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Sunday, September 8, 2013
La Collina halts winless skid

By Myra Lewyn
Bloodhorse



La Collina, the only Group 1 winner in the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes field, sprung a 25-1 upset at Leopardstown Sept. 7, which was also a big day for American and European champion Ouija Board.

Under Chris Hayes, La Collina prevailed in a thrilling three-way finish, besting 14-1 Lily's Angel and 8-1 Say. The 4-year-old Strategic Prince filly snapped an 11-race winless skid dating from her neck triumph in the 2011 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.

Fifth in the 2012 Matron, La Collina pursued Lily's Angel and Say through the final furlong in this year's edition before a determined thrust propelled her across the finish line in a half-length victory. She was timed in 1:39 for one mile on turf rated as good.

The chestnut filly is trained by Kevin Prendergast for owner Joerg Vasicek. Prendergast bought her for $68,426 out of breeder Manister House Stud's consignment at the 2010 Doncaster premier yearling sale. She has placed in five other group stakes, including her third to Maybe in the 2010 Moyglare Stud Stakes. Overall, she has three wins, three seconds, and two thirds from 15 career starts.

The Matron win marked the first Group 1 win for Hayes, who was emotional after the race.

"She just coasted around. It's just unbelievable," Hayes told Racing Post. "She has been in great form and I am glad that the owners and trainer stuck by me."

La Collina was starting for the sixth time this season and finished sixth in the Jockey Club of Turkey Meld Stakes July 25 at Leopardstown in her previous start. She rebounded with aplomb to halt her long winless drought.

"She's very genuine and everything went right for her today," Prendergast said. "She's only run one bad race and that was last time here when the ground was heavy."

Irish Oaks and Irish One Thousand Guineas third-place finisher Just Pretending led to the halfway mark, lost command, but battled to lead again off the home turn. She could not maintain control, however, and was headed by Lily's Angel before tiring to finished eighth. French classic-placed Kenhope, the 5-2 favorite, raced toward the back of the field and progressed to fourth but could get no closer.

La Collina is from the first crop of Coolmore's Strategic Prince, a 9-year-old son of Dansili. She is out of the unraced Galileo mare Starfish, who has three winners from as many to race.

Also on the card, the Coolmore and partners' regally bred Australia romped to an impressive six-length win in the ICON Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes to stamp himself as a horse to watch for the 2014 Investec Epsom Derby.

The Galileo colt, out of United States and European champion Ouija Board, upstaged trainer Dermot Weld's highly regarded Free Eagle, the 2-5 favorite, who was overtaken more than a furlong out but held for second, 3 ½ lengths in front of third-place finisher Kingfisher, Australia's stablemate.

Ridden by Joseph O'Brien for his father, trainer Aidan O'Brien, Australia dispatched front-runner Free Eagle to lead in the final quarter-mile and drew off to complete one mile in 1:40.30 as the 5-2 second favorite. He has two wins and a second from three career starts and entered off win a maiden win July 30 at the Curragh. He finished second by a neck in his career bow there June 30.

Australia earned an automatic starting berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf a one-mile event Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park as the trial is a qualifying race under the Breeders' Cup Challenge series "Win and You're In" format.

Australia was bred in England by Lord Derby's Stanley Estate Co., which bred and owned Ouija Board, two-time European Horse of the Year. She started three times in North America, winning the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2004 and in 2006. The daughter of Cape Cross was voted an Eclipse Award as champion turf female both years. She finished second in the 2005 Filly and Mare Turf.

O'Brien won three races on the card, including a maiden race with Agena and the KPMG Enterprise Stakes with The United States, both by leading sire Galileo.