Voodoo Wins Winterbottom

2
Dec

Leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir has won his second Group 1 in Perth, with Voodoo Lad taking out the Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (1200m) at Ascot this afternoon.

It was a well overdue Group 1 win for the I Am Invincible gelding, who had been placed at the highest on two previous occasions in the Sir Rupert Clark Stakes in 2016 and the Newmarket Handicap in 2017.

The pace was red hot in the $1 million event, with Belter running the first half of the 1200m inside 35 seconds.

Jockey Damien Oliver settled the seven-year-old at the tail of the field and was a long way off the pace coming to the turn.

Oliver peeled Voodoo Lad to the outside at the top of the straight and he unleashed a stunning turn-of-foot to join Stratum Star (2016 Kingston Town Classic) as Weir’s Perth Group 1 winners.

For a fleeting moment, up-and-coming local sprinter Enticing Star would make it another Group 1 for the cerise and white colours of Bob and Sandra Peters, as the mare also stormed home from the rear of the field to run second.

Malaguerra, who finished fifth in the race two years ago, was also right in the mix at the finish to run third.

Oliver kept his perfect record aboard Voodoo Lad, with his only other ride on the gelding resulting in a win in the Group 3 Auries Star Handicap in August at Flemington.

It was also Oliver’s first win at the highest level in his home state since the 2009 Kingston Town Classic aboard Sniper’s Bullet.

Oliver said the race panned out exactly how he wanted it to.

“I always thought this horse would be well suited to this race,” he said.

“It (the barrier) forced our hand to ride him cold and as he likes to be ridden.

“Coming to the turn, I was following the right horse Enticing Star and Malaguerra and was able to peel off their back.

“This horse has a great finish on him when you can switch him off.”

Oliver was also emotional after the win and said he enjoyed every chance to get back to Perth.

“I love coming home, it’s where it all started for me,” he said.

“It’s always nice to come home and do it in front of family.”

Oliver finished second aboard Sheidel and Furhyk in the previous two editions of WA’s premier sprint.

Weir said he was relieved to finally get a Group 1 with Voodoo Lad, a winner at 13 of his 33 starts.

“He really deserves that, that horse,” he said.

“He ran so well in a lot of great races and lost by a small margin.

“It’s great he’s finally got one.”

Weir will now turn his attention to next Saturday’s Kingston Town Classic, where he will have Iconoclasm and Holy Snow engaged.

Race favourite Viddora finished 11th, with jockey Joe Bowditch saying the mare wasn’t there for him when he needed her.

Tim Walker