Waller's star 3yos under Rosehill microscope

6 min read
Even Chris Waller can't say which of his star crop of 3-year-olds will step up this spring. But he'll know a lot more after Saturday's meeting at Rosehill.

Who will be Chris Waller's standout 3-year-old this season? It's the question that even Waller, with all his experience and knowledge of the candidates, can't yet answer. But he will know a whole lot more about it by Saturday night.

Saturday's Rosehill meeting, which features the running of the G2 Run To The Rose over 1200m and the G2 Stan Fox S over 1500m, will be a critical guide to how the best 3-year-olds are shaping up ahead the spring.

The last six winners of the season's first Group 1 for 3-year-olds, the Golden Rose S., have come through either the Run To The Rose or the Stan Fox.

The Autumn Sun is one of Waller's three hopes leading into the Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes

Waller's has a three-strong hand in the Run To The Rose, while The Autumn Sun (Redoute's Choice {Aus}), his G1 winning 2-year-old colt from last season, flies the flag in the G2 Stan Fox.

"With an athletic horse, who is clean winded, you can get away with running over a bit further first-up," Chris Waller on The Autumn Sun.

Sun to shine this spring?

The decision to begin The Autumn Sun's campaign over 1500m is an intriguing one given he still intends to run the JJ Atkins S. winner in the 1400m Golden Rose in a fortnight.

"Saturday's a good starting point. We've decided the 1500m over the 1200m because of the penalty he would incur for being a G1 winner (in the Run To the Rose)," Waller told RSN on Friday.

"So this race is set weights. It’s a bit further than I would have liked, but with an athletic horse, who is clean winded, you can get away with running over a bit further first-up."

The Stan Fox used to be held after the Golden Rose, and over the years has been used a bridge towards the feature Melbourne 3-year-old races. Recent Caulfield Guineas winners Press Statement (Hinchinbrook {Aus}) and Shooting To Win (Northern Meteor {Aus}) have both won the Stan Fox.

But the decision to move the Golden Rose later last year, saw this race moved alongside the Run To the Rose in early September,

And it produced the Golden Rose winner last year with Trapeze Artist (Snitzel {Aus}) finishing fourth in the Stan Fox before announcing himself as a star 3-year-old two weeks later in the Group 1.

Trapeze Artist winning the 2017 G1 Golden Rose S. after finishing 4th in the Stan Fox S.

That piece of history, although with a small sample size of just one, would hearten Waller.

"We'd like to go to the Golden Rose in two weeks' time. It is coming back the 100m, so it's a little bit different but I've got no problem with that so long as we finish up well and we work on keeping him fresh," he said of The Autumn Sun.

"He's won races, including a Group 1 race, before he is fully matured, so that shows you what type of ability he has." - Chris Waller on The Autumn Sun

A Derby horse?

Of his four 3-year-olds going around at Rosehill, Waller believes The Autumn Sun, who was a $700,000 buy at the 2017 Easter Yearling Sales, has the most scope in terms of distance.

His pedigree would also suggest this, being by Redoute's Choice with his dam Azmynia (Galileo {Ire} a half-sister to the champion Azamour, who won G1 races in in the UK up to 2400m.

The Autumn Sun was a $700,000 yearling

"He'll get as far as he wants to get. The owner is keen to win a Derby with him and I think we’ll be looking towards the autumn for that, because I don’t think he needs to step up the 2500m so early in his three-year-old year," Waller said in reference to a possible tilt at the VRC Derby in November.

"I'd love to get him through to a Caulfield Guineas and then make the decision after that if I can."

"The horse is picture perfect. He's got a great attitude, he's an athletic and good looking horse. He's won races, including a Group 1 race, before he is fully matured, so that shows you what type of ability he has."

Like father, like sons

But Waller is equally excited with Zousain (Zouster {Aus}, one of his three in the Run To The Rose.

"I think I'm getting caught up in the hype with Zousain."

Zousain was runner-up to The Autumn Sun in the JJ Atkins S, the identical form that his sire took into the 2013 spring, before going on to win both the Golden Rose and the Coolmore Stud Stakes.

"I think I'm getting caught up in the hype with Zousain," Waller admitted.

Zousain was a $400,000 Magic Millions purchase

"He's a son of Zoustar who was a horse who really came of age as a three year old. Zousain really showed his class running second in the G1 in Queensland."

Lean Mean Machine is also by Zoustar, and like his sire won the G2 Sires Produce S. in Brisbane, beating Zousain before failing on the heavy track in the JJ Atkins.

"Lean Mean Machine for me looks a real Caulfield Guineas type, but we are giving him a chance to sprint to prove himself," Waller said. "He certainly shouldn’t be discounted."

Lean Mean Machine was a $250,000 Magic Millions purchase

Then there's Performer (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) who won the Breeders Plate as an early two-year-old, franked that with a win in the G2 Canonbury S before a run of bad luck ruined the rest of his 2-year-old season.

"That's the beauty of it, it can be any one of them. I'm lucky to have quite a few."

Performer certainly looked to have returned well on his racetrack return in the San Domenico S., working home for third, albeit nearly four lengths from the winner Graff {Star Witness {Aus}), who looms as Waller's trio's major rival on Saturday.

Performer is also a Magic Millions graduate, purchased for $450,000

The verdict

At this stage Waller would have The Autumn Sun as the top seed of his 3-year-olds but there is no guarantee he will keep it. The trainer's experience with Zoustar taught him not to be governed by expectations.

"Going into the spring with Zoustar, I wouldn’t have thought he'd win a Golden Rose and the Coolmore down the straight and be the best 3-year old in the country that year," he said.

"That's the beauty of it, it can be any one of them. I'm lucky to have quite a few."