Imperatriz makes triumphant return in Lightning

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  • February 19, 2024
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An unimpressive trial created a touch of uncertainty around Imperatriz ahead of her first-up run in Saturday’s A$1 million Gr.1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington, but the Te Akau Racing wonder-mare blew all those doubts away and carried on her winning way.

The Lightning was the sixth major Melbourne sprint win in succession for Imperatriz, who won the Gr.1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley last March and then put together a perfect spring campaign with victories in the Gr.2 McEwen Stakes (1000m), Gr.1 Moir Stakes (1000m), Gr.1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) and Gr.1 Champions Sprint (1200m).

The Lightning was the 18th win overall in a 24-start career for the extraordinary galloper, who has won nine times at Group One level between 1000m and 1600m. The daughter of I Am Invincible was bought by David Ellis for A$360,000 as a yearling on the Gold Coast in 2020, and she has now banked more than A$5.9 million for the Te Akau Empress Syndicate.

Those achievements have ensured that the class of the five-year-old could never be in doubt, but a fifth placing in an 800m trial at Cranbourne on February 5 had some questioning whether she was at the peak of her powers as she prepared to launch a new campaign in the Lightning. Her performance on Saturday provided an emphatic response.

Ridden positively by Opie Bosson, Imperatriz went forward and took up a position at the head of the field. She was joined by the A$10 million earner Private Eye, and the pair matched motors most of the way along Flemington’s famous Straight Six.

There was a moment in the straight where Private Eye appeared to be going the better of the pair, but Bosson went to work on Imperatriz and she lifted and edged ahead. She reached the finish line a head in front of Private Eye, clocking 57.54 seconds for the 1000m.

“She was always travelling beautifully,” Bosson said. “The other horse was creeping up and creeping up, but once I went for her, she found that kick that she always has.

“There was a bit of pressure today because of that trial, but Mark (Walker, trainer) has been over here and he told me she’s 100 percent. When he says that, he’s usually right.”

Walker has fielded plenty of questions about that Cranbourne trial over the last fortnight, and he was pleased that Imperatriz did the talking with her performance on Saturday.

“It is a relief,” he said. “Good horses probably save their best for raceday. It was a lacklustre trial, it really was, but we were very happy with the mare when we galloped her on Monday.

“It was just a gun ride by Opie today. It was a tactical affair and he used the initiative.

“This mare is just a gem, really, to do what she did in the spring and then come back and win like that first-up.

“Full credit to the second horse. He’s a really good horse and he stuck it to her today. I think you saw two really good horses fighting out an exciting finish.”

Bred by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Farm, Imperatriz is another nod to the success of the breeding operation, which was managed by Bruce Sherwin since it was established in 2008 and in addition to Imperatriz has produced the likes of Group One winners Glint Of Hope, More Than Sacred and First Seal.

Economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm, on the outskirts of Cambridge, was sold in 2022, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.

Imperatriz is by leading Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group Two-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016. – NZ Racing Desk.

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