Katrina Alexander says she’s learned a lot about her star mare La Crique after her solid effort for fourth in the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
La Crique started her Australian debut as an odds-on favourite following her outstanding victory in the Gr.1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) at Matamata on October 8. But after her rider James McDonald settled her close to a hot speed, she was out finished in the straight, just being nosed out of third by Excelida behind Icebath and Mirra Vision.
Alexander, who trains La Crique at Matamata with her husband Simon, said she was far from disappointed with the effort on a track that was wetter than she preferred to be beaten just over a length.
“Possibly she was a little handy to a hot speed. She jumped away very well, probably a little too good for herself, and with She’s Licketysplit setting that hot tempo and with her challenging right from the top of the straight, she dragged those eventual placegetters into the race with her,” she said.
“If we could run it again we might hold her back and wait a little bit longer, but she fought well, it’s a pretty long straight, and she was there right to the end, so I can’t fault her.
“Talking to James after the race, he thought she had lost a bit of her ping, especially on the soft track. If it had been a dry track it might have been a slightly different story, but he thought she was possibly looking for 2000m the way she flattened down once he asked her to go.”
Alexander said the Empire Rose Stakes campaign was as much for information gathering, and she had a better idea what was best for her in future Australian campaigns.
“She took a few days to settle in when she got here, so she’s not going to be a horse that flies in on the Wednesday to race on the Saturday. She’s a very lightly-framed horse and any kilos she loses you do notice it,” she said.
The way the race panned out also has Alexander thinking La Crique may tackle 2000m races at her third start from a spell in future.
“We know that as an older horse that 2000m mark is going to be her best distance. We opted to go the mile after having gone a mile at home and knowing we would have to be a little bit light on her when she first got to Australia, we thought that was the best option.
“I think the mile is bang on for her second up. As she matures, she may only need that one mile start before we push it out a bit further for her third start.”
La Crique will fly home on Wednesday and head for a spell. Alexander said she’s yet to decide on what races she may target in an autumn campaign, but that her main aim is to have her ready to excel next season.
“She probably needs to be five to fully hit her straps,” she said.
Meanwhile, the stable has lost one of its more exciting horses, a Per Incanto three-year-old gelding out of Miss Bluebell who won his only trial at Te Awamutu on September 27, who has since been sold to Australian buyers.
“He is a very talented horse and he won that trial on natural ability on a very light preparation,” Alexander said.
“It’s very sad to see him go, but it’s often the case with New Zealand racing, we have to sacrifice one of the team in order to keep the rest of them going. He’s come over to Melbourne, and we are looking forward to see how he goes.”
Alexander said few other team members were close to racing at the moment. Farrenc finished well back at her first run this season over 1200m at Matamata on Saturday, an effort Alexander said she would gain a lot out of.
She was also looking forward to getting Stopalltheclocks and Te Toki back to the races, possibly within the next month, with Stopalltheclocks a mare she thinks will excel over staying distances this season.