Imperatriz Dazzling in Lightning

Date: 19 Feb 2024

Imperatriz Dazzling in Lightning

Enjoy some of the weekend accolades for New Zealand's Group 1 Queen - Imperatriz - so proud of her tenacity and heart ... to win her fifth Group 1 title in Australia, alongside her four in New Zealand ... her sixth consecutive win on Australian soil ... reports:

Imperatriz has won her ninth Group 1, edging out Private Eye in the final 50 metres to claim a thrilling Black Caviar Lightning Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.

The superstar Te Akau mare had trialled plainly against key rivals earlier in the month, leaving many to wonder if she could be vulnerable first-up over 1000 metres.

But regardless, the money still came hard late, and the $1.60 Imperatriz didn’t let favourite backers down under regular hoop Opie Bosson.

She jumped sharply and eyeballed leader Private Eye ($4.80), with the pair separated by no more than a neck for the vast majority of the race.

In a sit-and-sprint finish, Imperatriz just had the measure of Joseph Pride’s Everest-placed gelding, prevailing by a head on the line.

Co-trainer Mark Walker admitted the underwhelming trial had him a touch concerned, but her next gallop left him confident Imperatriz was back on track, and that confidence was vindicated with Saturday’s result.

“Oh well, good horses they probably save their best for race day. It was a lacklustre trial, it really was, but when we galloped her on Monday, we were really happy with her,” he said.

“She’s a gem, really, to do it in the spring and come back and win like that … gun ride by Opie today. It was a really tactical affair, and he used the initiative, but it is a relief.

“Full credit to the second horse. He’s a really good horse and he stuck it to her today, so I think you saw two really good horses fight out an exciting finish.”

"Well, she's just a gem really, to do it in the spring & come back & win like that." 

The stable had previously identified a trip to Sydney as a possible next step, particularly the T.J. Smith Stakes, but Walker said they will assess her over the next week before making any concrete plans.

“We’ll just get her through today and see how she is and come up with a plan going forward,” he said.

Bosson, who was having his first rides in Australia since 2023’s Champions Stakes Day, said Walker had told him pre-race not to worry about the much-discussed trial.

“There was a bit (of pressure) because of that trial, but Mark has been over here and said she’s 100 per cent and when he says that, he’s right,” Bosson said.

“To be honest, I was a little bit worried but Mark … when he knows one is on it is on. She’s a race day horse and she’s proven that. Like myself, I don’t really like going to the trials either.

“She was always travelling beautifully and just kept creeping up and creeping up… every time I gave her a little squeeze, she’d come underneath me.

“She changed legs at the right time and when I really had to go for it, I knew she had that bit extra … Once I went for her late, she found that kick that she always has.”

NZ Herald reports:

Imperatriz Makes Triumphant Flemington Return

An unimpressive trial created a touch of uncertainty around Imperatriz ahead of her first-up run in Saturday’s A$1 million Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington but the Te Akau Racing wonder-mare blew all those doubts away and carried on her winning way.

The Lightning was the sixth major Melbourne sprint win in succession for Imperatriz, who won the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley last March and then put together a perfect spring campaign with victories in the Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m), Group 1 Moir Stakes (1000m), Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) and Group 1 Champions Sprint (1200m).

The Lightning was the 18th win overall in a 24-start career for the extraordinary galloper, who has won nine times at Group 1 level between 1000m and 1600m. The daughter of I Am Invincible was bought by David Ellis for A$360,000 as a yearling on the Gold Coast in 2020, and she has now banked more than A$5.9 million (NZ$6.3 million) for the Te Akau Empress Syndicate.

Those achievements have ensured the class of the 5-year-old could never be in doubt, but a fifth placing in an 800m trial at Cranbourne on February 5 had some questioning whether she was at the peak of her powers as she prepared to launch a new campaign in the Lightning. Her performance on Saturday provided an emphatic response.

Ridden positively by Opie Bosson, Imperatriz went forward and took up a position at the head of the field. She was joined by the A$10m earner Private Eye, and the pair matched motors most of the way along Flemington’s famous Straight Six.

There was a moment in the straight where Private Eye appeared to be going the better of the pair, but Bosson went to work on Imperatriz and she lifted and edged ahead. She reached the finish line a head in front of Private Eye, clocking 57.54s for the 1000m.

“She was always travelling beautifully,” Bosson said. “The other horse was creeping up and creeping up, but once I went for her, she found that kick that she always has.

“There was a bit of pressure today because of that trial but Mark [Walker, trainer] has been over here and he told me she’s 100 per cent. When he says that, he’s usually right.”

Walker has fielded plenty of questions about that Cranbourne trial in the past fortnight and he was pleased Imperatriz did the talking with her performance on Saturday.

“It is a relief. Good horses probably save their best for race day. It was a lacklustre trial, it really was, but we were very happy with the mare when we galloped her on Monday.

“It was just a gun ride by Opie today. It was a tactical affair and he used the initiative.

“This mare is just a gem, really, to do what she did in the spring and then come back and win like that first-up.

“Full credit to the second horse. He’s a really good horse and he stuck it to her today. I think you saw two really good horses fighting out an exciting finish.”

Bred by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Farm, Imperatriz is another nod to the success of the breeding operation, which was managed by Bruce Sherwin since it was established in 2008 and in addition to Imperatriz has produced the likes of Group 1 winners Glint Of Hope, More Than Sacred and First Seal.

Economic pressures stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm, on the outskirts of Cambridge, was sold in 2022, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.

Imperatriz is by leading Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group 2-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016.


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