Trainer Mark Kavanagh with Atlantic Jewel. Photo: Joe Armao
Australia's best race mare, Atlantic Jewel, has taken another significant step towards a comeback with an astonishing trial win at Flemington on Friday morning.
With many keen judges convinced that Atlantic Jewel can follow in the huge footsteps of the unbeaten champion sprinting mare Black Caviar, the five-year-old cruised over 800 metres in 46.10 seconds - a stunning time considering she has been away from racing for 16 months.
She ran home her final 400 in 21.68, which is usually a time that would have clockers checking their watches, but with her it is just expected.
The daughter of Fastnet Rock, unbeaten in her seven starts, continues to delight trainer Mark Kavanagh with her deeds.
''I like to under-promise and over-deliver,'' Kavanagh said. ''That is getting a bit hard with her now.''
Kavanagh and his stable jockey Michael Rodd know the pressure will only build from here.
''If she gets beaten, it won't be her fault, so I have to be doing everything right,'' Rodd said.
''She is a lot more mature and she is fantastic. She has never led in a trial and she did it on her ear. I gave her a little squeeze and she did it within herself.''
When asked about her time, Rodd said: ''I gave away being shocked by her a long time ago. She has the biggest stride of any horse I have ridden and it all seems so easy.''
Kavanagh now has to decide when Atlantic Jewel will return to racing.
She may attempt to add another group 1 to the Thousand Guineas and All-Aged Stakes, which was her last race appearance 16 months ago, in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield in two weeks.
There is the easier option - to wait for the Let's Elope Stakes on her home track at Flemington on September 7, but it could compromise her spring program.
''She is showing she might be forward enough for the Memsie and that opens up the options for her,'' Kavanagh said.
''She has been out for 16 months, but we have had her back in work for six months and we want to get this actually right, so we will have a look at her next week before doing anything.
''Running in the Memsie would allow her to go to [Moonee] Valley and get an extra run [in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes over 1600 metres on September 14], before the Underwood Stakes [which is seven days later at Caulfield],'' Kavanagh said. With CHRIS ROOTS