By Ray Hickson
“I think she can’’.
Those four words from premier jockey James McDonald are a vote of confidence in Australian Oaks winner Verry Elleegant’s prospects of being a major player in the spring.
It’s a comment most would expect McDonald to make but his reasoning is that trainer Chris Waller’s work with her this year has transformed her from a raw talent whose racing antics were problematic into a more rounded competitor.
We’ll see the first evidence of that in her second preparation with Waller when she returns in a strong renewal of the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
McDonald realises the transition into open company for the previous season’s top three-year-olds isn’t always an easy one.
“She still has to improve, don’t get me wrong, but she did everything right in the autumn and she just has to improve a little bit more and she will be competitive in some big races,’’ he said.
“Seven furlongs might be a bit short, she’s definitely a staying type of mare and will improve a lot out of her first-up performance.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing her back.’’
Verry Elleegant is a $4 chance with TAB in the Winx Stakes and her only defeat under Waller’s care came first-up in the autumn at 1400m.
McDonald said her two trials this time in have been perfect though he hasn’t asked her for anything serious.
He suspects she could be a little vulnerable first-up but at the same time says she feels like she’s ready to explode.
“She’s a box of birds at the moment. She’s buzzing around there, in fine fettle,’’ he said.
“She’ll settle in her races for sure, her work and trials suggest that. I can’t wait to get out there.’’
Chris Waller has said the mare will have a 'Winx 2015' spring preparation which means she'll be sparingly raced with the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) her likely Sydney spring goal. She's currently $8 in TAB's early Epsom market.
Verry Elleegant is one of four runners for the Waller stable in the Winx Stakes, the others being Group 1 winners Unforgotten and Youngstar and comeback galloper Kings Will Dream who hasn’t raced since failing to finish in Winx’s last Cox Plate.
Verry Elleegant's latest trial at Rosehill on August 6
After taking Youngstar for a spin during last Saturday’s exhibition gallops, where Unforgotten and Kings Will Dream also had public hitouts, jockey Tommy Berry expects the five-year-old to produce a typical stayer’s first-up run.
“She’s going to have to go back and give some good horses a start over a distance that doesn’t suit,’’ he said.
“I reckon she will run well, she definitely won’t disgrace herself, I couldn’t see her running in the first three but she will be getting home late.’’
Youngstar is the outsider of the Waller quartet at $34 with TAB, Unforgotten is an $11 chance and Kings Will Dream at $12.