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'Niggle Free' Imperatriz At Peak For TJ Showdown

By Ray Hickson

There’s a consensus between trainer Mark Walker and jockey Opie Bosson as to why star mare Imperatriz has been able to climb to the top of the sprinting ranks in the past 12 months.

And it’s a simple reason. She’s, as they both put it, “niggle free’’.

Bosson says it’s been evident in the past year as she’s taken her Group 1 tally to 10 and has only been beaten once since her lone Sydney start back in March 2023.

“She’s hardly missed a beat since then, she’s got a pretty good record,’’ Bosson said.

“I just think she’s niggle-free. She’s always had a lot of issues with her back but she’s overcome a lot of them with maturity and she’s got a bit stronger.

“She always puts in. The last two preparations have been pretty much faultless.”

The clash between Imperatriz and defending champion I Wish I Win in the Group 1 $3m James Squire TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) is set to be a highlight of Day 1 of The Star Championships at Randwick.

Since Imperatriz was run down by Artorious in last year’s Canterbury Stakes her only defeat came under top weight in the Newmarket Handicap a month ago where she conceded 6.5kg to the winner Cylinder.

But she was back on top taking out the Group 1 William Reid Stakes two weeks ago where Bosson said the narrow win was better than it looked.

“She won quite easily really. I did make quite a long run from about the 600m, she seems to wait a little bit when she hits the front and she heard the other horse coming and had a bit left there,’’ he said.

“She’s got the form on the board. People are worried about the Sydney way around but I’m not too worried about that, she’s won that way around before back home.

“My biggest query is if we get too much rain but she has won on a heavy track.”

Trainer Mark Walker pointed to a race called the Foxbridge Plate, back in August 2022, as proof she’s adept in wet ground. It was a heavy 10 that day at Te Rapa and she won the Group 2 by almost six lengths.

He said the TJ Smith has always been planned to be her grand final for the autumn and arrives at the race at the top of her game, as is displayed in her form.

She was $3.10 favourite with TAB on Wednesday, with I Wish I Win a $4 chance.

“This will be a peak run for her and (those runs) should hold her in good stead. The TJ was always going to be her peak run,’’ he said.

“We could have come up for the Canterbury Stakes and gone back for the William Reid but we didn’t want to travel her twice.

“We were awfully close in the Newmarket and just beaten by a good three-year-old with a light weight and in the right part of the track.

“In any Group 1 race in Australia you have to respect the opposition, they don’t give them away.”

Walker said after the TJ he’ll discuss with the Te Akau team about spring plans and whether they’ll focus on the $20 million TAB Everest.

The five-year-old is the current 2024 Everest favourite at $4.50.

All the fields, form and replays for Day 1 of The Star Championships at Randwick

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