Friday, 10 August 2007
: Miss Andretti joined the growing list of Australian heroes with her dominant win in the G2 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
| Miss Andretti|
Photo by Bronwen Healy
NATHAN EXELBY spoke with the mare’s part-owner Sean Buckley following the successful UK raid.
Prior to leaving for the Mother Country, owner Sean Buckley told Turf Monthly that he felt Miss Andretti had made the necessary improvement to measure up on the international stage.
He figured she had improved with each campaign for Lee Freedman and the word from the stable was that she’s taken the next step prior to departing for the UK.
That assessment proved spot on, when the five-year-old Australian-bred mare stole the limelight on the opening day of the Royal Ascot carnival in winning the G2 King’s Stand Stakes.
Not only did she dominate at the end of the 1000m, but she obliterated the existing five furlongs record at Ascot, shaving nearly 2 seconds off the mark.
In a wonderful result for Australia, Miss Andretti beat Dandy Man, with fellow Australians Magnus and Takeover Target filling third and fourth positions.
It was the third time in the past five years that an Australian sprinter had won the King’s Stand Stakes and it made the daughter of Ihtiram an even warmer favourite to take this year’s Australian Horse of the Year crown.
Buckley described the lead up to the race as one of the most exciting events he has been involved in, with huge media interest from many parts of the world.
To then win the King’s Stand capped an amazing 12 months.
According to the owner, everything went according to plan from the moment Miss Andretti boarded the plane from Australia.
“We knew she had travelled well,” he said.
“Her attitude was good, weight was right, gallops had been good and she was her same normal self, so we were all pretty confident that everything was okay.
“As we got closer to the race I was thinking she would win, but I was a bit nervous after the barrier draw when she got 19, because it looked like she had drawn the wrong side of the track.
“But we all sat there and watched the first race (which was run down the straight) and when all the placings came from horses drawn between 18 and 23, my confidence was sky high again.
“It was a little bit surreal actually ... I expected her to win the race and fortunately she ran to her true potential and did us proud.”
For Buckley, the win was proof of how far Miss Andretti had come in the past 18 months.
“Takeover Target was the barometer to test how far she had improved, because he was too good for her in last year’s Newmarket,” he said.
“Then when Magnus also ran third – beating Takeover Target home – it sort of franked her form even more, because he had been chasing us home in Melbourne. It showed the strength of that form.”
Buckley, a noted bad traveller, couldn’t speak highly enough of the hospitality afforded to the Australian connections by their hosts.
“They were very hospitable to us over there,” he said.
“We were treated with a huge amount of respect, with great stabling for the horse and invitations to various functions for connections. It was a wonderful experience.”
The King’s Stand trophy was presented by British actor and producer Anthony Andrews.
“When I looked around there were a lot of dignitaries and the media attention was unbelievable,” Buckley said.
“They were about six rows deep and the number of cameras was absolutely amazing.
“It created a huge amount of international interest as well.”
Buckley stopped in Dubai on his way over to England and then returned on business on the way home.
“When I went back to the hotel in Dubai one of the receptionists congratulated me on the win – they had been watching because Miss Andretti beat their boss’ horse, Dandy Man.
“It just goes to show how international the whole thing was.”
Unfortunately the Miss Andretti team didn’t get the fairytale finish they were hoping for, with rain on Golden Jubilee day denting those hopes.
“I thought we would win again on the Saturday, but as soon as the rain came, I knew it wasn’t going to be,” Buckley said.
“In fact I said before the race I didn’t think she would run in the first 10 – she showed in the Oakleigh Plate last year that she can’t handle it when there is water on the track.
“That was a bit sad, because then people said she can’t back up, but she was unlucky not to win a Group 1 (Rupert Clarke Stakes) on a quick back-up during the spring.”
Plans for Miss Andretti are now up in the air.
Though she increased her lead in the Global Sprint Challenge by winning the King’s Stand Stakes, because that event is only a Group 2, it doesn’t count towards the big bonus that is paid to any horse that can win a G1 in three different countries.
It means Miss Andretti would now have to win in both Japan and Hong Kong to secure the additional bonus.
“It stuffed our plans up a bit getting beaten in that second race,” the owner said.
“It seems a shame to come all this way, get your horse right and beat the locals easily, but for it only to be a Group 2.
“It makes it very hard to win the bonus now.”
Options for Miss Andretti include pushing on to Japan, coming back to Australia and then going to Hong Kong, or even a tilt in the United States later in the year.
These are all options that Buckley and the Miss Andretti team have to weigh up in the near future before it’s decided where the mare will race next.
The other sidelight to emerge in England was another huge offer to buy Miss Andretti, which, again, was turned down.
Several figures have been speculated on, but all Buckley would say is that the latest offer was significantly more than the $4.5million which had been turned down earlier in the year.
“I wasn’t really tempted – she’s got another year of racing yet and it’s very difficult to sell a horse that I am so attached to,” he said.
“If I needed the money I would cash in, but at the moment things are going reasonably well. And what would I do with it? I’m only going to spend it trying to find another one as good as her, so why not keep enjoying the ride?”
Miss Andretti turns six next month and will race on for another season, before retiring to stud next year.
Buckley concedes stallion options will probably come down to only a select few, with Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago
and Elusive Quality the early front runners.
But for now, he is happily basking in the glory of another successful Australian raid on British racing’s most famous stage.