Punters had strong faith in the Tony McEvoy-trained filly to claim consecutive Group 1 wins, heavily backing her from $1.95 into a $1.65 favourite to become the sixth three-year-old filly to win the weight-for-age William Reid, since it gained Group 1 status in 1987.
Sunlight was at $9 with Shoals (scratched from the William Reid) on the second line of betting behind co-favourites Osborne Bulls, Redzel and Trapese Artist at $7 for Sydney’s T J Smith Stakes, before the running of the final Group 1 on the Victorian 2018-19 racing calendar.
Jockey Luke Currie was amazed at Sunlight’s speed to dash from her wide gate and prevent last year’s Blue Diamond Stakes winner Written By (Written Tycoon) from ascending to the lead.
Currie gave the three times Group 1 winner a breather between the 600m to the 400m, before putting down the pedal with her blazing away to lead by two lengths on entering the straight.
Sunlight was tiring on the line, but held a safe break over Spright (Hinchinbrook), who was storming home with the Western Australian mare Ellicazoom (Testa Rossa) snatching third place.
Full of praise
Currie was full of praise for Sunlight to claim consecutive wins after beating an outstanding field of open-aged sprinters, under handicap conditions, in the Newmarket Handicap, down the 1200m straight at Flemington, at her previous start on March 9.
“I wasn’t sure before the race whether to come off the speed or lead,” Currie said.
"It is a big thrill for me, my family and my mates to win this race." - Jockey Luke Currie
“She must have read the newspaper because she jumped the fastest she ever has from the outside in gate nine. It is a big thrill for me, my family and my mates to win this race. They have supported me through the hard times and the good.
“She definitely has the X-Factor.”
Sunlight joins elite three-year-old fillies Virage De Fortune (2006), Miss Pennyweight (2000), Stella Cadente (1999), Grand Archway (1998) and Lady Jakeo (1994) to have won the William Reid since 1987.
While the win was Curries’ eighth at the elite level, for trainer Tony McEvoy it pushed his Group 1 tally into double-figures at 10.
“She rises to the occasion each time,” McEvoy said. “She loves the pressure of these high quality races."
“I am so proud of her.
“Pre-race the drums were beating that Written By would lead at all costs and Fell Swoop was going forward because he had no other option.
“I could see us sitting three wide outside of them. Luke had a two-pronged attack plan. If she flew the start, like she did, then he was going to take the race by the scruff of the neck.
"If she flew the start, like she did, then he was going to take the race by the scruff of the neck." - Trainer Tony McEvoy
“If they were going to be kicking up we were going to let them go. Luke has so much faith in her. He knows what he can and can’t do on her. I have great confidence in the filly.
“These are big time races and there is so much more to come for her. She could be one of the best of the best.”
Sunlight has won 11 times and been placed on four occasions from her 16 starts.
Last night she made amends for her sole blemish at Moonee Valley last October, when she was bumped throughout , before finishing a gallant seventh to Brave Smash in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m).
"She could be one of the best of the best.” - Tony McEvoy
Sunlight is from the Charge Forward mare Solar Charged, who won three times including twice at Group 3 level in the AJC Kindergarten Stakes and MRV Thoroughbred Club Stakes.
She was sold at the 2017 Gold Coast Yearling Sale (Lot 471) for $300,000 to Aquis Racing, McEvoy/Mitchell Racing and Blue Sky Racing Bloodstock from the draft of Widden Stud.
Trainer Garry Frazer was disappointed to be walking away with another minor placing at the top level with Spright.
“She was very good, but did not get a lot of luck in running,” Frazer said. Not sure what we will do now. We will take her back home and see. She is still in the TJ and in the Sapphire for the mares a week later."
The race was marred when top jockey Ben Melham crashed hard to the ground when Group 1 winner Voodoo Lad broke down badly in the straight.
Melham was taken to hospital with a suspected broken wrist.
The injury could sideline Melham for several weeks.