Autridge and Valachi Quinella in Sunline VaseSunday, Mar 1, 2020
It came in the second-last leg and too late to have a major New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series impact, but trainer Stephen Autridge and Valachi Downs owner Kevin Hickman celebrated a remarkable result in Saturday’s $70,000 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie.
Communique (NZ) (Redwood) and Karalino (NZ) (Zacinto) fought out the finish, with Communique prevailing by a long neck. Hickman bred and owns both fillies, who are both trained by Autridge.
“That’s unbelievable,” Autridge said.
“I knew both horses were going well. It’s a great thrill to win the race – it’s my first Group winner for Kevin and Jo (Hickman), and the quinella makes it twice as good.”
Communique was ridden by Melbourne-based expat Kiwi jockey Michael Walker, who eased her back near the tail of the field in a slowly run race.
The pace began to increase from the 600-metre mark, when the Valachi pair were both still well back in third-last and fourth-last respectively.
But Walker brought Communique down the outside with a withering finish, and she hit the lead with 200 metres to run.
Karalino emerged as the biggest threat on her inside, but Communique was too strong.
“I said to Michael (Walker, jockey) I wasn’t going to tell him what to do, but that he was on a real stayer,” Autridge said. “He was back and covered a little bit of extra ground, but it was no trouble at all.
“The other filly got held up a bit, but she had her chance. The winner was just too good.”
Communique has now had six starts for two wins and two placings, earning $51,400 in stakes.
“It’s good to get a win for a good mate in Stephen Autridge, he’s an amazing trainer,” Walker said.
“She jumped well and I thought for two seconds about going forward as there wasn’t much speed in the race.
“I ended up riding her quiet and although she got a bit keen leaving the straight, she really settled well down the back.
“I tracked up nicely and I always thought I was going to get there, although she was running about. “She has a lot to learn, but I really like her. I think she is a classy filly.”
Communique collected her first 6 points in the Filly of the Year Series, putting her in equal sixth place alongside Aretha (NZ) (Charm Spirit). She is well adrift of the table-topping Jennifer Eccles (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle), who has 32.5 points.
Karalino earned 3 points for her second placing, with third-placed Meghan (NZ) (So You Think) picking up 1.5 points.
The Series concludes at Trentham on March 14 with the Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m), which is worth 12 points to the winner.