Thursday, 26 April 2012
: The $400 000 Group 1 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes for two-year-olds over 1600m will be run at Randwick on Saturday.
Photo by Racing and Sports
Apart from being one of a handful of two-year-old Group 1 races, it is also the third leg of the Two-Year-Old Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown, consisting of three races run over a variety of distances in close proximity to one another, occur the world over and are usually the exclusive domain of the three-year-old males, although some countries do allow fillies to compete.
The most famous being the American Triple Crown, comprising the Kentucky Derby (2000m), the Preakness Stakes (1900m) and the Belmont Stakes (2400m).
Eleven thoroughbreds have won the Triple Crown, but since Affirmed's victory in 1978, America has been patiently waiting.
There have been several near misses, where horses won the first two legs only to be denied glory in the Belmont.
Memorable misses include Sunday Silence
, Silver Charm, Smarty Jones
and Real Quiet, who agonisingly lost the Belmont by a nose.
Australia by contrast is the only country to run a two-year-old and a three-year-old Triple Crown. Interestingly while five juveniles have claimed Triple Crown glory, the three-year-old Triple Crown belongs to only four horses, Imagele, Martello Towers, Moorland and the mighty Octagonal
Winning a Triple Crown is considered one of the greatest achievements a thoroughbred can attain and yet it has become one of the most difficult, as horses become more limited in their distance range.
Consisting of the Golden Slipper (1200m), the Sires Produce (1400m) and the Champagne Stakes (1600m), the juvenile Triple Crown contenders are rigorously tested from the most furious of sprint races to the challenging mile of the Champagne, all in the space of three weeks.
It demands an extraordinary effort and a superb temperament from a horse that is in effect not yet fully grown.
The two-year-old winners have been evenly spread through the years, from Baquette (1970), to the famous Luskin Star (1977), followed by a lull of 14 years. Just when it seemed that it had become too hard to produce a juvenile winner, Clarry Conners calmly saddled two in quick succession, with Tierce
winning in 1991 and the small chestnut filly, Burst
, winning in 1992.
Another gap of 12 years followed before the Gai Waterhouse trained Dance Hero
added his name to the illustrious list. While not quite completing a Connors double, eight years on sees Waterhouse back again with her star juvenile Pierro
The colt impressed in the first two legs and his ability to switch off and relax during a race will certainly stand him in good stead.
Ironically, a man who could spoil the party for Waterhouse is none other than Clarry Conners. Conners saddles Dear Demi
, who has sidestepped the first two legs, before winning the Listed Fernhill Quality(1600m) on Doncaster Day.
While it is a step up in class for the filly, she easily handles the distance and the better going together with the weight advantage will certainly be in her favour.
TAB Sportsbet Fixed Odds has Pierro as a short priced favourite at $1.35, while stable companion, Raceway
, is second favourite in the betting at $7.50, with the Peter Snowden trained colt Limes
is not far behind at $8.50.
Snowden knows what it takes to win the Champagne, having done so before with Skilled
in 2010 and Helmet
in 2011, but even he admits that it will be very hard to beat Pierro.
In Triple Crown racing many face the starter each year and yet few ever succeed. Come Saturday, as Pierro lines up in the Champagne, will he become one of the chosen few or will he become another for whom glory was so tantilisingly close and yet so agonisingly far?