Chris Waller’s ‘amazing horse’ ready to go for Queen Elizabeth showdown

The sunrise was spectacular, the sky with various shades of orange, pink, red and purple, as it shined some light on Verry Elleegant as she strutted her stuff at early morning trackwork.

This was the mare’s final serious gallop ahead of the $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick tomorrow.

These Thursday morning pre-race media calls at Rosehill trackwork were once a regular occurrence for Verry Elleegant’s trainer Chris Waller when his all-time great mare Winx was dominating Australian racing.

It was two years ago this week when Winx ran her last race, scoring her 33rd consecutive win in the $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes before more than 43,000 fans at Royal Randwick.

Winx retired, then there was a global pandemic, and those media calls were a thing of the past – until yesterday.

Verry Elleegant, Waller’s latest superstar mare, is no Winx but she is doing a good job of filling the void.

It says a lot about how far Verry Elleegant has come this season that she is now commanding her own media call.

“Verry Elleegant is an amazing horse,’’ Waller said.

“Because she has been racing over so many seasons now, she did it (Group 1 winner) as a three-year-old, four-year-old and now as a five-year-old, I certainly have a soft spot for her and she is creating her own following.’’

The clock ticks over 6am as Verry Elleegant goes through her paces under James McDonald. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Where Winx would toy with her opposition and often win by big margins, Verry Elleegant has to fight hard to beat her rivals. She is racing’s “blue-collar champ”, earning the admiration and respect of punters because of her sheer determination and fierce will-to-win.

“Verry Elleegant showed those fighting qualities earlier this campaign in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick over the mile when she looked beaten in the straight,’’ Waller said.

“Wow, how she fought that day! Then last start (Ranvet Stakes) to turn the tables on Addeybb – she is getting a lot of recognition for that.’’

Waller was speaking on the eve of Verry Elleegant’s much anticipated rematch with Addeybb in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Addeybb has a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head clashes with Verry Elleegant but the mare’s last start defeat of the English raider in the Ranvet Stakes is enough to ensure she will start favourite for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes tomorrow.

“Their rivalry is fantastic for racing,’’ Waller said.

“What we have seen over recent years with the likes of Winx and Black Caviar in particular the great horses do bring people to the track.

“There is an amazing vibe around the racecourses at the moment post-Covid and they are really enjoying racing.

“So, having the big names, Verry Elleegant and Addeybb, in the one race plus obviously Sir Dragonet and Mugatoo, that is what people want to watch.

“It is building towards a great Grand Final and we have a very talented horse in Verry Elleegant, she is the right horse to talk up.’’

Verry Elleegant goes to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes after successive Group 1 wins in the Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes.

Round 1️⃣:

Addeybb – 1 Verry Elleegant – 0

Round 2️⃣:

Addeybb – 2 Verry Elleegant – 0

Round 3️⃣:

Addeybb – 2 Verry Elleegant – 1

Who wins Round 4️⃣? 🥊 pic.twitter.com/nHJPZ6eSQT

She has now won five Group 1 races for the season after her spring carnival successes in the Winx Stakes, Turnbull Stakes and Caulfield Cup.

Verry Elleegant is in career-best form but still Waller has made a significant change to the mare’s autumn campaign to give her every opportunity to exact revenge for her second placing behind Addeybb in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year.

Waller admitted when Addeybb defeated Verry Elleegant in the Ranvet Stakes last year, he decided to back up with the mare in the Tancred Stakes over 2400m a week later.

“We thought we had better try and win some prizemoney and a Group 1 along the way so she went to the Tancred Stakes and duly won that,’’ he said.

“She then came back to run over 2000m for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes which wasn’t ideal. We released James McDonald (he rode third placegetter Danon Premium) as we didn’t think she would be as effective but she ran second to Addeybb.

“This year I thought we would keep some speed in her (legs) – that would be the key.

“She goes into the Queen Elizabeth with three weeks between runs and she had four weeks between runs into the Ranvet Stakes.

“I think that is close to perfect with her, she is ready to go.’’

Waller also believes Verry Elleegant is better equipped physically and mentally to take on Addeybb, Sir Dragonet, Mugatoo and others tomorrow.

Verry Elleegant is now a rising six-year-old mare, lining up for her 29th start having already won 13 races, eight at Group 1 level, earning more than $7.8 million prizemoney.

She was once considered erratic and headstrong, a difficult ride, and a dour stayer but this season she has been versatile enough to win at Group 1 level over 1400m at weight-for-age and over 2400m under handicap conditions.

“She was a supreme stayer but she is very versatile now,’’ Waller said.

“It is no surprise to me she has continued to get better as she has matured.

“She was a very lightly-framed filly but as an older, more mature mare, she has really strengthened up and has a thicker frame which has given her that power. As a result she is racing so consistently.’’

Addeybb won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year on a heavy track but the expected good track surface tomorrow is to Verry Elleegant’s advantage.

But the scratching of Samadoubt has taken some of the speed out of the race so Addeybb might be able to lead and dictate terms tomorrow.

Chris Waller speaks to the media at Rosehill trackwork. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“With Verry Elleegant, the beauty of her is she is very adaptable,’’ Waller said.

“She has run very quick times and won Group 1 races on good surfaces and she has won on very wet tracks, so it (track rating) certainly won’t worry her.

“I haven’t worried too much about the tactics of the race just yet but fortunately we have a good draw (barrier four).

“Last start, I was a little concerned when she drew barrier one in the Ranvet Stakes that she might get bottled up and have trouble getting out but she is a changed horse in my eyes, she settles well now.

“I expect there to be fair speed on and as we saw last start, she has a great turn of foot. She also has staying powers as well winning a Caulfield Cup with a pretty big weight for a mare so she can run a tough 2400m.

“Whether they go fast or slow we have the right horse to adapt to the conditions of the race.’’

A cloudless blue sky and blazing sun replaced the colourful hue over Rosehill racecourse as Waller ended the media call, content that he can’t have Verry Elleegant any better for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes where victory should be the sealer for Horse of the Year honours.

“Verry Elleegant has had a faultless preparation and she had a nice gallop this morning on the course proper without doing too much,’’ Waller said.

“To my eyes she has done enough already (to secure Horse of the Year) as she is a multiple Group 1 winner over all distances, weight-for-age and handicap conditions,

“But there is one race to go and it would be a big help if we could win it.’’

Originally published asTime to shine for Verry Elleegant at The Championships

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