All go for Legarto for Melbourne

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  • February 28, 2023
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Fresh from a top-level victory last weekend, Ken and Bev Kelso are looking forward to the challenge of another in Melbourne.

The Kelsos’ outstanding three-year-old filly Legarto gets on the plane to Melbourne this week, her target the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington.

Ken Kelso missed watching his star older mare Levante win the Gr.1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m) at Otaki on Saturday, instead staying at home to oversee Legarto gallop between races at Matamata in preparation for her Australian sojourn.

“She galloped on Saturday, and I’m very happy with her,” Kelso said. “She flies out in the early hours of Wednesday morning and we’ve confirmed Michael Dee will be riding her.”

Legarto has had an outstanding career to date, winning the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in November and the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day.

She suffered her only defeat when getting no luck in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) last month, and Kelso said she deserved a crack at Australia.

“It’s a bit of the unknown. You’re going over there, taking on their very best, and until you’ve been there you don’t really know how you stack up, but we’re happy to give it a crack,” Kelso said.

“She’s got her Group One here, we don’t really need to have a go at another Group One here, so we’ll have a crack at Aussie and see if we can enhance her value by getting some black-type in Australia.”

As of Monday Legarto was the $7 second-favourite for the Australian Guineas behind star colt Jacquinot.

Kelso said there was a good chance the Australian Guineas would be Legarto’s last run for the season and she wouldn’t go to Sydney, but that it wasn’t certain.

“She’s had a big season, she’s flown to Christchurch, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

“Things happen, things change, it’s not all black and white. At this stage she’s going to Australia, we’ll see what happens after that, but it will probably be one run and home after that.”

Meanwhile, Kelso confirmed after a meeting with Levante’s ownership team she would head to Sydney for a probable two-race campaign.

The WFA Classic victory was Levante’s first Group One victory at a mile, and Kelso said he was likely to stick to around that distance for the remainder of the season.

“I’ve always thought she’d get a mile, it’s just that she’s never been up to that distance since two years ago,” he said.

“I’ve thought she may even get a bit further, actually, but we’re running out of time to try that.”

Kelso ruled out the Gr.1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) for fillies and mares at Rosehill on March 11, saying she would instead run next in the weight-for-age Gr.1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill the following weekend.

After that, she would contest either the Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 1 or the Gr.1 Queen of the Turf (1600m) for fillies and mares at Randwick on April 8.

“The Coolmore is too soon, and it’s a Quality handicap so she would probably have to carry plenty of weight. The Ryder is a better option,” Kelso said.

“She’s been given 53.5kg for the Doncaster, which makes that an option, but we’ll make the decision on whether she runs in that or the Queen of the Turf after the Ryder. It will depend on how she goes in the Ryder and the weather.”

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