Rags-to-riches filly Imelda Mary will be out to continue her rich vein of form when she contests the Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on Wednesday.
The Wayne Hillis-trained filly has proved a revelation this term, winning three of her past four starts including a dominant last-start victory in the Gr.2 Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa.
The Matamata trainer is pleased with the condition of the three-year-old filly he purchased for just $3,500 as a yearling and subsequently named after his elderly mother.
“There has been a bit of improvement in her since her win at Te Rapa but we have just been maintaining her really,” Hillis said.
“She’s up and fit and racing keeps ticking her over.
“She is quite a tough filly. She has been to Christchurch and back for the Guineas and she had a little break after that but only a couple of weeks.”
The daughter of Ferlax, whom Hillis shares in the ownership with family friends Chris Delamore and Ross Robertson, has been racing since August.
The improving filly broke her maiden at Matamata in December at her 12th career start after six starts as a two-year-old, including a down-the-track performance in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).
“We paddock train as soon as the weather is alright, so around the beginning of November right through till around the end of April, so they have plenty of time to relax,” Hillis said.
“She always gave me the impression she would come up as a three-year-old.
“I thought she was a three-year-old more than anything and I wasn’t going to run her in the Karaka Million 2YO but I wanted to give her a few runs for education. As we got closer to the race we thought she was going to make the field, so we thought we may as well have a go given the prizemoney.
“I have always been waiting for her to get up in distance because I thought she might show something but I didn’t know she was going to be this good.”
Hillis said Imelda Mary would likely be ridden forward of mid-field from barrier seven tomorrow.
“At anything less than a mile she had no early speed to take a position and it has only been in her two distance races that she has got a bit handier,” he said.
“She shouldn’t end up too far back from seven but if she does end up back in the race she can come on from there.”
Safely through the Lowland, Hillis said Imelda Mary would contest the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 16, although that would not necessarily be her season finale.
“She is nominated for the Australian Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m) and all going well we will press on to there and that will be her final.
“We will just go race by race to see how she is handling it.
“It is only four weeks after the New Zealand Oaks so she wouldn’t need a run in between.”
Hillis said Imelda Mary rated up with the better three-year-old fillies he had trained.
“Final Destination won a couple of Group Ones including the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas and this one isn’t far behind her, while Boulevard of Dreams and Kainui Belle were also pretty good,” he said.
Hillis said he was getting great pleasure out of seeing the filly named after his mother, Imelda, footing it with the country’s best three-year-olds.
“She’s getting on and has got dementia now so I thought I would name a horse after my mother and it is just fate that she has turned out good,” he said.
“Dad trained and racing is all we did when I was born, so she has been in racing herself all her life and this is giving her a real kick along.” – NZ Racing Desk