Pearl Of Alsace looking to extend Flemington legacy

Flemington has been a happy hunting ground for the Vela family and they are hoping that continues on Saturday when their Group One performer Pearl Of Alsace carries their famous silks in the Gr.2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m).

Their most notable win at the Melbourne track came in 2001 when Ethereal took out the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), and more than two decades on Sir Peter Vela is hoping for another Group victory during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, and trainer Shaune Ritchie is hoping to oblige.

“It is a good opportunity to showcase the stable and having the Pencarrow colours going around is always great,” Ritchie said.

Ethereal has done a good job there in the past and we won over there a few years ago on Melbourne Cup Day, so it would be nice to continue that run.”

Pearl Of Alsace has been in pleasing form back in New Zealand over spring, finishing runner-up over 1400m first-up at Ruakaka in September before winning over a mile at Te Rapa, and then placing in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings last month.

A trip to Melbourne was always on the cards for the lightly-raced mare, with Ritchie locking in the Matriarch Stakes following her elite-level placing.

“We only had the three runs this campaign allowing us to find a race in Melbourne, if it was possible,” Ritchie said.

“Her first-up run was good over 1400m, she had the mile, and her first run over ground at Group One level was superb. With that 2000m race under her belt, she should be spot on for this one.”

Ritchie has been pleased with the way the daughter of Tavistock has settled in on her first trans-Tasman trip and believes Saturday’s Group Two will be the perfect introduction to Australian racing for the mare.

“She has landed great and had a quiet canter at Flemington this (Thursday) morning and has settled in quite nicely,” he said.

“We think it is the right race for her, she is well weighted. We are trying to dodge the genuine Group One mares and this race sits in really nicely.

“She has only had the nine starts, she is still working the game out a little bit, and this will be a nice stepping-stone. If we can win or run in the top-three, that is Australian form that is going to hold well for her when she is a broodmare.

“Her family has improved with Zourian (half-sister) looking a strong chance in the Thousand Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) later in the carnival. It is a strong family and hopefully we can look to add to it as well.”

Pearl Of Alsace will be partnered by expat Kiwi jockey James McDonald and is rated a $5.50 favourite with TAB bookmakers.

Meanwhile, Ritchie and his New Zealand training partner Colm Murray are looking forward to watching Mahrajaan line-up in the Listed Nautical Boat Insurance Metropolitan Trophy (2600m) at Riccarton on the same day.

It will be the European import’s final hit-out before next Saturday’s Gr.3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup (3200m), and the Cambridge duo are hoping he is met by a Good track this weekend.

“He does need a Good track and I know the track came up Heavy earlier in the week,” Ritchie said.

“Colm is down at Riccarton and he tells me that the weather is pretty good down there, so hopefully the track dries out enough for him to perform.

“His main goal will be the New Zealand Cup and we are expecting him to peak for that race, it is the reason we have gone down. He is more than likely a two-miler, so that will be his grand final.

“He took a couple of runs to work out the style or racing in this part of the world compared to what he is used to. I think 20-1, he is good odds in a New Zealand Cup. I think he will run better than those odds.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk