THIS time last year, trainer Gai Waterhouse and owner Greg Kolivos thought they had a genuine Oaks contender in Diamond Drille.
"Diamond Drille had beaten Royal Descent and Gai was setting her for the Oaks,'' Kolivos said.
"We were really excited about her going into the autumn carnival last year and then she suffered a tendon injury and needed 12 months back.
"To see her return and win today is a great thrill.''
Diamond Drille had beaten Royal Descent by almost two lengths in a Canterbury 1500m race but two starts later, after another win at Canterbury, she broke down. Royal Descent trained on to win the ATC Australian Oaks by 10 lengths.
Gai Waterhouse says she may consider starting Diamond Drille (right) in the Epona Stakes and Emancipation Stakes during the autumn carnival. Picture: Simon Bullard Source: DailyTelegraph
But Waterhouse and Kolivos were not lamenting what might have been as Diamond Drille finished powerfully to score an impressive win in the Group 3 $150,000 Aspiration Quality (1600m) at Royal Randwick yesterday.
"It's so good to have her back,'' Waterhouse said. "She is such a talented mare and I can't tell you how much improvement there is in her.''
Diamond Drille ($8) came from well back on the turn to overwhelm her rivals and score by a short neck from Mahara ($7.50) with Danesiri ($31) three-quarters of a length away third.
Jockey Tim Clark admitted Diamond Drille was "not in a great spot" when held up behind runners coming into the straight.
Jockey Tim Clark admitted Diamond Drille was "not in a great spot" when held up behind runners coming into the straight but his patience paid off eventually. Picture: Simon Bullard Source: DailyTelegraph
"It was an awfully run race,'' Clark said. "It was stop-start and horses were getting checked everywhere.
"I held my breath and was patient then once she got to the outside she was really good late to get up and win.''
Waterhouse gambled by deciding to back up with Diamond Drille seven days after the mare ran only eighth in the Wiggle Stakes at Warwick Farm.
"She was on the worst part of the track at Warwick Farm then when I looked at her on Sunday, I was surprised how well she had come through that run,'' Waterhouse said.
"Then it was like a bolt of lightning when I decided to run her again today I rang Greg Kolivos on Sunday and told him what I was thinking and he just said if I was happy enough with the mare, then run her and it has worked out well.''
Waterhouse said she may consider starting Diamond Drille in the Epona Stakes and Emancipation Stakes during the autumn carnival.
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Fresh from his spectacular five-lengths victory in the Group 3 Merlion Trophy last Friday, El Padrino is set for an even bigger assignment as the five-year-old bay gelding has been invited to compete in the US$2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 29.
The 1200m sprint at the Meydan Racecourse is one of the highlights of the Dubai World Cup Night, which is the single richest day of thoroughbred horse racing in the world.
It is also the same International Group 1 event which Singapore's own Rocket Man made history in 2011 by become the first locally-trained horse to win an International Group 1 race.El Padrino looks set to take on some of the best sprinters after receiving an invite to the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 29.
This will be El Padrino's second visit to the Middle East. Back in early 2012 when trained by Steven Burridge and under his previous moniker of Ip Man, the New Zealand-bred gelding had three starts at Meydan.
He scored on his debut there, breaking the track record in a 1400m race in a time of 1min 22.66secs but disappointed in his next two starts before returning to Kranji.
Following last Friday's triumph, El Padrino has chalked up seven wins from 24 starts and has amassed $528,084 in stakes earning for owner Law Teck Hin.
He is currently under the care of Singaporean handler Alwin Tan, who was taken by surprise after receiving the last-minute call from Dubai on the back of the son of Mr. Nancho's dominant performance and after discussing it with Law, the connection decided it was an opportunity they could not pass up.
"It's very exciting and I'm looking forward to it," said Tan.
El Padrino will be reunited with regular jockey Oscar Chavez for the Dubai outing.
The Panamanian-born rider, who had opted to ride Captain Obvious at last Friday's Merlion Trophy and was replaced by Mexican-born hoop David Flores but has been in the saddle in all of El Padrino's previous 23 starts and knows the horse like the back of his hand, was nominated for the ride.
Travel arrangements will be made by Dubai while the Singapore Turf Club will be assisting Tan, who is competing overseas for the first time. He is currently in Australia for the Gold Coast sales but will return on Wednesday.
A former Republic of Singapore Air Force regular who was granted his trainer's licence at the end of 2009, Tan has been enjoying his finest season so far and currently leads the premiership with 20 winners, two clear of Australians Michael Freedman and Cliff Brown.
According to Tan, El Padrino has already received the necessary travel vaccinations last Saturday. Time is ticking away however and the galloper needs to be shipped soon as Tan estimated he needs at least 10 days to have sufficient time for El Padrino to settle down and prepare for the big race.
Anything less than that would be too close and he might not send him, he admitted.back to top
Although she is just as happy training winners, horsewoman shows her driving skills.
The Queen of the Track is adamant she would be just as happy watching the huge-money races she was winning at Alexandra Park yesterday.
That is the honest view of Natalie Rasmussen, who partnered Willow and Isaiah to win $410,000 worth of races in 40 minutes yesterday, doubling as the co-trainer of the pair with her partner Mark Purdon.
The drives were polar opposites; Rasmussen patience personified with Willow in the $160,000 Sires' Stakes Championship, while she was brutally aggressive with Isaiah, blasting to the lead and never looking back in the $250,000 Sales Series Pace.
While the double is unparalleled for a female driver in the history of New Zealand harness racing, Rasmussen says she would be just as happy gearing up the winners back in the stable.
"As long as everything is done right back here [in the stables], I don't care who drives them," the 36-year-old said.
"Mark and Blair [Orange] are great drivers and it has just been a case of me being on these horses earlier in the season and sticking with them.
"But I am a perfectionist and the work around the stables with the horses means just as much to me."
It helps that Rasmussen has been in a position no female driver, or jockey for that matter, would have been in before, as the regular raceday partner of a true racing legend.
She trained and drove Blacks A Fake, arguably Australia's greatest-ever pacer and the winner of four Inter Dominion Finals and unlucky not to win another.
"After the highs of driving Blackie, you realise you will never get to quite that level again.
"So now I am matter-of-fact about driving. What gives me the buzz is winning a good race for the owners."
Willow looks certain to head to Rasmussen's native Australia later in the season after remaining unbeaten in four starts when divebombing a brave Raksdeal in a Sires' Stakes that saw most of the favourites off the bit a long way from home.
Willow is owned in Victoria so will probably head there for the classics later in the season as part of a smorgasbord of 3-year-old fillies' riches.
One of her owners, Jean Feiss, had an unusual reason for not seeing Willow's win - she was driving a team of Huskies in the snow somewhere in Scandinavia.
But the story of John Magness, a part owner of Isaiah, was just as unusual and even more fun.
The long-time harness racing sponsor was so busy at his well-known appliance store in Greenlane he couldn't get away to the races, so watched the Sales Series Pace at the television at work.
"When he won I couldn't believe it. I jumped in the car and still made it here for the presentation," said Magness, resplendent in shorts and sandals in the winners' circle.
Isaiah won the race at the start, getting the drop on hot favourite Locharburn, who was then forced to come from the one-one for a gutsy second, but the winner's relentless style left few excuses for his rivals.
It now leaves Purdon and Rasmussen needing to sit down with a large piece of paper in the next few weeks and plan where their army of stars goes.
While Willow can contest the Northern Oaks in March, she or one of her stablemates could easily head to the A$200,000 ($217,000) NSW Oaks a week later.
The same goes for Isaiah and Alleluia, or any of this strong crop of 3-year-old male pacers.
They could pop over to Victoria for the Derby at Melton on February 1 and then come home for the Victoria Derby, a double Ohoka Punter completed last season, or head to Menangle for the NSW Derby.
It is a nice problem to have and in Purdon's case, at least he knows he has a champion trainer and ace driver as a partner to send along for the trip.
Natalie's dream double
Natalie Rasmussen drives Willow and Isaiah to a huge Alexandra Park double. She completed the richest double ever by a female driver in New Zealand.back to top
Dr David Marlin, one of the UK's leading equine physiologists talks about FLAIRback to top
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