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Winterbottom aiming to be a summer hit

November 18, 2011

Australia’s newest Group 1, the Winterbottom Stakes, has its first running at the elite level in Perth tomorrow but it’s long term future as a Group 1 event depends on the ability of WA Racing to attract high quality competitors.

First run in 1952 over 1400m, it has been a stepping stone to success on the eastern seaboard, with winners including the likes of local stars Jungle Mist, Placid Ark, Ellicorsam, Miss Andretti and Marasco.

It has developed into a race targeted by trainers from Sydney and Melbourne in recent times, with Takeover Target and Ortensia among the victors.

On last year’s edition, it is hard to see the race warranting Group 1 status with nine year old Hadabeclorka – a well beaten 15th in the 2400m Perth Cup nine months prior – winning convincingly, however, previous instalments of the Winterbottom were oozing with class.

Indeed, the 2008 running of the race, where Takeover Target held on by a nose to defeat Apache Cat, would arguably rank as the most exciting race in recent Western Australian history.

Both horses were crowd favourites, both were champions – and both were at their peak that sunny November day, with Apache Cat lunging at Takeover Target right on the line.

It only seems right that a state with such a rich sprinting heritage – think Placid Ark, Miss Andretti, Scenic Blast, Hay List among many others – should have a top level sprint, and the Winterbottom Stakes fits the bill perfectly.

While the absence of superstar sprinter Black Caviar is disappointing for Perth racing fans, it also allows for a bigger field and a more competitive renewal of the race.

The current favourite is Ortensia, who will be looking to become the fifth horse to win two Winterbottoms – and the second to complete the double in non-consecutive years after Asteroid (1953, 1955).

The Winterbottom provides the perfect opportunity for her to gain that elusive Group 1 victory after she was stripped of her first Group 1 win in the 2010 The Galaxy in Sydney after returning a positive swab when trained by Tony Noonan.

It looked a long shot that she would ever get the opportunity for another Group 1 win when she was retired after the autumn, but she demonstrated that she may well be capable of returning to her best when making a winning debut for new trainer Paul Messara at Flemington during Melbourne Cup week.

Also well fancied is the Peter Snowden trained sprinter, Rarefied, a horse that demonstrated his fair share of potential as a three year old, but that has had to overcome numerous issues prior to this campaign.

In fact, Rarefied has only had two runs since April 2010.

Last start, Rarefied finished a narrow second to Sister Madly in the Group 2 Salinger Stakes (1200m) on Derby Day at Flemington, and on that performance he looks ready to peak tomorrow.

Of the locals, the Fred Kersley-trained Grand Nirvana looks a top chance, but he is probably better suited over 1400m, while last year’s winner Hadabeclorka lines up once more.

The Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) jumps at 7:25pm AEDT.

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