Fun times ahead for Waller’s flying filly
FUNSTAR, the filly trainer Chris Waller identified at the start of the season as a horse to watch, emerged as the one to beat in the Flight Stakes after her thrilling win at Royal Randwick.
In an exciting finish, Funstar edged clear of Probabeel and hot favourite Libertini to win the Group 2 $200,000 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m).
With the spring program of Libertini now up in the air following her upset loss, the connections of Funstar and Probabeel can look forward with certainty to a return clash in the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1600m) on Epsom Day in two weeks.
Waller is adamant Funstar, a daughter of 2014 Cox Plate winner Adelaide and a half-sister to Oaks winner Youngstar, will only improve as she gets out in race distance.
"Funstar has a strong finish to her races,'' Waller said.
"I've thought all along she has all the right attributes to be a decent horse. When she gets over a little bit further she will be even better. The mile of the Flight Stakes will suit her. I hope things work out and she continues to improve."
WHAT A FINISH! In a three-horse war to the line, Funstar for @cwallerracing @mcacajamez wins the Darley Tea Rose Stakes @royalrandwick with hot favourite Libertini relegated to third... pic.twitter.com/D8JJWJ5DsP— TAB (@tabcomau) September 21, 2019
Funstar ($3.80), the only filly backed to beat the favourite, was ridden by James McDonald to score by a nose in a tight three-way finish. Probabeel ($17) came from off speed to close fast for an eye-catching second while on the rail Libertini ($1.85) was a nose away third.
McDonald said Funstar did a lot wrong during the race but showed her class to score a narrow win.
"The speed was against us through the middle stages, they pulled back to a walk, she got over-racing and I was just lucky that I was on a very, very good filly,'' McDonald said.
"She is a filly going places. If we can ride her back from a stronger tempo we will see the result. I was surprised at the lack of tempo and I was more surprised that she still won because she wasn't entitled to."
Waller told everyone prepared to listen some weeks ago that Funstar was the horse that really excited him for the new season.
"She is a really talented horse,'' Waller said. "She is one you can work well with and that always shines out to the trainer when trying to identify a good horse. It's a pleasure working with horses like her."
The Tea Rose Stakes is the invariably the best lead-up race into the Flight Stakes, with 15 fillies completing the double, including most recently First Seal (2014) and Alizee (2017).
Kerrin McEvoy, rider of Probabeel, wasn't about to concede the Flight Stakes to Funstar after his filly took ground off the winner late in the race.
"It was a really good run, a good last furlong,'' McEvoy said. "Obviously another two or three hops and she gets them.
"She goes out to the mile now for the Flight Stakes and it's going to be a great race for her."
Anthony Cummings, the trainer of Libertini, revealed it would not be his preferred option to stretch his filly out to 1600m for the Flight Stakes in two weeks.
"I just think the other two (Funstar, Probabeel) are going to be much better at 1600m than LIbertini,'' Cummings said.
"Coming into today, our options were the Flight Stakes, The Everest which is the least likely, the Coolmore (Stud Stakes) sits there or the (spelling) paddock. We will make that decision in the next few days.''
Jockey Tommy Berry praised Libertini's determination but also doubted the filly's effectiveness if asked to stretch out over further.
"She was beaten at the 100m, maybe even a bit early than that, and I thought James (McDonald) was going to go straight past us,'' Berry said.
"But she kept trying, you won't find too many horses that try as hard as she does. I feel she is probably at her best over 1200m but that is a decision for the trainer.''
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