Racing: Ritchie pair ready to resume

Classy mare Artistic (left) is pleasing trainer Shaune Ritchie. Photo /  Natalie Slade
Classy mare Artistic (left) is pleasing trainer Shaune Ritchie. Photo / Natalie Slade

New Zealand Oaks winner Artistic will arrive in Melbourne next week as the support act for highly rated stablemate Zurella.

Artistic, or Miss Artistic as she is called in Australia, pleased trainer Shaune Ritchie with her effort to finish third in a 1020m Doomben barrier trial last Tuesday, her first serious hit-out since she finished 10th to Quintessential in the group one Queensland Oaks (2400m) at Eagle Farm on June 2.

"I left her in the care of Toby Edmonds at the Gold Coast and he had her in superb order for the trial," Ritchie said.

"She had a nice cruisy trial and although she's not a big, gross mare she looks well and had great cover across her rib cage which is exactly what I wanted to see."

Ritchie will maintain a close watch on Miss Artistic's progress during the spring to ensure she is feeling no lasting effects from a long campaign during her 3-year-old season.

"I'm mindful that she had a busy season in New Zealand during the summer and a bottoming run in the Queensland Oaks on a very heavy track," he said.

Miss Artistic will fly to Melbourne next week where she will be re-acquainted with Zurella who shapes as the No 1 seed for Ritchie in the Caulfield Cup.

"They're great pals from way back and finished alongside each other in the New Zealand Oaks, well clear of the third placegetter," Ritchie said.

Zurella and Miss Artistic will open their Melbourne spring carnival campaign in the group two Let's Elope Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Saturday week.

"It's a good race for them to kick off in and under the set weights and penalties conditions they should be well suited," he said.

"The goal with Zurella is the Caulfield Cup and I'm hoping to sneak her in via the Naturalism or Herbert Power Stakes, which are ballot-free races.

"With Artistic I'll play it by ear and assess her after she runs in the Let's Elope."

The biggest boom on any horse in Victoria was raised even higher with the outstanding victory of Commanding Jewel at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

The three-quarter sister to the glamour mare Atlantic Jewel came to town with high expectations after winning her only previous start in a Swan Hill 3-year-old maiden and lived up to them all.

Given a comfortable run behind the leaders, Commanding Jewel, who dominated betting as the $1.85 favourite, pushed clear entering the home straight in the Mitchelton Wines Plate (1200m) and cruised to the line a length clear of Flying Hostess ($12) with Mama's Choice ($10) third.

Winning jockey Damien Oliver needed only three words to sum up the performance of a filly who appears capable of filling the big shoes left empty by Atlantic Jewel, sidelined for the spring because of injury.

"She's got class," Oliver said.

Trainer Leon Corstens was less emphatic but equally impressed.

"She's done a fabulous job," he said.

"I knew she could win but I was still worried. I'm glad to get that one out of the way.

"Now we'll start looking for another nice race for her."

Commanding Jewel cost A$205,000 at last year's Magic Millions sale on the Gold Coast, her price turning out to be a bargain after the arrival on the racetrack six months later of Atlantic Jewel, the winner of her only seven starts.

Part-owner Brad Spicer, who chose the filly at the sale, said she had shown enough promise to be regarded as a Golden Slipper prospect last year.

"But she went shinsore and we decided to take it easy with her," Spicer said.

To Corstens, the early setback was a blessing.

"I'm glad she went sore, it wasn't a problem but it meant we weren't pushing her," he said.

The trainer will now scan the programmes for a suitable 1400m race to ready Commanding Jewel for her major spring goal, the group one Thousand Guineas at Caulfield on October 17.

- AAP

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