Steven King guides Wales to victory in the National Jockeys' Trust Redoute's Choice Stakes. Photo: Getty Images
LIKE father, like son? Or perhaps even better, like aunt? When a two-year-old has super sire Redoute's Choice as his father and a group-winning half-sister to triple Melbourne Cup-winning mare Makybe Diva as his mother, then any owner is entitled to reach for the stars.
The Lloyd Williams team will certainly be hoping their regally bred colt Wales will reach such celestial heights after he defied his inexperience and survived a protest to win the Redoute's Choice Stakes on debut yesterday.
It was also a big day for Nick Hall, the young jockey who perhaps would have been riding Wales not so long ago. He was the stable rider for the Williams camp until recently but has left to go solo.
Hall, who has decided to stay in Melbourne to rebuild links with outside stables rather than chase rides at interstate carnivals, advertised his skills in the best possible way with a treble in the last three races. He scored aboard The Night's Hot for Darren Weir, and the Mike Moroney-trained former New Zealand duo of Zabisco and Bonnie Mac.
Wales, ridden by Steven King, defied a betting drift from $12 to $21. He is out of Makybe Diva's half-sibling Valkyrie Diva and, despite his greenness, proved too strong for Dominant ($9.50), who was also making his debut.
If living up to the achievements of his illustrious relatives is not a big enough task, following in the footsteps of a previous winner of the Blue Sapphire will be an even greater challenge: mighty mare Black Caviar won the event at its inaugural running in 2009, when it was known as the Blue Sapphire Stakes.
Given Williams' history of patience, it's a fair bet that Wales won't be rushed, and yesterday's success was merely a bonus on the way to whatever he might achieve later in his career when staying races would be expected to be his forte.
King was impressed with the colt - and relieved he retained the race after Dominant's rider, Andrew Mallyon, fired in a protest, alleging interference when Wales drifted in in the drive to the line.
''He's very well bred and he's like all those sort of horses, he's going to take a bit of time to mature,'' King said. ''He's still quite new and it was a good win. He's bred to get a trip so it's a bit of a bonus what he's done as a two-year-old today.''
Danny O'Brien's opening-race winner, Placement ($4.60) - the first leg of a Katelyn Mallyon double, which was completed aboard Peter Healy's Galbraith ($4.60) in the second event - could clash with The Night's Hot in the listed Centaurea Stakes in Adelaide on May 12 as the pair chase the black type that would enhance their prospects as broodmares.
Lucky Penny ($4.80) did something few horses do when she took out the PFD Food Services Handicap, coming straight from a Wodonga maiden win on debut to triumph in a city race and give Linda Meech another metropolitan winner.
Billy Egan, who has not had many opportunities in town this season, landed a welcome city winner when he upset hot favourite Zamorar on Vatican ($7) earlier in the day.