Racing: Filly meets expectations

By James Graham

Rollout The Carpet had to win the 1000 Guineas on track and in stewards' room.

Rollout The Carpet (right) beats Waterford and Fix (left) in the NZ 1000 Guineas at Riccarton. Photo / Getty Images
Rollout The Carpet (right) beats Waterford and Fix (left) in the NZ 1000 Guineas at Riccarton. Photo / Getty Images

As Rollout The Carpet made the long float trip back to Cambridge yesterday there were still too many variables unanswered to confirm her next-up run.

But master horseman Jeff McVean was certain of at least one thing - her brave nose win for Mark Du Plessis in the 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on Saturday was his sweetest group one of all.

The Cambridge trainer had previously saddled Leica Guv to win the 2001 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and Jungle Rocket for victory in the 2009 New Zealand Oaks (2400m).

"Nobody expected Leica Guv to do well in the Derby because of the hard track so there was no big build-up pressure," said McVean, a three-time Olympic equestrian.

"We went to the races with the attitude, 'Well we're going to try'. Same with Jungle Rocket - she came into the race with just one placing at listed level.

"This filly was going good so there was a lot of expectation and a lot more pressure on for everybody."

Although still basking in the glory yesterday, McVean admitted the party was spoiled by Saturday's protest from the connections of gallant Cambridge runner-up Waterford.

McVean and co-trainer, daughter Emma-Lee Browne, lost their first group one as a partnership in the Ellerslie inquiry room last season when Rollout The Carpet was relegated from first in the Diamond Stakes.

This time, however, it was family who tried to derail the celebrations.

Waterford's trainer Tony Pike is Browne's cousin. Her father is married to Vicki, sister to Pike's father Wayne, who co-owns Waterford.

Tony Pike, gunning for a rare Guineas' double after Sacred Falls' thrilling victory against the colts and geldings on the first day, alleged Du Plessis and Rollout The Carpet had bumped Waterford in the final stages, costing her the race.

Chief steward Ross Neal countered that Rollout The Carpet had rallied again after relinquishing the lead and it was more like a "slight brush" than a skirmish that cost Waterford and Leith Innes the $300,000 feature.

"That was a lot of rubbish - I couldn't believe it," said McVean, who watched the drama from home. "On the replay it looked like they hadn't even touched one another."

Ironically, McVean said the Pike-trained Sacred Falls had given Rollout The Carpet a "real bump" when beating his filly by just a long neck in the listed James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes at Te Rapa, but he'd let that slide without a second-look.

McVean, however, couldn't get enough of watching Du Plessis' masterly Riccarton ride on his race-record yesterday.

The plan hadn't been to send the explosive beginner straight to the lead.

But when she dipped on to her nose at barrier rise, McVean said she over-reacted when Du Plessis stepped on the gas.

"It was a really good ride and a pretty gutsy performance," said McVean. "It was always the plan to slow up on the corner to give her a breather if she did end up in front.

"If something then went around her, then we wouldn't be bothered, but no one did."

"She was still clearly headed by the other horse but fought back well."

McVean said he'd confirm future race plans after discussions with the filly's co-owners, who include long-time New Zealand bloodstock staffer John Cameron.

The group one Levin Classic (1600m) at the end of the month is a next-up option.

McVean said she's such a professional traveller and ferocious eater that she could easily shrug off the Riccarton trip in plenty of time. "But we might just give her two weeks off, freshen her up and go from there."

As for tackling the 2400m climax to the Filly of the Year series, the New Zealand Oaks, McVean is also hedging his bets with the early points leader.

"It could be that we just keep her to the shorter trips," he said.

"No one thought she'd get 1600m earlier on but I think she'll get a nice 2000m as she gets older.

"She's got a high cruising speed and keeps out of trouble."

McVean is also keen to try her again the right-handed way round.

He's more convinced the dramatic steering issues for James McDonald at Ellerslie in March were more to do with the horse's gear than an aversion to clockwise racing.

Rollout The Carpet now races in an English-style loose ring snaffle bit, rather than the tongue controlled variety, and McVean said she had never run straighter.

- NZ Herald

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