By Ray Hickson
It’s not often Chris Waller is relegated to the background on a Group 1 day and after missing out on the Golden Slipper day spoils the champion trainer is favoured to train a Group 1 double at Rosehill on Saturday.
Waller’s exciting filly Funstar is an odds-on favourite with TAB to give him back-to-back Group 1 $500,000 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) while Verry Elleegant, who won the Vinery last year, holds top spot in the Group 1 $1.5m Kia Tancred Stakes (2400m).
There’ll be plenty of interest in the fifth clash between Funstar and Kiwi filly Probabeel, with the score 3-1 in Funstar’s favour, and Waller seems to have an air of confidence about improving the scoreline.
“She just has natural ability,’’ Waller said of Funstar.
“She’s by Adelaide, she is a sister to Youngstar who won an Oaks so she should improve over 2000m on her breeding.’’
And it also seems Waller is looking forward to the continuing rivalry between the two fillies saying such clashes need to be championed more.
It’s an unusual line from the trainer who, aside from Winx, is normally conservative when talking about his pre-race chances.
“When you’ve got two good fillies like that, it’s a good spectacle,” he said.
“I’m surprised it’s not promoted more earlier in horse’s careers.
“(Probabeel) is a very talented horse. We will have to be on top of our game again and we certainly will be.”
When they clashed in the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) two weeks ago, Funstar led all the way while Probabeel was forced to give away a start as she settled last.
With Opie Bosson suspended, Kerrin McEvoy has his chance to exact revenge so long as the track is closer to good than heavy and he’d have to consider himself a shot given Probabeel clocked the fastest last 600m of 36.05 (Punter’s Intelligence) in the Phar Lap, three lengths quicker than Funstar.
Waller doesn’t have a lone hand in the Vinery with the talented Subpeonaed and Nudge given their chance in the Group 1.
Subpoenaed was beaten half a length in the Group 3 Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) two weeks ago but Waller said, even though her work is cut out against ther two star fillies, she’ll have every chance to be in the finish from barrier five.
“Her last couple of runs she has just had bad draws,’’ he said.
“She doesn’t have to go back to last but she has been going back to last and spotting the leaders big starts. But it’s hard to be running horses against Funstar. She is very good.”
Verry Elleegant is on the back up in the Tancred after coming off second best in that titanic struggle with UK galloper Addeybb in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) last Saturday.
The mare, $2.00 favourite with TAB on Thursday, has only backed up within a week once in her career at that was at three when tackled the Wakeful and Victorian Oaks in the spring of 2018 but she’s a different horse under Waller’s care.
Waller said he’s been keen to try Verry Elleegant over 2400m again and took his hat off to Tom Marquand, on Addeybb, for bringing her undone in the Ranvet.
Funstar wins the Phar Lap Stakes at Rosehill on March 14
“She had a very tough run (on Saturday) and I think Tommy Marquand did a fantastic job, as simple as that,’’ he said.
“He took off knowing we’d be vulnerable late and he was right.
“I knew if it was a sit and sprint from the turn we wouldn’t be beaten, and I was almost right. They took off from the 600m.”
Of course the only time Verry Elleegant attempted 2400m under Waller’s care she ran away with the Australian Oaks last year and the trainer believes she’s a better hose at this time of year.
“She is certainly better and her form would say that,’’ he said.
“The tracks are a bit more forgiving at this time of year. I was only looking at the track (Saturday) morning and the track was wet through from an overnight due, you don’t get that in the spring.
“There is only a six hour window of drying and then the dew sets in again and they just don’t dry out.
“Some horses probably look better because of that, let alone their seasonal and hormonal issues. But she is also a lot stronger than she was last spring.”