The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
The Chris Waller-trained Group 1 winner Espiona was made to work for it in The Invitation 2023 at Royal Randwick but ultimately was able to salute for right on the line.
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy made it a clean-sweep in the opening three editions of the $2 million The Invitation (1400m) with his third consecutive victory in the invite-only event.
“It’s a nice one to win, that’s for sure. I was lucky to get the ride on this girl, she’s obviously been in great form. It’s nice to get the job done,” McEvoy said.
“It’s a nice race to be winning. It makes up for not being there for Cox Plate Day (in Melbourne), but it’s a great racing day up here as well.”
One-time favourite, Extreme Choice mare, Espiona came into the race on the back of a brave mid-field seventh to Think About It in the $20 million The Everest (1200m) at the track on October 14.
Back against her own kind today she was able to extend out over the extra furlong and post her second win from three starts having earlier taken out Rosehill’s Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m) this prep by over two lengths.
The autumn’s Coolmore Classic winner didn’t have the same margin to spare in The Invitation, but she did have just enough in the tank late carrying 59kg to put her nose down in the final stride and take out the $1 million winners’ cheque.
“I was worried at the 300m then at the 100m she just done enough to get her bib in front, so it was a nice win,” McEvoy said.
“Chris (Waller) has done a remarkable job with her freshening up after a run in the premier sprint race, The Everest.
“She bounced back and recorded a great performance there today.”
McEvoy had Espiona settled second last as Banana Queen led the field around.
He went right to the outside coming home with a good run at the 300m as Espiona lengthened.
Ruthless Dame ($18) was also knuckling down with the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained Tavistock four-year-old, fifth in the $1 million Silver Eagle last time out, in for the fight.
Class rose to the top however with Espiona ($3.60), wide with cover throughout, chiming in with her good sprint to finish home first over the brave runner-up who was terrific in defeat.
The Grahame Begg-trained favourite Magic Time ($2.80F) also showed true grit to finish third with excuses having run wide with no cover on top of the speed.
The win saw Espiona take her earnings up over $2.80 million much to the stable’s pleasure.
“That’s fantastic and she’s probably worth even more than that,” stable rep Charlie Duckworth told Sky Thoroughbred Central.
“Lovely issue to have as an owner and of course for the whole stable.
“She’s not very straight forward as everyone knows and that’s well publicised.
“The exciting thing is she’s a Group 1 winner, she’s a multiple million dollar winning filly.
“She’s got a beautiful pedigree and even if she gives a couple of awkward rides here and there.
“She’s a real thrill giver and she had to dig deep today.”
2023 The Invitation Race Results & Finishing Order
|1||2||ESPIONA||Chris Waller||Kerrin McEvoy||8||59kg||$3.60|
|2||4||RUTHLESS DAME (NZ)||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Sam Clipperton||0.21L||12||59kg||$18|
|3||7||MAGIC TIME||Grahame Begg||Tyler Schiller||0.3L||9||58kg||$2.80F|
|4||1||ALCOHOL FREE (IRE)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Adam Hyeronimus||0.66L||11||59.5kg||$18|
|5||11||AUSBRED FLIRT||Brad Widdup||Ms Rachel King||1.54L||7||57kg||$26|
|6||3||ROYAL MERCHANT||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Jason Collett||2.03L||4||59kg||$21|
|7||12||DALCHINI||Lee & Cherie Curtis||Jay Ford||3.23L||10||57kg||$91|
|8||8||PARISAL||James Cummings||Regan Bayliss||3.72L||1||58kg||$12|
|9||5||OPAL RIDGE||Luke Pepper||Dylan Gibbons (a)||3.73L||2||59kg||$10|
|10||9||OLENTIA||Chris Waller||Ms Kathy O’Hara||3.76L||5||58kg||$26|
|11||6||ROOTS||Chris Waller||Tommy Berry||4.02L||3||58kg||$9|
|12||10||BANANA QUEEN||Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou||Joshua Parr||7.96L||6||58kg||$81|
|14e||RUSSIAN CONQUEST||Peter & Paul Snowden||0|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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