So often a big-race bridesmaid, quality New Zealand-bred mare Icebath finally had her day in the sun with a richly deserved win in Saturday’s Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
The six-year-old daughter of Sacred Falls had never won a black-type race before Saturday’s prestigious fillies and mares’ feature, but she still arrived at Flemington with almost A$4.5 million in stakes to her name.
Brad Widdup’s stable star had placed in a dozen stakes races, five of them at Group One level – the George Main Stakes (1600m), Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m), Cantala Stakes (1600m) and two editions of the Doncaster Mile (1600m). For good measure, she had also run second in the A$7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m).
At long last, Saturday was Icebath’s day. Just when fellow Kiwis La Crique and She’s Licketysplit seemed set to fight out the finish, Icebath stormed home along the inside to force her way into the finish for jockey Craig Williams.
The other New Zealand-breds began to feel the pinch in the final 100m, but Icebath went from strength to strength. She kept lifting, edging out Mirra Vision by a long neck at the line. The Cambridge Stud-owned Excelida finished third, just ahead of La Crique.
“She’s now a Group One-winning mare, and it was great,” said Williams, who was dislodged from the saddle soon after the line. “She’s a bit of a lady and she’s got her mannerisms, and we saw that on display. She did all the running to get the Group One, and she made me do all the running to get home!
“A couple of her runs this preparation have been against Anamoe, Zaaki, the best horses. Her last race looked a bit plain, but as Brad (Widdup) said, maybe she just had a hard time on those heavy tracks and we just needed to give her time. She’s thrived since she came down here.
“I’ve been watching a few of her replays and done some homework with Brad, who’s unwell and back in Sydney.
“I went back and watched old editions of this race, and when I walked the track I was really happy. I knew I could be economical. Most importantly I had the horse to deliver, and she was awesome.”
From 38 starts, Icebath has now recorded five victories, along with 16 placings and total prize-money of A$5.2 million.
Icebath was bred by Waikato Stud, who also had a special Saturday in Sydney with homebred gelding I Wish I Win triumphing in the A$10 million Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill.
Icebath is by ill-fated sire Sacred Falls out of the Savabeel mare Fabulist. That makes her a full-sister to Courier Wonder, who has won at Group Three level in Hong Kong and placed in the Gr.1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Fabulist is the dam of five winners from five foals to race. Her other progeny include stakes-winning galloper Nowyousee and Group Three-placed Just Fabulous, both by Sacred Falls’ sire O’Reilly.
Widdup purchased Icebath in Australia as a yearling for $100,000
James McDonald, who had his first raceday ride on the fourth-placed La Crique, believed the high-class daughter of Vadamos will be suited to a longer distance – potentially in next Saturday’s Gr.1 Champions Stakes (2000m).
“She’s a beautiful mare and probably just looking for a tad further,” McDonald said. “It’s just the way she races – she levels out really quickly. But she’s a beautiful mare, a great mover and over 2000 she’ll be very effective.”
Dean Holland rode She’s Licketysplit and was also far from disappointed in the three-year-old filly’s effort.
“She was honest,” he said. “We rode her to suit the weight advantage today, and she’s probably better ridden with cover to show her good turn of foot late.”