Progressive filly Vaquera ($26) stormed down the outside of the field to steal victory in the Group 3 Tibbie Stakes (1400m) in a blanket finish at Newcastle today.
The race was set up for the swoopers by leader Just A Girl, who set a very quick early tempo, and there were a number of winning chances spread right across the track in the final stages of the race.
Local hope Gold Epona ($101) looked like she had the race won when she hit the lead with less than fifty metres left to run but Vaquera stuck her nose out at the right time to record the narrowest of victories, with five different horses finishing within half a length of the winner.
Gai Waterhouse was not worried about the controversy surrounding the scratching of Rockabill yesterday and was full of her usual confidence, tipping earlier today that Vaquera would begin her 2013 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with an upset victory.
“I think that she will be very hard to beat,” Waterhouse said before the race.
“She is quality mare, she ran third in the Queensland Oaks as a three-year-old, and she is training extremely well.
“Blake Shinn has ridden her a number of times during trackwork and he said he couldn’t be happier with the ride.
Vaquera was returning to the races for the first time since she ran consistently without winning during the 2013 Brisbane Winter Carnival.
The High Chaparral mare started her winter preparation with a disappointing performance in the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) but returned to her best form when finishing third behind Group 1 winners Dear Demi and Gondokoro in the Group 3 The Roses (2000m) before finishing her campaign with another placing in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m).
Vauquera has been included in the nominations for the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap (2400m), Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) but will need to receive a sizeable weight penalty to qualify for a run in any of the three Group 1 events.