Imperatriz set to become historical name in Australian racing

Imperatriz took a step beyond Northerly and Nature Strip in Saturday’s William Reid Stakes, entering rarefied territory in the history of Australasian racing.

Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) became just the 12th horse of the modern era to reach double figures in Group 1 wins when stretching her unblemished Moonee Valley record to five in Saturday’s William Reid Stak.

The list dates back to 1979, when the Group system was introduced for Australia’s feature races.

Champions Kingston Town (Bletchingly) and Manikato (Manihi) were the first ones to reach the mark and since their departure from the racetrack in 1983, there has been only another 10 horses since to do the same.

Imperatriz’s tally is made up of four in her backyard of New Zealand and the last six in Victoria. The first was under the tutelage of Jamie Richards and the last nine have been for Mark Walker, since Richards’ departure to Hong Kong.

She is now expected to attempt an 11th Group 1 success when she runs in next month’s TJ Smith S. at Randwick.

The historical significance of Saturday’s win by Imperatriz should not be undersold.

In winning the 10th Group 1, she usurped the feats of Horses of the Year Northerly (Serheed {USA}) and Nature Strip (Nicconi), who closed out their careers with nine majors each.

In making it 10, she joins another Horse of the Year in Octagonal (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}).

An 11th win next month would see her level up with Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) – another who was crowned Horse of the Year during her winning stretch.

The Horse of the Year mantle is one that Imperatriz is very much in the reckoning for; her five Group 1 wins this season is comfortably the most by any runner we’ve seen in Australia and may well be enough to earn her the gong. A sixth in the TJ would make it difficult for judges to overlook her in favour of the Caulfield-Melbourne Cups champ Without A Fight (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who won’t get the chance to add to his tally for the remainder of the season.

In a global sense, 10 Group 1 wins levels Imperatriz up with Hong Kong hero Golden Sixty (Medaglia D’Oro {USA}), globetrotter So You Think (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}) and the one and only Frankel (GB) (Galileo {Ire}).

For all her feats to date, Imperatriz is not going to be remembered as the best sprinter we’ve ever seen, but there’s no doubting her consistency at the highest level.

Timeform have assessed her at 124; that’s not in the absolute elite category, but what has set Imperatriz apart from a lot of other good ones is her ability to keep churning out that same high number.

“She is Timeform 124, but the amazing thing is she’s been able to do that five times. Consistency at that high level has very much been her calling card,” Racing & Sports’ Timeform assessor Adam Blencowe said.

“Lots of horses can get to a high level once or twice, but doing it over and over again takes more than just raw ability and Imperatriz deserves high praise for her willingness to consistently put down a strong number.”

Te Akau’s Darlings

Te Akau Racing has quite a formidable scorecard on this Group 1 list, with Imperatriz following a couple of other very handy ones.

Te Akau Racing Principal David Ellis found Imperatriz in the Bhima Thoroughbreds draft (as agent for Raffles Dancers Pty Ltd) at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, where he had to pay $360,000 for her.

The 5-year-old’s earnings are now closing in on $7million.

Imperatriz went past another member of the tangerine army on Saturday, surpassing the nine Group 1 races won in New Zealand by Te Akau mare Avantage (Fastnet Rock).

Yet, 10 does not yet make Imperatriz the most successful of the Te Akau runners on the score of Group 1 wins. That honour belongs to Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands), who won 14 times at Group 1 level – 13 in New Zealand, plus the Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington.

Ellis gave $NZ57,500 for her at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale. She won $4million on the track and was sold in 2021 at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale for $2,600,000.

Asking Ellis to split his three headline mares is not something the Te Akau Principal buys into too easily.

“It’s just incredible. It’s very, very exciting for us to see the thrill the owners get and to see the people who work so hard looking after these horses. it’s just a big thrill,” he said.

“Avantage won Group 1 races at 1200 metres, 1400 metres, 1600 metres and 2000 metres, but I think Imperatriz is probably the fastest horse we’ve had,” he said. “She’s broken two track records in Group 1 races, so that’s hard to do.”

Melody Belle and Avantage raced on into their 6-year-old seasons and Imperatriz is rising six herself, still at the peak of her powers.

Ellis noted all three raced as early 2-year-olds – and had success – but because they were managed well, they continued to race at the elite level for a number of seasons.

Ellis is also prepared to back his golden girls in the breeding barn.

In January, he gave $2.1 million for Avantage’s filly by Wootton Bassett from the Coolmore draft at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

And he readily admits he can’t wait to inspect Melody Belle’s filly by Written Tycoon, set to be offered as Lot 143 at next month’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale by Yulong.

The mighty Kiwi mares

Imperatriz is one of four glamour New Zealand mares to occupy those top 12 spots on the Australasian Group 1 winning list.

Melody Belle (NZ) sits in equal third spot (alongside Kingston Town) and one ahead of the great Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}), the dual Cox Plate and three times Australian Horse of the Year winner.

Like Imperatriz, that duo were both trained in New Zealand throughout their careers.

The other NZ-er on the list is Verry Elleegant, who started her career in New Zealand before making her way to Australia and winning 11 times at Group 1 level, including the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

She sits equal seventh on the list alongside another great Kiwi in Rough Habit (NZ (Roughcast {USA}), as well as Manikato and Lonhro (Octagonal {NZ}).

Mares fill six of the top 12 places on the list, including the top two of Winx (Street Cry {USA}) on 25 and Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) with 15.

Most Australiasian Group 1 wins – modern era (since the introduction of the Group system in 1979)

Black Caviar15
Kingston Town14
Melody Belle14
Tie The Knot13
Rough Habit11
Verry Elleegant11
Apache Cat8
Better Loosen Up8
More Joyous8
Nature Strip8
Super Impose8
Takeover Target8
Table: The most Australiansian Group 1 wins since the introduction of the Group system in 1979

This article was written by Nathan Exelby for TTR AusNZ.

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