TRAINER Bjorn Baker had a simple answer when asked why he was so confident Champagne Cuddles would make a winning return in Saturday’s Group 3 Gold Coast Guineas: “She’s fast”.
So fast, in fact, that she lowered the 1200m course record, which had stood since El Cambio set it in the same race a decade earlier, stopping the clock in a scorching 1min 07.65sec.
Champagne Cuddles earned herself a new fan in the shape of dual Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Corey Brown, who hopes to stick with the filly through the winter.
“It’s good when the one you come for works out,” Brown said. “This is the first time I’ve been on her and she really impressed me.
“She’s not a lot to look at, she’s a little bit short and a bit thick and even when you’re on top of her she’s a bit of an awkward shape, but I tell you what, once she glided through she found two or three gears really quick.
“I did expect to be a bit further back than where I landed, she travelled really sweet where she was. Once I wrapped one around her, the ears went back and she really quickened.
“I knew I always had Jeff (Lloyd on Whypeeo) covered. When we got to the 100m she’d really gathered momentum and she was always going to idle past him.”
Baker needs to decide whether Champagne Cuddles steps up to Group 1 weight-for-age grade in the Kingsford Smith Cup on May 26 or go to the Fred Best Classic on the same day.
The decision may hinge on where she sits in the order of entry for the Stradbroke, as the latter offers ballot-free status for that race.
But if she looks like making the field, you get the impression Baker would love to have a crack at the older horses.
“She’s top class,” Baker said. “You only have to look at her form through the spring and there’s no more deserving horse of a Group victory.
“She’s hard not to love. She has a great attitude.
“The last thing I said to Corey when I legged him up was ‘enjoy’. I was very confident, she’s a very good horse. I’ve had a bit of a flat run and you need these good horses to put their hand up and that’s what she is.
“She’s got a massive ticker. She has a big girth, she’s not overly tall, but she’s strong and she has a great attitude.”
Lloyd said Whypeeo ran to his best, but was “beaten by a Group 1-class filly”.
Jockey Damian Browne said third-placed Marble ran well, but the first two were “just too fast.”