Europe Trip Verry Real Option

Choosing the right time to retire is a constant contemplation in every sport and it is one that is all the more difficult in horse racing due to the feature athlete being unable to talk.

All the same, horse racing mostly manages its farewells with impeccable timing. Apart from a few colts that are rushed off to stud well before their peak as a racehorse, few horses are raced beyond their prime with the top mares especially able to somehow make the perfect exits.

You immediately think of Winx in her run in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes and of Black Caviar in the 2013 T J Smith Stakes. Of course, they both easily won their final races and in most typical fashion, but even so, for both there was a real sense of finality about their work on their final days on the racetrack.

Before them, Makybe Diva retired minutes after her third Melbourne Cup victory in 2005. The signs were there just 10 days earlier when trainer Lee Freedman suddenly grabbed the mare’s reins from her strapper to gently walk the mare and keep her steady on her wobbly legs after she’d given all in that remarkable Cox Plate performance.

She somehow bounced back to full health in a matter of days for what would be that one more run that would elevate her into legend status.

All were seven years old when the right time came calling. In her final season, Winx won all eight races – seven of them at Group 1 level. Black Caviar won all her three races at seven after coming back from Royal Ascot and Makybe Diva finished her career with a run of three – a Turnbull Stakes, a Cox Plate and a third Melbourne Cup.

Come the new season in August, Verry Elleegant turns seven. Talk of possible retirement has intensified following her worst showing on the track for some seasons when recently spaced in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.

Importantly however, the mare has come through the ordeal on the heaviest track she or any of her rivals had ever seen, in fine health and once her owners decided to reject her Queen Elizabeth run as a Mother Nature anomaly, attention is now likely to be focusing on providing that perfect exit in what will be her final season of racing.

While she’s no Winx, Verry Elleegant has won a thoroughly impressive 11 Group 1 races and she’s done so despite the fact that she has not been able to consistently race at her optimum distance.

She’s been a weight-for-age star and won one at 1400 metres (Winx Stakes) and so 2000-metre races such as the Cox Plate in the spring and the Queen Elizabeth in the autumn have mostly been in focus in recent seasons.

But the mare’s true strength is her ability to stay.

Since her failure as a wayward filly in the VRC Oaks in the spring of 2018, Verry Elleegant has only been out to 2400 metres and beyond five times. She won the ATC Oaks (2400m) in 2019 and the following season won the Tancred Stakes (2400m) by nearly five lengths.

Then, in the spring of 2020, she beat the English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck to win the Caulfield Cup before a rare unplaced run in the Melbourne Cup. That run was more than made up for 12 months later when she ran clear from the seemingly unbeatable Incentivise for a resounding victory in the great race.

Being an 11-time Group 1 winner and past winner of both the Caulfield (with 55.5kg) and Melbourne Cups (with 57kg), Verry Elleegant is going to be asked to lump big weights in the handicap staying races next spring.

For some, this fact leads us back to the discussion about her retirement as there’s so little for her to prove and so few races in which to do so. In Australia that is.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) in Paris in the first week of October has long been an aim for some that own Verry Elleegant. Despite the excuses from her Queen Elizabeth run, the race for the world’s best stayers seems as far away as ever but the ultimate dream of racing in the elite grade in Europe remains for the time being at least.

To get to an Arc, or indeed to simply test herself in Europe, Verry Elleegant might find herself in France or England early in Group 1 races against her own sex, where her performance would dictate her destiny.

A European campaign could start with either

£500,000 G1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks (2385m) for fillies and mares at York on August 19.

€250,000 G1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet (2000m) for mares at Deauville on August 21.

Then, going well, she could go…

€600,000 G1 Qatar Prix Vermeille (2400m) for fillies and mares at Longchamp on September 11.

€5,000,000 G1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp on October 2.

Alternative F&M races away from the Arc

€300,000 G1 Qatar Prix de Royallieu (2800m) for fillies and mares at Longchamp on October 1 (day before Arc).

€500,000 G1 Prix de I’Opera Longines (2000m) for fillies and mares at Longchamp on October 2 (Arc day).

British options post-Arc…

£500,000 G1 British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (2406m) at Ascot on October 16.

£1,250,000 G1 British Champions Stakes (2012m) at Ascot on October 16.

A decision on the future of Verry Elleegant is to be announced next week.


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