James McDonald has rated First Seal the best filly he has ridden as he prepares to lift her back into the winner’s stall on Saturday at Rosehill in the Group 1 $400,000 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m).
McDonald will be replacing Blake Shinn who has been aboard First Seal at her three Autumn Carnival runs this campaign resulting in one win and two seconds, including her last start second as favourite to Plucky Belle in the Group 1 $600,000 Coolmore Classic (1500m) at Rosehill on March 14.
First Seal with Shinn on top was beaten first up by Adrift in the Group 2 $175,000 Liberty International Underwriters Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on February 14 followed by a win in the Group 2 $175,000 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm on February 28.
McDonald has become acquainted with the John Thompson trained filly with two trackwork sessions and described her work as freakish.
The Sydney based Kiwi rider has been associated with many top fillies in his short but illustrious career including Golden Slipper winner Mossfun and Oaks winners Scarlet Lady and Rising Romance and has already rated First Seal above them even before stepping out on race day.
“Just off the feel she’s given me in the two gallops so far, I’m already thinking she’s the best I’ve sat on in the filly division,” McDonald told The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s freakish what she can do on that track.”
“I’ve ridden some very good fillies before but this feels like she’ll be better than all of them.
“I guess I’ll know for sure after Saturday.”
First Seal returned some sensational sections in her gallop earlier in the week, clocking 21.2 seconds for the final 400m of her 1600m gallop, which completely blew McDonald away.
“She’s done that largely on the bit. How fast can this thing go?” McDonald said.
“If she runs that sort of finish at the end of 2000m (Vinery Stud Stakes) this weekend, it’s going to be a painful experience for her rivals.”
“Horses don’t go like that, let alone three-year-old fillies.”
First Seal is stepping up to 2000m for the first time this preparation and he said there was no way she wasn’t ready for it.
“It won’t be an issue. Especially against her own age and sex,” McDonald said.
“When you ride her, she relaxes beautifully and just drops her head. She moves in an economical fashion and then it’s like playing a computer game when you want her to go — push button.
“She’ll go from being totally relaxed and in the most comfortable zone … she could be airborne within a split second.”
Thompson is looking forward to seeing First Seal back in the winner’s stall after the Vinery Stud Stakes and is willing to forgive her last start second in the Coolmore Classic.
“Not a lot went right for her in the Coolmore. She went forward but then got snagged back slightly before racing wide throughout,” Thompson said.
“She got pushed even wider on the corner and still loomed up like she was going to win with ease. I think she’s improved nicely into this.”
First Seal has drawn barrier seven in the Vinery Stud Stakes and McDonald should be able to give the Fastnet Rock filly a sweet run midfield with cover before looking for the way clear coming to the home turn.