Espiona bounces back to form with dominant win

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Espiona has proved her doubters wrong and shown she is a filly on the rise when blowing them away in the Group 3 James H.B. Carr Stakes at Randwick.

Winner of the Listed Desirable Stakes (1400m) at Flemington in November, the Chris Waller-trained Extreme Choice filly finished second and third respectively in the Group 2 Lightfinger Stakes (1200m) and Group 1 Surround Stakes (1400m) in February before a last start eighth to Lighthouse in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic (1500m) on March 12.

With her past performances warranting the $2.25 favourite starting price with online bookmakers, Espiona travelled comfortably slightly off the pace with James McDonald in the saddle before pulling out at the top of the straight. McDonald asked and received with the class filly opening up at the 400m and drawing away to the line for an impressive 4.38-length victory.

The Joe Pride-trained Party For One ($9.50) and Peter and Paul Snowden’s Dynasties ($18) fought out the minor placings a further length and a half in front of the rest of the field.

2022 James H.B. Carr Stakes Replay

“It has been a tricky Autumn for a lot connections and horses. It’s probably taken away a little bit of confidence. She has been ready to go every week, but it’s just been one rain shower after another. The confidence will help her. I think she is a really good horse in the making. She has a bright future and I think you’ll see more of it in the Spring,” said Waller.

“I wouldn’t say she doesn’t handle heavy tracks, but it was taking a lot out of her.

“Trying to make up ground on really wet tracks when that is their normal racing pattern makes it hard so they are chasing from a long way out. She is still pretty immature. She came into the Autumn having two race starts so she will go to the Spring a pretty confident horse now and ready to bounce to the next level.

“Providing Denise (Martin – Star Thoroughbreds) agrees that is the end for her now. I’d like to give her a good spell and go full tilt to the Spring.”

McDonald said they were lucky to get a great draw in barrier two and were able to utilise it to their advantage.

“It’s been hard work. With those two lanes it’s a bit unfair for the ones coming out wide. We were pretty mindful of that. Her first 100m is never great, tried to muster a spot close enough. We didn’t really want to come out too wide, hence why we gravitated back to the rail in the straight. She was far too good. We could’ve brought to the middle but she still wins,” said McDonald.

“She tracked up beautifully, when I did let her go. She’s a filly that’s just crying out for good ground. She’s just getting away with it, a little bit better than them today.

She’s been found out on soft ground and up in grade against good quality Group 1 horses. Let’s just pray that she gets a really good spring, that will give her the world of good. I’m glad they’ve given her a confidence booster.”

McDonald said the team had been very happy with Espiona during the week and that she had got a real spring back in her step in recent weeks,

“She’s been working really well. She had lost her way a little bit just through the track conditions and that good quality opposition where she didn’t have the ground to suit her.

“We’re down in grade and still the track conditions didn’t really suit her, but obviously got away with it today. She’s a topliner but she just needs certain things to go her way.”

On the track bias: “It’s not ideal at all. It’s been a bit disappointing actually because you come one or two off and you’re out of play straight away. Luckily we had a great draw (barrier two) and we were able to utilise that.

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