Dazzling debut from two fancy fillies

22 June 2009

If you happened to be watching Saturday racing two weeks ago, you might have watched a fairly nondescript 2YO race in Newcastle where a Conatus filly with the memorable name of Olive Oyl ran a very impressive second, having almost been knocked off her feet in the shadows of the post by the winner who ran sharply into the fence.

The filly, from the Quest For Fame mare Mount Olive, was having only her first start for the Marc Connors stable. Olive Oyl was later nominated for the 2YO race in Sydney last Saturday, only to be balloted out of a start when heavy rain forced the closure of the main track and racing was switched to the Kensington Track.

However, a Conatus filly called Verballed (Cory Brown trained by Neville Voigt) kept the family flag flying when she managed to get a start in The Coach and Horses Hotel 2YO Handicap (1200m). The filly – who won her only barrier trial at Warwick Farm by four lengths only a few weeks earlier – bravely buckled down in the very heavy conditions and took on the eventual winner Cleanup (a $300,000 Sydney Easter Filly by Dehere) with a hammer-and-tong battle right down the straight, with the green first starter eventually being beaten by the vastly more experienced Cleanup by a short neck.

This is what the Sun Heralds form analyst Tony Brassel had to say about the run:

‘Racy miss Cleanup enjoyed an experience edge over most rivals and her recent racing primed the chestnut for the Kensington track contest. Starting on the course itself, rather than out of a chute, these fillies scooted along and fanned shortly after straightening.

For almost 100m several chances emerged but, as is often the case on such a heavy tracs, many contestants curled up instantly. It was left to debut runner VERBALLED and Cleanup to forge ahead of the others and they staged a Donnybrook right to the post.

A tall, athletic miss by Danehill’s son Conatus, Verballed displayed ample natural dash and did she fight! Plenty of wins await Nevilts filly…”

Brassel continues further in the individual write up on the filly: Verballed pushed forward to race outside the leader (Hemen) faced the breeze outside that filly to the home turn before taking over herself near thew 250m with the eventual winner joining in, kept trying in a duel with Cleanup over the final 200m in what can only be described as a very good debut.

Finally, Brassel comments “NOT ALL TALK. Verballed (is a) Youngster raced up to encouraging barrier trial performance”

Both fillies – from the second crop of Conatus – are bred and owned by Gerry Harvey, also the breeder and major share-holder of Conatus. It has now emerged that trainers Neville Voigt and Marc Connors both have their eyes on the spring racing carnival and have sent their fillies out for a spell, confirming their opinion that both fillies are Stakes material.

The recent surge of winners sired by Conatus has attracted the attention of major industry players who suggest that his efforts in siring such high quality runners from the very ordinary mares covered in his first two seasons signify that an important young Australian sire is beginning to emerge.

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It excites me that no matter how much machinery replaces the horse, the work it can do is still measured in horsepower…even in this space age. And although a riding horse often weighs half a ton, and a big drafter a full ton, either can be led about by a piece of string if he is wisely trained. This to me is a constant source of wonder, and a challenge.

—Marguerite Henry