The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
James McDonald stopped the retiring Damien Oliver from a swansong Group 1 win at Flemington riding Atishu to a powerhouse upset over Duais in a thrilling 2023 Champions Stakes result.
In a performance by hoop and horse that defied the trend of front runners saluting in the circle races on the card, the Chris Waller-trained Atishu exploded late making up ground from the back to thump her rivals in the Group 1 $3 million Champions Stakes (2000m) by nearly two lengths.
The classy daughter of Savabeel was on the quick back-up after a brave second at the track last weekend crossing second in the Group 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) on Derby Day.
That race has proved the superior form line on Stakes Day with the Ciaron Maher & David Eustace-trained winner Pride Of Jenni also backing-up to lead all-the-way and defeat Mr Brightside home in the Group 1 $3 million Champions Mile (1600m).
Atishu then improved on her Empire Rose placing to post a Group 1 upset in the last elite level of the Cup Carnival rewarding connections who opted to test her against a quality field over a Group 2 Matriarch Stakes run over the same distance at the meeting.
The Champions Stakes winner thrived at headquarters on the seven-day turnaround winning decisively in a spectacular performance.
“Horses don’t run that well and not win, so to run second behind a horse (last week) that franked the form in the previous, when I walked out to Chris for the instructions I said, ‘we’re on a winner, I reckon’,” McDonald told Racing.com.
“We’ve just got to do the little things right and get the splits when we need it. She was fantastic, unbelievable.”
The Simon & Ed Crisford-trained UK raider West Wind Blows looked to steal the show with Jamie Spencer coming right round the field to lead on the horse who was coming off back-to-back seconds behind the past two Melbourne Cup winners.
He was quickly joined once on the straight however and faded out of contention.
As the front-runner was going backwards J Mac hit the button on Atishu ($8.50) who came with an impressive blitz down the outside really sprinting away over the final 100m.
On the line she had one and three-quarters of a length to spare over the Edward Cummings-trained Duais ($7) who was brave in defeat having failed to get into clear running until late with Oliver aboard for his final Group 1 ride at Flemington.
“She went great. She had a good run, but the winner was just a bit too good for us today,” Oliver said of the runner-up.
In third rounding out the Champions Stakes trifecta in an eye-catching photo was the Danny O’Brien-trained 50/1 outsider Young Werther who beat home the dual defending champ Zaaki for the placing.
“He ran great. It was a muddling-run race for him. Jamie Spencer’s horse led and went to the front, it would have made it easier, but he went inside, outside the whole time. He just needed a nice smooth run, but he ran well,” Jamie Kah said after riding Zaaki to fourth.
2023 Champions Stakes Results & Finishing Order
|1||10||ATISHU (NZ)||Chris Waller||James McDonald||5||57kg||$8.50|
|2||9||DUAIS||Edward Cummings||Damien Oliver||1.75L||3||57kg||$7|
|3||3||YOUNG WERTHER (NZ)||Danny O’Brien||Billy Egan||1.95L||6||59kg||$51|
|4||1||ZAAKI (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Ms Jamie Kah||2.05L||10||59kg||$4.40|
|5||7||BUCKAROO (GB)||Joseph O’Brien||Blake Shinn||2.15L||8||59kg||$26|
|6||11||PROWESS (NZ)||Roger James & Robert Wellwood||Mark Zahra||2.65L||4||56.5kg||$5.50|
|7||2||HUETOR (FR)||Peter & Paul Snowden||Kerrin McEvoy||2.85L||11||59kg||$61|
|8||8||MONTEFILIA||Chris Waller||Michael Dee||3.25L||1||57kg||$26|
|9||4||WEST WIND BLOWS (IRE)||Simon & Ed Crisford||Jamie Spencer||3.35L||2||59kg||$2.80F|
|10||5||ZEYREK (FR)||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Ben Melham||4.85L||7||59kg||$61|
|11||6||PINSTRIPED||Enver Jusufovic||Ben Allen||5.35L||9||59kg||$81|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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