Pure Elegance had no easy task living up to expectations in the Group III Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes on Saturday.
She was carrying a mountain of hype into the first race of her 3-year-old campaign - just the second start of her career, and up against a fantastic field. But she did it. In fact, she left expectations in her wake with a powerful victory that took her into outright favouritism for the Group I 1000 Guineas at Riccarton in November.
The Gold Trail could hardly have been any more different than Pure Elegance's first start. From a relatively quiet autumn day in Waipukurau, facing just three overmatched rivals, Pure Elegance was on Saturday thrust into the deep end. She was asked to take on battle-hardened, proven stakes performers in the high-pressure environment of a Rush Munro's Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival day at Hastings. And, on top of all that, she wasn't fully fit. Her trainers said she had more improvement in her, her rider said she only felt about 80 per cent fit, and she still had her winter coat. But none of that prevented her connections from brimming with confidence or the public from believing in her. Many backed up that confidence with huge amounts of betting money. There seemed to be something about Pure Elegance that led everyone connected with her to believe she's well out of the ordinary, and we saw that for ourselves on Saturday afternoon.
As the field approached the turn Pure Elegance was coasting. She was travelling incredibly smoothly and easily. While other riders were starting to frantically urge their mounts on, Jason Waddell was sitting quietly and confidently, waiting to pounce. And when he did ask her to accelerate, she let down very stylishly and surged to the lead. Roll Out The Carpet fought tenaciously all the way to the line, but Pure Elegance always seemed to have her covered. This was a very professional and convincing display by a filly who's clearly worthy of every bit of hype she's drawn since her five-length romp on debut last season.
Of course, none of this should come as a surprise. She's a full-sister to Group II winner Dolmabache, and her dam is a full-sister to the dam of the outstanding Darci Brahma and the hugely promising Burgundy. Pure Elegance's dam is also a half-sister to Romanee Conti, herself a top-class racehorse and the dam of champion Ethereal. This is one of New Zealand racing's finest families, and it seems to have yet another flag-bearer in Pure Elegance.
Roll Out The Carpet's performance was full of merit, and she'll definitely take a lot of improvement from this run as she builds towards an attempt to turn the tables on Pure Elegance in the 1000 Guineas. Waterford caught the eye with her stylish late finish for third. Highly rated Fix didn't have a lot of luck in the home straight. She took a while to gain clear running, and her time was running out once she did. But she accelerated strongly to take fourth. Oasis Rose and Kate also did their reputations no harm with commendable efforts just in behind the first four.
This looks like a terrific group of 3-year-old fillies, and there's no question who currently sits at the top of it. Pure Elegance has taken the early lead in the Filly of the Year points table, and if Saturday's performance is anything to go by, she's going to take some catching.