Is Imperatriz Impervious?

Date: 5 Apr 2024

Is Imperatriz Impervious?

Michael Guerin ~ NZ Herald reports:

Trainer Mark Walker isn’t letting the prospect of a heavy track finale to Imperatriz’s season bother him.

The glamour Kiwi mare heads to Randwick in Sydney on Saturday as favourite for the A$3 million TJ Smith, victory in which could seal her the Australian Horse of the Year title.

But with a lot of rain forecast for Sydney for tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, many pundits are expecting Randwick to get close to heavy for the first day of The Championships.

Walker, who is already in Sydney, says he can’t let the likelihood of a wet track bother him, and even if it gets heavy, Imperatriz will be starting.

“She’s definitely going to start, as it’s her last race of the season and she will be in the paddock next week,” says Walker. “The reality is whatever the track, they’re all going to have to run on it, and at least she has won on a real winter heavy track in the Foxbridge at the start of last season. So I’m not too worried about it.”

Imperatriz aqauplaned over the Te Rapa wet that day (August 27, 2022), also over 1200m at weight-for-age, but in a field several levels below what she meets on Saturday.

She was beaten on heavy tracks in her next two starts at Hastings and Matamata but was struggling with a niggly back issue at that stage of her career and those races were at 1400m and 1600m.

She was then given a spell and won the Railway fresh up at her next start, and sticking more or less to sprint racing, apart from the Westbury Classic and BCD Sprint at Te Rapa, she has been all but unbeatable since.

Imperatriz will travel from Victoria to Sydney overnight tomorrow, with Opie Bosson again crossing the Tasman to ride her on Saturday.

She meets a stronger and bigger field than might have been expected on Saturday, with the key addition being last season’s winner I Wish I Win, who is back to defend his title.

I Wish I Win beat Giga Kick on a heavy9 in the TJ Smith last season, and while he is fresh up since finishing second in The Everest last October, his wet track form and past performances already have him closing in on Imperatriz in the market.

After being around $2.60 for much of the past month, Imperatriz has drifted to $3 after the announcement of the final field, while I Wish I Win, who will be ridden by James McDonald, was $3.50 after yesterday’s draw.

I Wish I Win drew barrier 4, while Imperatriz will jump from barrier 6.

“I think that’s ideal, it gives us options,” says Walker.

With the weather, the return to right-handed racing in Sydney and the size and depth of the field, the TJ Smith shapes as the greatest test of Imperatriz’s career, but also therefore her chance to cement her reputation as the best sprinter in Australasia.

That is a title some in the Sydney racing scene won’t be happy to bestow on her until she has a New South Wales Group 1.

The TJ Smith will be the clear standout highlight for New Zealand punters on the opening day of The Championships, as there are few other Kiwi contenders, with a bigger contingent being aimed at the second day on April 13.

Domestically, the Trentham meeting will be huge, with five black type races, including the final Group 1 of the New Zealand season, the Sires’ Produce Stakes, which is usually run at Awapuni but has been moved as that track undergoes renovations.

Walker and training partner Sam Bergerson have three reps in the Sires’ Produce and the champion trainer says Captured By Love is their best chance.


Sign up to our newsletter