It certainly wasn’t ideal, weather wise, to spend an afternoon at the races, but I braved the cold and rainy conditions to attend the Feehan Stakes meeting at Moonee Valley last Saturday.
Still in my proud possession is the race book for the 2001 Feehan Stakes, where Sunline and Northerly clashed for the first time.
Sunline at the time was six years old and in the twilight years of her illustrious racing career, and Northerly, a year younger, was very much the up and comer from West Australia, nicknamed "the fighting tiger” for his tenacity and will to win.
The 2001 Feehan Stakes resulted in Northerly winning by a nose from Sunline.
They would meet again in the 2001 Cox Plate which yielded a similar result and a sensational three way protest that was dismissed.
Back to this year’s edition of the race, I got to Moonee Valley in time to watch the fourth race, where I was interested in seeing the Chris Waller trained mare, Haut Brion Her, who had won her last three races and was the starting favourite.
Haut Brion Her raced on the speed behind race leader Working From Home, then wobbled around the turn into the straight where she was challenged by Tofane. They fought out the finish and hit the line together, Tofane the victor by a head. They left the rest of the field 3 lengths behind them. Mystery Love ran third.
Though it was cold and windy, fortunately when it rained, it was passing and light, and the sun occasionally emerged from the clouds to brighten the track.
The races resulted in a variety of close fought finishes or dominant winners.
Exhilarates, last seen winning the Quezette Stakes, started as favourite for the Atlantic Jewel Stakes, race 5 on the program - a race for three year old fillies over 1200 metres, and proved her superiority winning by ¾ length from Sassy Salitage with St Edward’s Crown running third.
Tasmanian training was once again to the fore in Race 6, the Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Stakes, where the pocket rocket The Inevitable won by a sensational 4 lengths, from Deprive. He’s a neat little fellow who looks very like his sire Dundeel (It’s A Dundeel), with the same crooked blaze and four white socks.
The first of the Group 2 feature races was the McEwen Stakes. Sunlight and Nature Strip were originally nominated for this race, but contested the Concorde Stakes at Randwick , where both failed to run a place, the race being won by the resurgent Redzel with Pierata and Graff filling the minor places.
Anyway, the McEwen Stakes still had a pretty good field. Eduardo was the race favourite and leader, but the globe trotting Faatinah proved his class, winning by a short margin from Bons Away with Eduardo hanging on for third.
The afternoon was drawing in when the feature Feehan Stakes was set to run. It was an open field with no real standouts, so it was hardly a surprise that the Lloyd Williams owned Homesman earned himself a free ticket to the Cox Plate by winning the race by 2.5 lengths from Mahamedies and Best of Days.
It was pleasant being back at Moonee Valley for a day meeting, but I won’t be returning there until the Cox Plate.
Next week Group 1 racing returns to Flemington, the feature race being the Makybe Diva Stakes, where super Tassie mare Mystic Journey will be aiming for her 8th consecutive win.