IN Racing
Legarto shoots for another Melbourne major
Ken Kelso is hoping lightning might strike twice when Legarto makes her second start at Flemington in Saturday’s Gr.1 Australian Cup (2000m).
Richard Edmunds, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | March 29, 2024
Legarto winning the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington last year. Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

Ken Kelso is hoping lightning might strike twice when Legarto makes her second start at Flemington in Saturday’s Gr.1 Australian Cup (2000m).

The top-class daughter of Proisir produced arguably the best performance of her glittering career when she ventured to Melbourne 12 months ago and became the first New Zealand-trained winner of the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m). Held up until after the 200m mark, she quickly moved through her gears for jockey Mick Dee and launched a stunning late burst down the Flemington straight to snatch victory in the shadows of the post.

That was the second Group One victory for Legarto, who had won the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) the previous spring. She has since added the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) to her collection during a four-year-old season that has also produced surprise defeats in the Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) and this month’s Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m).

“That’s twice now in big races at Ellerslie where a horse has slipped away on the corner and it’s just been too hard to pick them up and we’ve had to settle for second,” said Kelso, who trains in partnership with his wife Bev.

“I certainly wasn’t disappointed on either occasion. She was making ground strongly again in the Bonecrusher last start and would have got El Vencedor in another couple of strides, and her sectional times were very good again.

“It’s going to be nice to get her back to Flemington on Saturday, it’s a big and roomy track that she’s shown she likes, and I just have an inkling in the back of my mind that she might be better left-handed. Mick Dee will ride her again.”

Legarto flew across the Tasman on Wednesday, and Kelso reported that she took the travel in her stride.

“She’s handled the trip over perfectly,” he said. “She did well overnight and is looking very bright this morning. I think we’re right on target for Saturday. The build-up couldn’t have gone any better.

“We know it’s a strong Australian Cup field this year, but she deserves her shot and I’m sure that she’ll acquit herself very well again.”

Back home, the Kelso stable has dual representation at Ellerslie on Saturday. Melody Belle’s half-sister My Annie Belle will line up in the Barfoot & Thompson (1400m), while Jolted – a daughter of Deep Impact and the Gr.1 Australasian Oaks (2000m) winner Abbey Marie – tackles the Elsdon Park (2200m).

“My Annie Belle worked very nicely in company with Legarto on Tuesday morning,” Kelso said. “She ran a really nice race for third on Auckland Cup Day last start and has progressed well since then. I think she’ll appreciate the step up to 1400m.

“We ran Jolted over ground at Matamata two starts ago and she didn’t have a lot of luck. She dropped back to a mile at Tauranga last time and was good, but I think she’s looking for further now. She’ll be an interesting runner.”

Legarto Ken and Bev Kelso My Annie Belle jolted