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The delayed return of John Thompson’s Group 1 winner First Seal takes place at Rosehill Gardens this weekend with the mare to improve off whatever she does first-up in the Millie Fox Stakes 2016.
The Sydney-based Thompson admits he is both “nervous and excited” about the returning run of his four-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock who hasn’t raced since her sixth to Amanpour in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) last April.
Best known for her Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) in October of 2014 where she defeated subsequent 2015 Cox Plate champion Winx, First Seal runs on Saturday in the $175,000 Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes (1300m).
It is her first assignment since missing the spring season due to a hind hoof injury, which Thompson is confident she has recovered fully from.
“She’s been back about three months so we’ve given her a good foundation,” Thompson told Racenet.
“The hoof problem is something of the past now.
“She’s been away from the races for a fair while so you’d expect she’s going to improve off whatever she does on Saturday but I’m expecting her to run well.
“She’s such a big gross mare but she’s going very well.”
Yet to have an official start as a four-year-old, First Seal ran second in back-to-back Rosehill races last March when runner-up in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) to Plucky Belle and the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) before her Queen Of The Turf run.
The former Champion NSW Horse and 3YO of the Year for her feats last season has had four official trains from July last year through until this month.
Her latest was a sixth to the Joe Pride-trained Terravista, who takes on a crack field of sprinters in Flemington’s $750,000 Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) this weekend, over 804m at Warwick Farm on February 8.
To date she has had three first-up runs for one win and a second, and Thompson only expects her to improve on her Millie Fox Stakes effort going forward this Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
“Saturday’s race is different to when she was resuming as a three-year-old,” Thompson said.
“This time you have to take on a great mare like Catkins and she always runs well fresh.
“She’s ticking all the boxes, had a couple of trials and an exhibition gallop and she’s just improving and improving but as I said I’m expecting her to run well.”
The Chris Waller-trained Catkins won the Millie Fox Stakes last year on the back of a first-up win in the Group 2 Breeders’ Classic (1200m).
This year the Dubawi six-year-old returns for her title defence on the back of a winning Warwick Farm trial.
Waller has dominated the Millie Fox Stakes results over the past four years winning three times on the trot with Red Tracer (2012-14) and then Catkins (2015).
First Seal meanwhile heads towards a run in the $3 million Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick Racecourse on Day 1 of ‘The Championships’, April 2.
She occupies the third line of futures Doncaster Mile betting at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $13 to hand Thompson with his first win in the classic.
The $13 is the same price currently on offer for Ciaron Maher’s runner-up in last weekend’s Group 3 Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) in Melbourne Azkadellia, the now Darren Weir-trained Kingston Town Classic winning filly Perfect Reflection who makes her eastern state debut at Flemington in Saturday’s Group 3 The Vanity and New Zealand Group 1 winning Pentire colt Xtravagant.
First Seal will head towards the 2016 Doncaster Mile via runs in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 5 and the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on March 19.
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