Bargain buy Imelda Mary added a second Group Two victory to her burgeoning record when she downed her three-year-old female rivals in the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa.
Trainer Wayne Hillis paid just $3,500 for Imelda Mary when purchasing her from the Haunui Farm draft at the 2017 National Yearling Sale. Saturday’s victory took her career earnings past the $168,000 mark as she posted her third win from 15 starts, a record that includes success in the Gr.2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s day.
Given the run of the race by rider Cameron Lammas, the Ferlax filly travelled up sweetly throughout before issuing her challenge on the home bend. Sent to the front by Lammas, Imelda Mary kept up a powerful gallop to hold out the late challenge of Awapuni visitor Sentimental Miss with race favourite Queen Of Diamonds close up in third.
Hillis was delighted with the ride by Lammas after his charge received the perfect run in transit from an inside barrier draw.
“She was exactly where I wanted her to be,” he said.
“She hit the lead as they straightened and had to fight them off all the way up the straight, so it was very brave.”
Hillis, who named the filly after his mother, will now seek Group One glory in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400) at Trentham on March 16, with Imelda Mary indicating the step up in distance will be to her liking.
“She has always looked like distance will be her go,” he said.
“She was going to go to the Sunline Vase (Gr.3 2100m) but I think I will go to the Lowland Stakes (Gr.2 2100m) and then down to the Oaks.
“Mum is getting a real kick out of it, age is getting the better of her, but it’s great that it is all happening while she is here.
“It’s a fairy-tale.”
Imelda Mary became the third Haunui Farm graduate in the past decade to take out today’s Group Two fillies feature, joining Fix (2013) and Vavasour (2015) on the honours board for the race.
TAB bookmakers reacted swiftly to the victory as they installed Imelda Mary as the $7 favourite on the New Zealand Oaks Fixed Odds market with Sentimental Miss, Queen Of Diamonds and Elate sharing the second line of betting at $10. – NZ Racing Desk