A Verry special Australian Oaks

5 min read
Touted as one of the nation’s three big tests for quality staying fillies, the 2019 $1 million Group 1 ATC Australian Oaks did not disappoint, with the unveiling of a brilliant galloper that is no doubt all class.

It was an emphatic win by Chris Waller’s brilliant filly, Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) over 2400 metres. In career best form, with dominant lead- up wins in the Phar Lap Stakes and Vinery Stud Stakes, which have produced 13 of the past 30 Oaks winners, she deserved her pre-race favouritism.

In the mounting yard, she looked to have come on from her last two starts and maintained her condition beautifully.

With the race showing very little speed on paper, Verry Elleegant settled in the back half of the field despite jumping well. When Frankely Awesome (Frankel {GB}) made her move, McDonald was happy to sit two off the fence, before tracking patiently three wide at the 600 metres and accelerating down the straight. Verry Elleegant hit the line with a convincing two-length win from Scarlet Dream (Sebring) & Frankely Awesome.

Pre-race, her only query was her immaturity, as demonstrated when she was well beaten in the Oaks at Flemington in the Spring. Tending to badly over race, it was her behaviour that lost the race, rather than her ability.

“Although she still did a few things wrong when victorious in the Vinery at her last start, she has hit her straps this campaign and matured from her experiences. She is now a much more tractable galloper,” Waller said.

"She has hit her straps this campaign and matured from her experiences." - Trainer Chris Waller

Verry Elleegant has relished the wet tracks, but she was just as impressive on the firmer ground today, and if anything, she was able to clearly demonstrate both the ability to quicken and her tenacious staying ability.

"Barrier 12 was a bit of a concern, but we had a good jockey aboard who knew the horse very well," Waller said. "It was a class ride by (James) McDonald, and she is a class filly. Today she showed that wonderful turn of foot.”

Nothing but praise for Waller

While McDonald was also enjoying the moment, he heaped praise on Waller’s management of Verry Elleegant, culminating in this Australian Oaks victory.

“She’s been a work in progress and I’ve had a lot to do with her for the whole time. She has matured, and I feel she is just getting better and better.”

"She has matured, and I feel she is just getting better and better.” - Jockey James McDonald

“This has been brilliant. She was going super; just flying,” McDonald said.

“She can be tricky, but she has grown up so much. I never thought I would see the day of her relaxing over 2400 metres, however, she has done that brilliantly. She felt even better on that firm track today. She ran as straight as a dime and was dominant. I knew when we jumped that there was no chance of them beating me today.”

With many runners yet to be proven at the trip, the pedigree of Verry Elleegant certainly showed that the distance for her would not be an issue. In the VRC Oaks, despite finishing seventh, she had the fastest closing split in the race.

With staying bloodlines, her sire Zed who stands at Grangewilliam Stud, is a blue-blooded Zabeel stallion from the Cotehele House branch of the Eight Carat family. Out of the Danroad mare Opulence, whose granddam Chalet Girl (Imposing) is a half-sister to Danewin, a five-time Group 1 winner and an unlucky runner-up, in the VRC and AJC Derby and traces to the same female line in Cotehele House.

And with Winx claiming her final race in perfect fashion, Verry Elleegant provided leading trainer Waller with his 99th Group 1 win, allowing the world best galloper in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes to bring up the century.

With the retirement of Winx and The Autumn Sun, Verry Elleegant may be the next superstar for the stable.

“I think we have unveiled an excellent staying filly." - Chris Waller

Waller was quick to praise the filly post-race, as well as acknowledge the team behind the win.

James McDonald returning to scale with Verry Elleegant

“I think we have unveiled an excellent staying filly. She has come through the Weir stable, which I acknowledge, and I take my hat off to the boys and girls at home who do a fantastic job with all the horses. These Group 1 races are very special to them.”

“It was a great ride from James, from a difficult barrier, and he needed luck from there, but great riders are the key to Group 1 wins. She is a class filly, and that was a class ride,” Waller said.

With six wins and three placings from 11 starts for $1,163,619 in earnings, the plans ahead for Verry Elleegant are optimistic with an exciting Melbourne Carnival ahead and a possible Melbourne Cup campaign in the future.

“To a degree, she still travelled greenly, but she will take further improvement. She may be a Melbourne Cup horse, who knows, but we know she will have a terrific spring ahead of her.”