Lasqueti Spirit scores stunning upset in Group 1 staying classic at Flemington

Nov 03, 2016

Ray Thomas, The Daily Telegraph

LASQUETI Spirit did her very best Might And Power impersonation to score a stunning Victoria Oaks upset at Flemington on Thursday.

Sydney’s leading jockey Brenton Avdulla produced a ride for the ages on $101 outsider Lasqueti Spirit who ran her rivals ragged in the Group 1 $1 million fillies’ classic.

Lasqueti Spirit, a maiden after nine starts going into the Oaks, went straight to the front, set a solid tempo, spread the field right out, turned the 2500m into a real stamina test — and just kept going.

There were emotional scenes after the race as trainer Lee Curtis won his first Group 1 race since Mistegic’s 2002 The Galaxy, Avdulla won his first major at a Flemington Cup Carnival, and the filly’s owners, including Curtis’s wife, Cherie, and long-time stable clients Frank Cook, Bronko Djura and Mick Fenech tried to comprehend what had just happened.

Perhaps Curtis summed it up best when he revealed the novel riding instructions he gave Avdulla before legging him aboard Lasqueti Spirit for the Oaks.

“We had nothing to lose,’’ Curtis said. “So, I said go to the front and let her roll — if we pull this off we are geniuses, if we don’t who cares, she was $101.’’

Lasqueti Spirit revived memories of champion stayer Might And Power’s famous front-running deeds when she maintained a solid tempo from start to finish and her chasing rivals simply never got near her. She won by almost four lengths form Harlow Gold ($7) with Eleonora ($9) one-and-a-half lengths away third.

Hot favourite Yankee Rose ($1.95) settled at the rear of the field early but never got into the race, finishing second last in the 15-horse field and more than 20 lengths from the winner.

Lasqueti Spirit was so far in front of her rivals half-way down the straight that Avdulla could afford to savour the moment, rising high in the irons 50m from the finish and bowing twice to the 60,888 fans in the Flemington grandstand.

This indiscretion cost Avdulla a $1000 fine but it mattered little. His ride will be remembered as one of the great Oaks-winning efforts. Avdulla said he understood Lasqueti Spirit’s best chance of winning was to turn the Oaks into a true staying test.

“She is very one-paced and we thought if we could lead and run along, she would run well and maybe she might run top eight,’’ Avdulla said.

“But I was surprised how well she was travelling mid-race, she got into a lovely, flowing rhythm, then at about the 1000m I cranked her up. She was at her top at the 700m and I sneaked a peak at the 300m and we were still five lengths in front.

“I thought we have to stop but then I heard (course broadcaster) Greg Miles say, ‘But she is still five in front!’ The emotion started to charge through me then, it is an incredible thrill.’’

Curtis, who’s only previous Group 1 winner was Mistegic in the 2002 The Galaxy, revealed he purchased Lasquesti Spirit for $160,000 at the Magic Millions Yearling Stales last year.

“One of her owners, Frank Cook, asked me to buy him a Golden Slipper winner — instead his filly ends up winning the Oaks,’’ Curtis said. “When we found out she couldn’t sprint, I thought we better hope she can stay or we will be in trouble. Well, she stays alright.

Watch her final 300m here -

https://youtu.be/McAbhxZjkQE