Gai Waterhouse’s smart fillies English and Speak Fondly are set to clash in the Group 2 $500,000 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Both fillies are resuming, taking on the older horses at weight for age, and Waterhouse is leaning towards English as her pick over Group 1 Flight Stakes winner Speak Fondly.
English is having her first start since racing in the Autumn last year when she ran second to stablemate Vancouver in the Group 1 $3.5m Tooheys New Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill before finishing sixth to Pride Of Dubai in the Group 1 $1m ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
While Speak Fondly is having her first race start since winning the Group 1 $500,000 Coolmore Flight Stakes (1600m) at Randwick during the 2015 Sydney Spring Carnival.
“I would have thought that English is slightly more switched on for the race but both will run super races,” Waterhouse told Racing Ahead.
“She (English) is a very very good filly. Both of them are very good fillies.”
“English is a filly who likes to get on with the job. She has got no patience at all. Has magnificence cruising speed and blistering turn of foot.”
“She can lead of can be off the speed. Speak Fondly is just a beautiful filly who can chase just behind the leaders.”
“They could easier run first and second.”
Waterhouse has given English two barrier trials at Randwick in preparation for her return to the race track and she won both in contrasting styles.
In her January 29 trial, Tommy Berry settled English just off the pace and gained a split along the fence to record a three and a quarter lengths win over First Seal then in her next trial Berry took her back to second last from a wide gate and the filly ran home down the middle of the track to record a nose win over brilliant two year old Capitalist.
“Her first trial was brilliant. She had blinkers on,” Waterhouse said.
“Her second trial she was second last, she was wide and Tommy (Berry) had no option, whether to go forward or go back. He went back and settled her and then she found the line very brilliantly.”
But Waterhouse can’t see English getting too far off the pace in the Challenge Stakes and expects Berry to be looking to get her into the box seat from barrier six.
“I am a great believer in making sure that they are in the box seat, there is less chance of getting into trouble, isn’t there?” Waterhouse said.
Speak Fondly is not as far advanced as her stablemate and will head to the Challenge Stakes with only one barrier trial under belt, a win over 837m at Randwick on February 19.
“She was a little bit later coming in to me so she was chasing the pea up the hill so to speak so I think it better that she stayed in Sydney, but she is going very nicely, beautiful filly,” Waterhouse said.
Kerrin McEvoy will renew his association with Speak Fondly (barrier 3) after the pair combined to win the Group 2 $175,000 Coolmore Silver Shadow Stakes (1200m) and the Group 2 $175,000 Coolmore Furious Stakes (1200m) both at Randwick during the 2015 Sydney Spring Carnival.
English has been installed the $4 favourite for the Challenge Stakes at Ladbrokes.com.au while Speak Fondly has had plenty of support, firming in from $9 to $7 in early betting.
Challenge Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $4 English, $4.40 Ball Of Muscle, $6 Shiraz, $7 Speak Fondly, $8.50 Kinglike, $12 Felines, $17 Rule The River, $18 Lord Of The Sky, $19 Boss Lane, $20 Ottoman, $41 Va Pensiero.