Tumut thoroughbred owners Jeff Kelleher, Justin Shanahan, David Shanahan and Robert Kite will experience the thrill of a lifetime at Murrumbidgee Turf Club today when they watch their mare, Stand Your Ground, contest the $75,000 Queen of the South.
In a big day of racing, headlined by the $200,000 Wagga Gold Cup, the Queen of the South is a 1400m Benchmark 66 Handicap that has attracted some of the best fillies and mares from around the region.
The Norm Gardner trained Stand Your Ground is well placed in the event, drawing gate three, while apprentice hoop Madison Waters has retained the ride.
Waters has been integral to Stand Your ground’s recent success on the track, guiding her to wins at Wagga on January 7 and January 19, before the pair combined to win the Queen of the South Prelude, again at Wagga, on April 18.
“We just want Madison to do exactly the same thing, that is why I stuck with her in the big race,” Gardner said.
“She will just drop out to last and she if she comes home and pops up for the win, she does, but if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.
“The claim helps too, with a couple of kilos of her back.”
Stand Your Ground, who has won three races from her previous five starts, has wowed fans with her heart-stopping style of racing, sitting last early in each event before flying home down the outside of the track to win.
“She is drawn well, I would rather be out wide, but we will still go back to last and see how she goes,” Gardner said.
“Normally with the bigger fields, they do run a long a bit and some of the ones that draw out wide will go forward and I think there will be plenty of speed in the race, which will only suit us.”
Gardner and connections couldn’t be happier with their Fighting Sun mare, who from all reports, has stripped even fitter after winning at Wagga last time out.
“She pulled up great after the run,” Gardner said.
“It’s a much tougher race to be in, but she is going really good, I’m really happy with her, and she is going well enough to be in a race like this – I think she will be very competitive.”
13 runners have accepted for the race, with the likes of Girls Are Ready, Sepulchre, Charm Wing, Temoin Chaud And Splendiferous all set to carry 60-plus kilograms, while Stand Your Ground will only carry 56.5kg after Waters’ two-kilogram claim.
“The race has fallen away a little bit, and it might fall away a bit more, but I think she is right in there with the best of them,” Gardner said.
The Gai Waterhouse trained Splendiferous looks the galloper to beat, after back-to-back wins at Newcastle, and the top weight Girls Are Ready, is a winner of $200,000 in prizemoney and comes out of the much-tougher Country Championships Series.
“Girls are Ready is a bit of wet track horse, and all of those horses are past their best and I think her (Stand Your Ground) next prep will be her best one, because she will be five,” Gardner said.
“She is on the up and they are on the way down, so she isn’t out of her depth.”
In a massive day for many locals who have runners engaged in races at Wagga today, the first race kicks off at 12.40pm and the Murrumbidgee Turf Club gates open at 11am.