The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Trainer Gai Waterhouse has confirmed plans to target either the South Australian or Queensland Derby at Group 1 level this winter with her impressive VRC St Leger winner from Wednesday, Runaway.
The master Sydney trainer, who now prepares horses in partnership with her former racing manager Adrian Bott, made it three wins in six years in Flemington’s Listed $200,000 VRC St Leger (2800m) on ANZAC Day with the progressive Runaway.
The Manhattan Rain rig made it two wins on the trot after a lead-up victory over 2218m at Geelong from April 17, Runaway relishing a drop in weight and increase in distance on Wednesday.
Jockey Stephen Baster retained the ride and guided the $7.50 shot to a commanding one and a half-length, all-the-way win over the Lindsay Park-trained Rezealient ($9) with Wolfe Tone ($14) a close third.
Baster said after the victory that it was an impressive performance from the up-and-coming Runaway who over raced in the early stages but still managed to salute in the genuine staying test by the big margin.
“He came out of the barriers as if we were going one round of Flemington, not two, [but] once he got to the 1600m mark he settled down,” he said.
“When he got to the mile he pricked his ears and relaxed with me then he got into a relaxed rhythm.
“Gai’s horses are so tough and fit — he could hear them coming and he kept finding.
“Each run he’s learnt and improved and he’s still got plenty of manners to improve on — if he can do that he’ll be a really nice horse.”
Waterhouse was quick to lament Racing Victoria officials for not making the VRC St Leger a more prominent feature as it shapes-up as a genuine lead-up for three-year-olds eyeing a shot at the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles on the first Tuesday of November.
“At $200,000, the race is slipping under the radar,” Waterhouse said post-win on Wednesday.
“Don’t worry about making it a race for three and four-year-olds. It’s a wonderful race — keep it for three-year-olds, but increase the prizemoney, and if you do that the quality will look after itself.
“I’m telling you this is the stepping stone you need to get into the Melbourne Cup.
“The St Leger is a time-honoured race, particularly in Australia and in England for three-year-olds.”
Runaway joined Hippopus (2013) and Order Of The Sun (2014) as the recent Waterhouse-trained VRC St Leger winners, but the race’s honour roll also includes champions such as Phar Lap (1930), Comic Court (1949) and the Tommy Smith-trained Tulloch (1958) who was one of Waterhouse’s father’s six winners.
The event held Group 2 status from 1980 – 1990, was downgraded to a Group 3 race from 1991 – 2005 and then eventually dropped to its current Listed status from 2006.
Waterhouse & Bott will now decide whether Runaway heads to Adelaide on May 12 for a shot at the Group 1 $600,000 South Australian Derby (2500m) at Morphettville or is saved for a shot at Brisbane’s Group 1 $600,000 Queensland Derby (2200m) on June 9.
To back Runaway next race and to access the top winter racing odds over the coming months head to Ladbrokes.com.au now.
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