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Friday, 18 January, 2019

You beaut! Aussie juvenile to break new ground at Royal Ascot after trial blitz

Starspangledbanner filly Luck Favours on course for the Queen Mary

Luck Favours: the Starspangledbanner filly has run in three barrier trials
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Royal Ascot looks set to welcome its first Australian-trained two-year-old after potential pathfinder Luck Favours slammed her rivals in a barrier trial at Werribee on Monday.

Australian runners – and winners – are nothing new at the royal meeting, but never before has the nation been represented by a juvenile, although US trainer Wesley Ward has shown how to do it from overseas with six two-year-old scorers.

The Mark Young-trained Luck Favours is set to go for the Queen Mary Stakes after having three and a half lengths in hand of her closest rival in Monday's four-furlong barrier trial. She clocked a time of 49.71 seconds – only around 0.2 seconds slower than star sprinter Redkirk Warrior, who had won a trial earlier at Werribee.

Although Luck Favours – bred to northern hemisphere time and born in February 2016 – will appear as unraced on Royal Ascot racecards, she has competed in three barrier trials and had earlier finished fifth and third at Cranbourne.

The filly's owner-breeder Anthony Mithen – who has masterminded the plot, first reported in the Racing Post last month – said: “She'd done nothing wrong so far but she had to do something to convince us to make the trip, and her last trial left us wondering, so we made the decision to trial a third time to answer our questions rather than go halfway around the world to find out.

“It was absolutely the right call, as we can see now she's got the speed and was only just behind Redkirk Warrior's time. She's only a baby but she's given us every reason to press on and get on the plane, and see how she settles into life in Britain. If she eats up and all's well, it's a case of why not go to Ascot.

“She's shown the talent we knew was underlying and hopefully I don't look quite as foolish now.”

Luck Favours is now set to join Redkirk Warrior on the plane to Britain on June 6, with her temporary home under consideration. Mithen said Martyn Meade had offered to host her at Manton.

Redkirk Warrior rounds off Ascot prep in style as trainer eyes Merchant Navy rematch

“I've spoken to Martyn, who's opened his stable door, and we have some options in Newmarket,” he said. “I'm taking advice from Peter Moody, who travelled to Ascot with Black Caviar, Magnus and Hinchinbrook, so I'll defer to his better judgement.”

Relive Black Caviar's heartstopping Royal Ascot win

Mithen, a sports broadcaster who owns Rosemont Stud near Melbourne, is now dusting off his top hat.

“I'll definitely be at Ascot if the plan continues on its trajectory, but I'm a realist and have been wandering around in a daze,” he said. “I still can't believe we'll get to the starting gates, but I spoke to Mark after the filly's latest trial and he said she's absolutely bouncing, happy as Larry, like she hadn't gone around.

Australian sprint winners at Royal Ascot

2003 Choisir (King's Stand and Golden Jubilee)
2006 Takeover Target (King's Stand)
2007 Miss Andretti (King's Stand)
2009 Scenic Blast (King's Stand)
2012 Black Caviar (Diamond Jubilee)

“It might just be a feelgood story for us ambitious half-mad Aussies.”

The 'half-mad' plan was born when Mithen stood Starspangledbanner at Rosemont and the stallion missed an intended shuttle trip to Coolmore in Ireland in 2015 due to a bout of colic.

Mithen sent a number of his mares to Starspangledbanner to northern hemisphere time, leaving him with nine foals born out of season for Australia. Luck Favours, out of a half-sister to Group 1-winning sprinter Sweet Idea, is the most precocious of those.

Not only will Luck Favours have the potential advantage over her European rivals of having grown and strengthened in the Australian summer, she also has pedigree on her side as Starspangledbanner won what was then the Golden Jubilee Stakes and his depleted first crop yielded Royal Ascot two-year-old winners Anthem Alexander and The Wow Signal.

Watch Starspangledbanner win the Golden Jubilee Stakes

Mithen added that if Luck Favours did not run at Royal Ascot she would likely take in a maiden in Britain, and that the stud would reserve the right to take her home or keep her in Europe if she ran well.

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She's shown the talent we knew was underlying and hopefully I don't look quite as foolish now

Key data

Redkirk Warrior
E.W. Terms
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