The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Aretha upset the applecart when she produced a dogged finish to score at outside odds ($15) in the Gr.2 J Swap Contractors Ltd Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.
The Charm Spirit filly never left the rail throughout as she out-finished pacemaker Rainbow Dash after the pair set down to a titanic battle over the closing 300m. Local filly Aalaalune produced an eye-catching finish from near last to snatch third with Bella Mente clinging on gamely for fourth.
It was Aretha’s first career win at just her second start and the first Southern Hemisphere victory for Windsor Park Stud shuttle stallion, Charm Spirit. The daughter of un-raced Stravinsky mare, Tsikory, had finished third in her debut performance behind Aotea Lad in the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes at Trentham back in January.
Co-trainer Andrew Forsman was quick to pay tribute to rider Jonathan Riddell who had executed their pre-race plan to perfection.
“She’s very brave,” Forsman said.
“Jonathan and I had a think about it and we knew she was going to be on the rail.
“We took the punt as we knew he could have angled off and come out three-wide, but we decided to stick to the fence and rail up, as she does like that style of racing.
“I think he rode her a treat, stuck to the plan and it came off.
“Earlier in the day it looked like barrier one was going to be a bit of a disaster, but as the racing has played out, with no rain on the day I don’t think the rail is too bad.
“It just gave us that nice easy run.”
Forsman acknowledged that after her fine debut performance the main target had become today’s feature contest.
“She did that all on ability that day,” he said.
“She got a stakes placing behind her, had a freshen up and this was always the target.
“She came off a little bit of a short run as it hasn’t been that easy to get her here, but the team at home have done a brilliant job to manage her through.”
Forsman wasn’t looking too far ahead with the filly, preferring to acknowledge how much the victory would lift her value once she finished her racing career.
“We will see how she comes through it,” he said.
“You never know with two-year-olds as they are pretty fickle, so you just go race by race.
“More importantly, she is a Group Two winner and that is massive for Greg (McCarthy).”
Aretha is raced by her breeder Greg McCarthy and hails from an extended family that includes champion mare Horlicks, who won 17 races in a brilliant career that saw her become the only New Zealand-bred horse to win the prestigious Gr.1 Japan Cup (2400m) when successful in the 1989 edition of the event. – NZ Racing Desk