Ngaire Fraser reckons she’ll never lose her association with grand galloper Westminster, even as she prepares to saddle a two-year-old in a stakes race some 30 years later. The Cambridge trainer will produce Il Cavallo filly Alice Tinker in Saturday’s Group 3 Woburn Farm Classic (1200m) at New Plymouth, the $11,000 Book 3 Karaka purchase winning in the “Westminster colours” at Otaki earlier this month. “I still get linked to Westminster even now. When this filly won, they said she won in the Westminster colours,” Fraser said. “Actually, when I bought this filly from Book 3 last year I noted she had Westminster on the page. It’s the old Mary Poppins family.”
Westminster won nine of his 37 starts under Fraser’s guidance and was a perennial Group One performer throughout his career, winning the Ampol Stakes (these days the Cantala Stakes, 1600m) at Flemington, the Railway Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie and the Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley all at Group 1 level. He also placed several times at Group 1 level on both sides of the Tasman, including his New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) second to Weston Lea at Riccarton, and he was fourth in Almaraad’s 1989 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley. Westminster went on to a moderate career at Ra Ora Stud, leaving Group 1 winner Pace Invader.
But it wasn’t the Westminster factor that was the main influence on Fraser buying Alice Tinker. That was another stallion, Il Cavallo, who stood at the family’s Chequers Stud. “Chris (Campin) and Mark (Fraser-Campin) stood him. He was a lovely horse, a fast horse, and a three-quarter brother to Starspangledbanner and everyone was excited when he arrived,” Fraser said. “But he was commercially infertile and he had just three foals. When Chris and Mark studied his sperm, they reckoned he was lucky to have even got one foal.”
After running third at Ellerslie on debut in October, Alice Tinker headed to Otaki for an 800m dash in early January and became Il Cavallo’s first race winner. “She ran a huge race first-up at Ellerslie and just got caught. Then she got a cough so for a month, she did practically nothing,” Fraser said. “She’s a great eater, I mean a huge eater. I’ve never seen a two-year-old eat the way she does in all my years so I thought the trip away and the 800m race fitted nicely with what I was wanting to do with her.
“This is a big jump from a Monday Otaki maiden but we’re all in the same boat. We really like her and we think she can run well. It will be a long drive home if she doesn’t go any good anyway.” TAB bookmakers have Alice Tinker as a $7 fifth favourite in a market headed by the Jamie Richards-trained Perfect Scenario at $3.20.