A hot $1.35 favourite for the three-year-old fillies' Classic at Riccarton, Legarto proved difficult to load into the starting gates, and she gave her connections and backers an almighty scare when her bridle broke.
The other runners were backed out of the gates as Legarto's bridle was replaced, but she was still reluctant to take her place when the runners were loaded a second time and was a little fractious once she was in the gate prior to the field being sent on their way.
However, everything went smoothly for both Legarto and jockey Ryan Elliot during the race itself. After settling back, she improved rounding the far turn and unleashed a devastating turn of foot 300m from the line, scoring by 4.75-lengths from Best Seller, with Blue Solitaire the best of the trio saddled by Shane Kennedy and Anna Furlong in third place.
“I aged about 10 years with the drama at the start,” Legarto's co-trainer Ken Kelso said.
“It's a big relief, and I don't want to go through that again. I'm glad it's all over.”
It was payback of sorts for Kelso, who trains with his wife Bev at Matamata, after some unfortunate defeats in the race, most notably with Bounding, who was beaten into second as an odds-on favourite in 2013 after being caught three wide for the journey.
He said the only unfortunate thing about the victory was that Bev wasn't able to make the journey to Christchurch to watch the race due to her health.
“It's a huge result, it's just a pity she's not here to witness it,” Kelso said. “We've been a team for a long time, we've been training together for 40-odd years, but I'm sure she got a hell of a lot of excitement and relief, like I did, after that.”
A $90,000 purchase for Phillip Brown of Ancroft Stud from Book 2 of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka in 2021, Legarto is raced by many of the same connections as the multiple Group 1-winning mare Levante, including former Waikato Racing Club chief executive Tony Enting.
“We didn't need all the nerve-wracking experience beforehand. She generally is a very placid sort of horse and we weren't expecting that,” Enting said after the 1000 Guineas.
“The nerves were getting worse and worse all the time, but she did the job.
“We made a point of never comparing Legarto with Levante, because Levante's up there still, but this girl's catching up. We're just thrilled.”
Elliot said the pre-race drama was something he didn't need on such a short-priced favourite but that the race itself was drama-free by comparison.
“We got a really nice possie from the gate. I just elected to slot three wide, just to get to the better ground as well, and when Best Seller came out to meet me, to get a bit of cover on the back of her, especially with that head-on wind in the straight.
“She was just absolutely trotting and sensational. She's something else, isn't she?”
Kelso said Legarto is now likely to have a short break before being aimed at the Karaka Million Three-Year-Old Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe on January 21.
Bred by Bay of Plenty farmer Warwick Jeffries, Legarto is out of Towkay mare Geordie Girl.
The 1000 Guineas win added to a spectacular start to the 2022-23 season for her sire Proisir, who stands at Rich Hill Stud near Matamata for $17,500 plus GST. Her victory meant that both New Zealand's Classic mile races fell to progeny of Proisir, following Pier's triumph in last week's Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
With three of the first five Group 1 races of the season having gone to progeny of Proisir – Dark Destroyer having also become a new winner at the top level this season when taking out the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) – it's no surprise that Proisir has a commanding lead in the Grosvenor Award table for leading New Zealand sire.
Proisir will be represented by four individuals at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale of two-year-olds at Karaka on 16 & 17 November.