and Vinery Stud Stakes before her latest run, a disappointing sixth as the beaten favourite to Amanpour in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) in April last autumn.
First Seal was gearing up for a spring return with two strong Sydney trials in July and August of last year before Thompson uncovered a rare deformity called Keratoma in her hoof via MIR scans.
“We couldn’t work out what it was to start with but once it was finally diagnosed – I had to google it to find out what it was. I’d never heard of it in 25 years of training so it was pretty unusual,” Thompson told Racenet this week.
“Horses never have MRI scans and it just so happened that my best horse was the first I’ve seen have it done.
“It took a little bit longer to heal back over than what was first thought because they didn’t know how big it was until the surgery.”
It took the now four-year-old nearly three months to recover post-surgery, during which time Winx was rising through the ranks of Australian racing fame.
Thompson still believes his runner can became as big a household name on the scene as Winx when she returns, the next major step of which is a barrier trial at Randwick on January 29.
“She’s well on target for that, she looks fantastic, even bigger and stronger than last time,” he said.
“Her regular rider just keeps raving about her every day and she’s very experienced, she’s ridden a lot of good horses.
“I know she’s a good horse, we just have to get her back to the races now.”
Thompson has the weight-for-age $250,000 Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) scheduled for her first-up run at Royal Randwick on February 13, the same day the season’s opening Group 1 race the C.F. Orr Stakes takes place at Caulfield in Melbourne.
After the Apollo Stakes bigger Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival features awaiting First Seal could include the $600,000 Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm a fortnight later, another shot at the Coolmore Classic and possibly also the lucrative Doncaster Mile during The Championships in April.
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