Rupee reigns supreme at Randwick

He couldn’t win his trainer the Mazda that was up for grabs in the 55 Second Challenge, but a bigger prize could await for Lankan Rupee after the rejuvenated sprinter continued his fairytale season in today’s T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick.

The Victorian four-year-old made it six wins in a row when he completed a Group 1 hat-trick in the $2.5 million event that was one of four Group 1s on the opening day of The Championships.

The son of Redoute’s Choice upped the ante in his quest for Horse of the Year honours with a victory that came just days after he was officially declared the world’s best sprinter.

“I tried to win the car at Moonee Valley one night and he got beaten, so I wouldn’t have thought then that this horse would turn into the world’s best sprinter,” Price said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a world-class-rated horse, so he’s obviously the best horse I’ve trained.”

The T.J. Smith victory capped a remarkable transformation for Lankan Rupee since being gelded late last season.

Since his third placing in a heat of the Essendon Mazda 55 Second Challenge on Night 1 of the Sportingbet Cox Plate Carnival, which followed a victory in the same series at his first run as a gelding, Lankan Rupee has not been beaten.

After wins at Flemington and Caulfield to round out his spring campaign, he resumed with Group 2 Rubiton Stakes success before landing the Oakleigh Plate-Newmarket Handicap double.

He produced yet another dominant display to win the world’s richest sprint race. After jumping well jockey Craig Newitt led, which was not the preferred scenario, but it didn’t prevent him from exploding away from his rivals shortly after topping the famous Randwick rise.

The $3.80 favourite scored by two lengths from Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes winner Rebel Dane with another Horse of the Year contender, Manikato Stakes and VRC Sprint Classic champion Buffering, close up third.

“When he landed a length, two lengths in front out of the gate I just let him cruise to where he wanted to be and that was in front,” Newitt said.

“He was happy and he was comfortable. He wasn’t all that happy in the ground, but he was too good.”

It was a satisfying victory for Newitt, who gave up the ride on Lankan Rupee in the Newmarket Handicap to ride stablemate Samaready but was reinstated for the Sydney race.

Coincidentally, in one of the other features – the Doncaster Mile – Newitt gave up the ride on Weary to Tommy Berry after connections wished to give Berry the opportunity to ride Weary in honour of his late brother Nathan, with whom they had experienced previous success.

“If ever there was going to be a race for Karma it was going to be today after I let Tommy take the ride on Weary,” Newitt said.

“There’s not a lot of loyalty left in the racing industry, but for these owners to put me back on, it’s unbelievable and I can’t thank them enough.”

If Lankan Rupee is to win the Horse of the Year, it will be on the deeds the judges have before them now, with Price confirming the winner of $2,781,260 was paddock-bound.

“He has the spring in front of him and we might have him for five or six years if he’s handled properly,” Price said. “I certainly don’t intend to go any further with him this prep.”

Lankan Rupee’s win was one of four victories across three states for Price – who also had a double at his home track of Caulfield and won a Stakes race in Adelaide with Tango’s Daughter – and was the standout Victorian performance at Randwick.

Shamexpress and Bel Sprinter were the other Victorians in the race, but never looked winning chances, finishing seventh and 14th respectively.

Lankan Rupee’s stablemate Cornrow was the other Victorian to fill a top-three placing in a Group 1, turning in an improved effort off his Golden Slipper flop to claim third behind Peggy Jean and Scratch Me Lucky in the $1 million Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).

Speediness (11th) was the first Victorian home in a Doncaster Mile that saw Chris Waller train the first four horses over the line. Last year’s winner Sacred Falls defeated Royal Descent and Weary with Hawkspur third.

The other Group 1 on the card was the Australian Derby, which went the way of Australian Guineas placegetter Criterion. The three Victorians in the race occupied positions nine through 11, David Hayes’ Surging Wave flanked by Moody pair Cadillac Mountain (ninth) and Crime Fighter (11th).

Lankan Rupee wasn’t the only Victorian success on the day, however, with Robert Smerdon’s Politeness, scoring a brilliant win in the $200,000 Group 3 P.J. Bell Stakes (1200m).

Story by Brad Bishop