History beckons for WA racing’s dream team after Graceful Girl’s Winterbottom Stakes win at Ascot
An unprecedented clean-sweep of Ascot’s three $1 million Group 1s is on the cards for WA racing’s dream team after Graceful Girl stormed home to win the Winterbottom Stakes on Saturday.
Champion jockey William Pike, leading owner Bob Peters and co-trainers Grant and Alana Williams are on the verge of history with Railway Stakes hero Western Empire an odds-on favourite to give them the Group 1 hat-trick in next week’s Kingston Town Classic.
Graceful Girl ($9) rocketed home from last in a phenomenal performance that delivered Peters his first Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) triumph since Petite Amour in 1994.
After settling at the tail of the field from barrier 16, the Nicconi mare unleashed a powerful burst down the outside to collar reigning Winterbottom winner Elite Street inside the 100m.
Pike had time to pose for a photo on the finishing post as Graceful Girl burst 2-3/4 lengths clear of Stageman ($26), who made it a quinella for Peters.
Elite Street, the $2.60 favourite, ran on from midfield to hit the front at the 200m but was swamped when third.
He bled from both nostrils and will be banned from racing for three months.
Wilchino, who was heavily backed into $2.80, led and faded badly to run last. The mare pulled up with a slightly elevated heart rate.
Pike, Peters and the Williams’ relished going into WA’s biggest sprint with the pressure off after Graceful Girl flew under the radar.
She had stamped her Winterbottom claims with an eye-catching second to Elite Street in the Colonel Reeves Stakes (1100m).
“I know they were running good sectionals (in front) but I had 15 horses to get past,” Pike said.
“If you said I could circle them and win in a canter, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“I suppose with the barrier expectations sort of came off a little bit, you definitely get to enjoy it a little bit more that way not being a red-hot favourite and I suppose in hindsight the barrier worked in our favour.”
Pike celebrated his third Winterbottom win after Ellicorsam (2004) and Hadabeclorka (2010).
Peters bred Graceful Girl from his mare Avenida Madero, who ran second to Miss Andretti in the 2005 Winterbottom.
“We won it years ago when it was a Group 2 so it’s nice to win it as a Group 1,” Peters said.
“I’d like to thank Colin Brown (Perth Racing chairman) for drawing out the barriers 15 (Stageman) and 18, because that worked out very well.
“We got home a couple of years ago with Enticing Star and could only get second.
“Then it was Celebrity Queen and she could only get second.”
Graceful Girl gave the Williams’ their first Winterbottom victory.
“It’s been one that we’ve been unlucky with in the past,” Grant Williams said.
“We’ve gone into it thinking we’ve had some chances and been disappointed, so it was actually great this week to have the pressure put on some of the other runners and we were able to enjoy it.”
Twelve-year-old marvel Rock Magic didn’t get the fairytale finale to his career that he deserved.
The Chris and Michael Gangemi-trained gelding was checked at the 200m and ran ninth at his final race start.
It was his sixth start in the Winterbottom and he finishes his incredible career with 16 wins from 63 starts and $1.7 million in prizemoney.
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