‘Did you think you were riding Winx?’
ALIZEE may have won, but her comeback effort posed more questions than answers.
Was she at her best? What could be read into her narrow winning margin? Is she an Everest contender?
You could almost sense Godolphin trainer James Cummings was mulling over these questions and more as he waited for jockey Hugh Bowman to bring the glamour mare back to the enclosure after the Group 2 $200,000 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens.
Cummings gave the obligatory interview to Sky Racing's Glenn Munsie but was keen to get to Bowman and hear the jockey's thoughts on the race.
Bowman had let Alizee stride up outsider the leaders before the turn before the mare swept to the front at the top of the straight.
She broke clear and the $1.30 favourite looked set for a comfortable win when Bowman appeared to ease up on the mare and Invincible Gem closed to within a short neck.
Some wag in the crowd shouted to Bowman: "Did you think you were riding Winx?"
Another punter compared Bowman's ride to Luke Nolen dropping his hands on Black Caviar at Royal Ascot.
Bowman explained to Cummings the "ridiculously slow pace" forced his hand mid-race.
"She was over-racing a touch, no fault of her own, it was the pace,'' Bowman said.
"If I don't give her a bit of rein I would have had to wrestle with her to the 600m.
"The last thing I wanted to do was have her over-racing for most of the race.
"By doing that (letting her stride up to the leaders mid-race) I knew I was using more energy than I wanted to but she sustained it well.
"Although Alizee probably didn't look as good as we might have thought it would have, to do it the way she did was impressive. It was a superb effort.''
Cummings agreed with Bowman's summation and maintained Alizee was set for a big spring campaign.
"Hugh's the man in the saddle and he has to call the shots,'' Cummings said. "He was worried about the slow pace.
"There seemed to be a lack of pressure, according to Hugh, so Alizee has produced a sustained run when we know she is a much better horse when ridden quiet.
"Hugh is right, the more pressure in a 1200m race the better she will go. When she gets to a race with more pressure she will be much better.''
Alizee was sent out at Winx-like odds of $1.30 and had to scramble home ahead of a game Invincible Gem ($17) with Le Romain ($7.50) more than four lengths away third.
Bowman was questioned by stewards about his lack of vigour in the last 100m but maintained it was more to do with Alizee getting leg weary.
Cummings noted that Alizee's recovery from her Missile Stake win would determine her immediate race preparation.
"We have a few options, we could even wait for the Sheraco Stakes in a few weeks (September 14),'' Cummings said.
"The (Group 1) Winx Stakes is there in a couple of weeks now that she has had a run under her belt so that is worthwhile considering.
"The critical thing is how she has pulled up from what looked like on face value was a bit of a tough run.''
Cummings said the $14 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on October 19 was also a very real possibility for Alizee.
"It will be interesting to see if Alizee goes to The Everest,'' the trainer said.
"She is an outstanding mare and if she is in for her best-ever preparation then she could certainly give it a shake but whether Alizee is the one we choose for The Everest, given she is 600kg of horse power.
"What will come into our thinking is whether Alizee can handle the atmosphere of an Everest as easily as another horse like Osborne Bulls.
"He has been there and absorbed the atmosphere before and amongst the other sprinters we have he's the one most seasoned for such a high pressure event.''
Alizee improved her record to nine wins from 21 starts and took her career earnings to nearly $2.4 million prizemoney.
"She has won another weight-for-age race today and building an incredible portfolio, she is a wonderful mare,'' Cummings said.
"We are happy to have her back racing this season, it is very sporting of Sheikh Mohammed to give us the approval to keep her in training and give everyone the opportunity to keep seeing her at the races.''
Kris Lees, trainer of minor placegetters Invincible Gem and Le Romain, was more than happy with their runs and is likely to send them straight to the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on August 24.