Nechita could be this year’s star of the spring
We are heading to the time of year when good horses become champions and champions become legends, and on Saturday at Warwick Farm, an inexperienced three-year old filly took her first step on the journey to stardom.
That filly is Nechita. Her seven-letter name may not be the only thing she has in common with champions of the past – Carbine, Phar Lap, Tulloch, Dulcify and Gunsynd – and that’s because she can run.
To make any comparison with the aforementioned five after a horse has only had two starts is probably ridiculous but, more realistically, Nechita could be the horse to fill the gap left by injured female stars Black Caviar and Atlantic Jewel this spring.
Before Saturday, Nechita’s only start came in a six-horse field at the end of last season against listed and restricted grade juveniles at Warwick Farm over 1100 metres. On that occasion the John Thompson-trained and Nathan Tinkler-owned filly was awesome, disposing of her opponents in the vein of a seriously good horse.
So when I headed out to the Farm on Saturday, I was very much looking forward to seeing Nechita take to the track for the second time. In the Group Three Silver Shadow Stakes over 1200 metres she met a crack line-up of three-year old fillies.
In a nine-horse field, the top six had won Stakes-grade races at least once in their two-year old campaign and one other had been relatively competitive with the likes of Pierro (Triple Crown winner) and Samaready (Blue Diamond winner).
Prior to the race, I was confident Nechita’s class could carry her to victory but the manner in which she destroyed her much-better credentialed rivals was something else.
Nechita began brilliantly before allowing jockey Christian Reith to settle her backward of midfield – showcasing the tractability a good horse needs. From the 600 metre mark, she carried herself into the race before Ichihara shot three lengths clear at the top of the home straight.
But probably two seconds after Reith asked Nechita for her effort the race was over. She rounded up her speedy counterpart in three strides and sprinted clear to win by just under two lengths from Meidung – who has her first Stakes victory in sight – and Champagne Stakes runner-up Dear Demi.
Nechita’s win was brilliant. She broke the race record held by Skating for 20 years. Skating won the 1993 Doncaster Handicap and her mark on Australian racing is further entrenched because she is the mother of the well-named Bradbury’s Luck, who won the 2005 Magic Millions on the Gold Coast.
I’ve been privileged to see some very good performances at Warwick Farm over the last 15 years – the likes of Octagonal, Tie The Knot and Lonhro quickly spring to mind – but Nechita’s win on Saturday ranks pretty highly.
It reminded so much of Samantha Miss’s victory in that same race in 2008. Positioned in a very similar spot in the Warwick Farm grandstand to where I was on Saturday, I remember Samantha Miss bursting through a needle-eye opening at the furlong pole to win the Silver Shadow by a nose from the perennial-place-getter Glowlamp.
The impression I got from Samantha Miss that day was very similar to the one I took away from Nechita’s performance on Saturday.
Samantha Miss went on to win the other three legs of the Princess Series – the Furious Stakes (Group Two, 1400 metres), Tea Rose (Group Two, 1500 metres) and Flight Stakes (Group One, 1600 metres).
The Novocastrian filly then went to Melbourne for the Cox Plate where she finished third behind Maldivian before waltzing away with the VRC Oaks – the only time jockey Hugh Bowman was, “100 per cent sure” of victory prior to a race.
Nechita was expected to follow Samantha Miss’ Princess route but her dominance was so profound on Saturday that Thompson and Tinkler are now pondering whether to take on Tinkler’s other star, All Too Hard, in the $1m Golden Rose (Group One, 1400 metres) on September 15 at Rosehill Gardens.
The mining magnate’s highly-publicised financial issues could determine Nechita’s path. If All Too Hard was to win the Golden Rose, the stud career for the half-brother to Black Caviar would be secure. But is All Too Hard – the vanquished at his latest two starts – a sure thing?
On Saturday All Too Hard will resume his rivalry with the undefeated Pierro in the Run to the Rose Stakes at Rosehill. And after inspecting Pierro prior to an exhibition gallop on Saturday, I’d say he’s strengthened up considerably since the autumn.
He could well win whatever he enters this spring and at this stage that’s likely to be the Run to the Rose Stakes (1200 metres), Bill Stutt (1600 metres, Moonee Valley), Caulfield Guineas (1600 metres) and Cox Plate (2040 metres, Moonee Valley).
In the lead-up to Saturday, Thompson was taken by the brilliance of Nechita, so much so that he expressed concern about her ability to extend to the riches of the mile and beyond.
But in exciting news for racing fans, Nechita’s breeding indicates more distance will not be a problem.
Nechita shares the same sire as Atlantic Jewel – Fastnet Rock who, incidentally, also shot to prominence on Warwick Stakes Day, in 2004, when winning the Up and Coming Stakes by three lengths.
And in another similarity to AJ, and also Pierro, Nechita’s staying blood enters on the mother’s side of the family.
Artistique is the dam of Nechita and she won up to 1800 metres in Sydney. Her father, Peintre Celebre was a champion European galloper, victorious in the 1997 French Derby (2100 metres), Grand Prix de Paris (2400 metres) and Arc de Triomphe (2400 metres).
Peintre Celebre’s win in the Arc is arguably the greatest ever in the race. He beat the track record by over 3.4 seconds (about 20 lengths), demolishing his rivals by five.
Nechita has had one sibling to race – Art Thou Ready, who is a multiple 1400-metre winner and runner-up in the 1600 metre Grafton Guineas in July.
There’s no reason why Nechita can’t extend her speed to longer distances. In fact, in a year where some of the better horses have succumbed to injury, I don’t think a Cox Plate tilt is too far-fetched.
Three-year old fillies have a shocking record in the Cox Plate with Surround’s victory in 1976 the only one. But Nechita is pretty special and she’s about to take the spring by storm.