Jennifer Eccles (NZ) Completes Runaway NZB Filly of the Year Series Win

Jennifer Eccles (NZ) wins the 2019/2020 NZB Filly of the Year Series.
Jennifer Eccles (NZ) wins the 2019/2020 NZB Filly of the Year Series.

Saturday’s $400,000 Group One Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) was a fitting end to a dominant New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series campaign for Jennifer Eccles (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle).

The Shaune Ritchie-trained filly outclassed her rivals again in the Trentham classic, cementing her Filly of the Year Series title by the huge margin of 22.5 points.

Once described as New Zealand’s best maiden, Jennifer Eccles made her first appearance on the Filly of the Year table with her second placing in the Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.

She has been unstoppable since then, winning the Group Two Eight Carat Classic (1600m), Group Two David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m) and Group Two Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) before Saturday’s powerful Group One triumph.

Jennifer Eccles finishes with a Filly of the Year Series total of 44.5 points. The only other filly in the last two decades who reached 40 is Justa Tad (NZ) (Istidaad), who scored 42 in 2004-05.

The extreme outside gate of 18 had threatened to hinder Jennifer Eccles in the Oaks on Saturday, but jockey Jason Waddell brought her across into a dream position, midfield and one off the rail.

She came up behind a wall of tiring horses approaching the home turn and clipped a heel, but Waddell angled her out into clear air and she quickly balanced up and regained her momentum.

Jennifer Eccles swept to a clear lead in the straight, and despite tiring in the last 100 metres, she completed an easy and emphatic victory by a length and a half.

“It wasn’t pretty at the 500,” Waddell said. “She was going too well, and I had fillies stopping in front of me too soon. I was trying to move her out of the way and just caught a heel.

“I’ve ridden some good horses, and she’s right up at the very top. She gave me a great feeling when she sprinted to the lead. I knew she’d get tired, and she did, so I just looked after her in the last bit. She’s a super filly.”

Jennifer Eccles was a $5,000 purchase by syndicator Adrian Clark at the 2017 National Weanling, Broodmare & Mixed Bloodstock Sale. She has now won four of her 11 starts and $499,650 in stakes for the Challenge No.10 Syndicate, which headed to Trentham in huge numbers on Saturday.

“It’s wonderful for racing,” Ritchie said. “There’s a huge crowd of them here. It brings such great atmosphere and colour to the game.

“Jason Waddell is unbelievable. From gate 18, you wouldn’t believe he could get across to where he was by the time they went past the finish line for the first time.

“She’s a spectacular filly and has a great turn of foot. We had a few questions about the 2400 metres, especially after she raced quite aggressively in the Lowland last time, but she relaxed beautifully down the back straight today.

“After that win, I’m sure she’ll be right in the market for the ATC Oaks (2400m at Randwick on April 11). But we are well aware that she’s had a very busy year. We’ll enjoy this moment and get her home, and then I’ll talk to Adrian (Clark). We might make a decision towards the end of the week.

“It’s a quality bunch of fillies in New Zealand this year, with the likes of Two Illicit (NZ) (Jimmy Choux), Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel), Travelling Light (NZ) (El Roca), Loire (NZ) (Redoute's Choice) and Showbeel (NZ) (Savabeel), so to win that title in such a strong year is a tremendous achievement,” said Ritchie.

Loire (NZ) (Redoute’s Choice) finishes second on the Filly of the Year Series table with 22.5 points, while Showbeel (NZ) (Savabeel) is third with 13.5.

The Oaks produced some longshot placegetters. Last-start maiden winner Vancooga (NZ) (Proisir) defied $50 odds to storm home from second-last to run second, a landmark result for owner-breeder Gavin O’Dea, trainer Gavin Sharrock and jockey Holly Andrew.

Riverton filly Feel the Rush (NZ) (Proisir) also ran on strongly for third. She was a $4,000 purchase at the 2017 National Weanling, Broodmare & Mixed Bloodstock Sale.

Vendor Westend Partnership
Purchaser Adrian Clark Bloodstock Consultancy (Hamilton)
Breeding Rip Van Winkle – Platinum Elle
Sale Lot 221, 2017 National Weanling, Broodmare & Mixed Bloodstock, $5,000
Bred by Westend Partnership

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