After losing her undefeated record to the superstar Legarto in the spring, quality filly Prowess has set the stage for a high-stakes rematch with a superb win in Sunday's Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Te Rapa.
Prowess was a nine-length winner of her only start as a two-year-old last season, and she won again on her three-year-old debut before having to settle for a fast-finishing and unlucky third behind Legarto in the Group 3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m).
Freshened by trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood after a Group One placing against the boys in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in early November, Prowess returned to the races in style on New Year's Day.
She was ridden by in-form jockey Warren Kennedy, who had her prominently positioned throughout the race before rolling forward to take command at the top of the straight.
2023 Group 2 Auckland Guineas Replay – Prowess
Fittingly for a race meeting that also featured the Group 2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m), the Guineas became a two-horse war between two progeny of Rich Hill's premiership-leading stallion Proisir. The biggest challenge to Prowess came from Waitak, a last-start stakes winner at Te Rapa in the Listed Trevor & Corallie Memorial (1500m).
Waitak came bounding down the outside with giant strides and Prowess briefly looked vulnerable, but the favourite lifted again and kept herself out of reach. She crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length in front of Waitak.
“It's absolutely fantastic to have the opportunity to ride a quality filly like this,” Kennedy said. “She's really going places.”
James and Wellwood paid $230,000 at Karaka 2021 for Prowess, who they bought for a long-time stable client, octogenarian Dean Skipper. From five starts, she has recorded three wins, two thirds and $162,740.
“As long as she comes through this well, we'd love to have a crack at the Karaka Million and another match-up with Legarto – the party will be a pretty big one if we can beat her this time,” Wellwood said.
“This is a filly that's just kept getting better, and I think she'll continue to do so into her four and five-year-old seasons. She still has more maturing to come, but it was awesome to see her win so well today.
“One of the great things about her is that you can use her early in a race, and then she just relaxes and can go again. She's a real push-button horse, and Warren gave her a lovely ride today.
“It looked like she might be labouring a little bit for a few strides in the straight, but then she went again and put them away pretty well in the end.
“She's a very easy filly to have around the stable. She is a well-doing horse, so we've had to really keep the work up to her since the Guineas at Riccarton, but she's taken it all in her stride.”
Legarto remains a hot favourite at -133.33 for a star-studded renewal of the Karaka Million 3YO Classic. Multiple stakes-winning gelding Wild Night holds second favouritism at +240, with Prowess shortening from +900 into third favouritism at +600.