John Thompson is confident the punters will see the best of First Seal when she kicks off her spring “pain free” in the 2016 Golden Pendant this weekend in Sydney.
Injuries and setbacks have marred the top mare over the past season, but her trainer Thompson is hoping all that is behind her as she prepares to run first-up at Rosehill Gardens in the $400,000 Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m) on Saturday.
The now five-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock is only lightly-raced for her age having had 15 starts for five wins and six seconds to date.
As a three-year-old during the spring of 2014 she hit the big time with her Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) victory over subsequent superstar Winx before a second in that season’s Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m).
Two more Group 1 seconds followed in the autumn of 2015 when runner-up in the Coolmore Classic and Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill Gardens, First Seal also winning first-up this year in the Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes (1300m) on February 20.
That was a good result after she never made it to the track last spring after undergoing surgery to remove keratinised tissue from her hind hoof.
She was well-placed when second to Holler in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) next start, but Thompson knew something wasn’t right when she went on to finish out of the money behind Winx in both the George Ryder Stakes and Doncaster Mile.
“We got some scans done and it showed she’d fractured a split bone,” Thompson explained to Racenet this week.
“She hasn’t shown any signs there was a problem but we knew something wasn’t right the way she went in the George Ryder and Doncaster.”
First Seal has been freshened-up since her 12th in the Doncaster on April 2 and has trialled nicely twice at Randwick including her 1200m win over Sir John Hawkwood on September 5, Thompson thrilled with how the mare is travelling.
“I haven’t had her going this good for a long time,” he said.
“She’s a really sound and happy horse.
“She’s always been a great trackworker. She does things at home that leaves you shaking your head and nothing has changed in that department.
“She’s only had 15 starts so she’s lightly-raced for a five-year-old and I think she is a mature mare now.
“The best could still ahead of her because she is pain free.”
First Seal is the 58kg top weight under the set weights plus penalties conditions of the Golden Pendant for fillies and mares this weekend.
Her regular rider Blake Shinn reunites with her from a nice barrier three draw in the 10-starter field, First Seal sitting top of the latest Golden Pendant odds at $3.40 through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Thompson also saddles-up $18 chance Zanbagh first-up in the Golden Pendant field from gate nine with Glyn Schofield booked to ride the six-year-old daughter of Bernardini.
Zanbagh has had five Rosehill runs to date for two victories including the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes (1500m) back in March.
She was last seen running a credible fifth to Azkadellia in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) in April, a good fresh performer but still inferior to her stablemate according to Thompson.
“She’s going really well too,” he said of Zanbagh.
“She’s got a really good fresh record but I doubt she can beat First Seal.”
Check out the full Golden Pendant 2016 odds online now at Ladbrokes.com.au – home of Odds Boost (T&Cs apply).