By Michael Guerin
Have we finally found a serious challenger to unbeaten filly Millwood Nike?
Mantra Blue’s stunning recovery performance to win the Nevele R 50 Years of Success heat at Cambridge on Thursday night suggests we might have, even if trainer Zachary Butcher is trying to keep a lid on expectations.
Having just her third start Mantra Blue not only looked in trouble having to start from the outside of the front line but her winning chances should have ended soon after the start as she was checked, pushed wider and settled at least five lengths off the back of the bunch.
Over 1700m mobile with fillies like Kahlua Flybye and Seaclusion, who have chased home Millwood Nike in some of our best filly races this year, Mantra Blue should have been done.
But quite remarkably she not only latched on to the pack but looped them over the last 400m and went straight past her rivals to win going away by one and three-quarter lengths in a 1:54.8 mile rate. It was her third win as many career starts.
It was equal parts sensational and surprising because Mantra Blue is so new and so untapped.
If the superstar filly Millwood Nike had done that herself we would be wondering whether she was an all-time great of her age and sex so maybe now we have to start asking whether the northern filly can at least test the best of her crop?
“I have huge respect for Millwood Nike and she won’t be easy to beat but we are going to have a crack,” says Butcher.
“I honestly think our filly can keep improving. I haven’t had her long and she is still settling in to my place.
“That felt pretty awesome tonight and while it looked like a speed win she is a very good stayer.”
Mantra Blue will be flown south in the next few weeks looking for a lead-up race to the Nevele R Fillies Final on Cup Day before she stays in Canterbury until the New Zealand Oaks on December 10.
The Cup Day race will be her first clash with Millwood Nike, who returns to racing at Addington next Friday.
Mantra Blue won’t be the only impressive Thursday night winner heading south as unbeaten two-year-old trotter Paramount Kiwi goes there for his next start in the Harness Million on October 13.
He had his juvenile trot won the moment key rival Dreams Pat galloped at the start but Paramount Kiwi still distanced his rivals in a 1:59.6 mile rate for the 1700m.
“He did it easily and we are looking forward to getting him to Addington,” says trainer-driver Matty White, who seems to be winning a feature race every week at the moment.
Paramount Kiwi looks the sort of natural trotter who should handle the trip away and with many of the more exposed juvenile trotters not eligible for the Harness Million he could find himself in the right race in two weeks.
“He will fly down which is a real bonus now that the flights are back,” says White.
“But after the 13th his only other big target down there is the Sires’ Stakes at the Grand Prix meeting on December 10 so I will have to have a good think about whether he is better off staying for that or being at home spelling.”
Another horse who earned a trip away by winning on Thursday was Shez Bella, who obliterated her older opponents with a 12-length win in the lower grade trot and will now head to Victoria for the three-year-old trot features alongside stablemate Lovemeto.