Kiwi mare Aardies Express steals limelight at Club Menangle

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It was hailed as the night for the ladies with the Pacing for Pink campaign at the head of affairs.

While the McGrath Foundation was the biggest beneficiary at Club Menangle on Saturday night, some superstar fillies and mares stole the spotlight.

With four Group 1s, two for the pacers and two for the trotters, there was some big money up for grabs and it was the Victorians that flooded into town and left with the lioness share of the spoils.

And it was capped off by a win for the ages when fabulous Kiwi mare Aardies Express took out the night’s most-anticipated feature, the $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Mile with a win that had to be seen to be believed.

A star-packed night of group racing began when lightly-raced youngster Keayang Zahara scored an unbelievable win in the $75,000 Trotters Oaks (2300m).

At one stage this filly, having just her third race start, was trapped four-back on the pegs and her trainer Marg Lee admitted her heart was in her mouth.

Yet once reinsman Jason Lee extricated this filly away from the pegs and into the chase, she knuckled down to score a devastating win, beating Mega Spur and the unlucky Pinnie. Rating 1:58 for her last mile in scoring by five and a quarter metres.

The second feature of the night, the $100,000 Slingsby Holdings Macarthur Mile saw something of an upset when Im Ready Jet, trained by Anton Golino and driven by Nathan Jack, ran down the mighty mare Queen Elida in the straight, scoring a one and a half metre win in 1:53, with Majestic Trio a massive 17.5m further back in third place.

The night just kept getting better and the rain that had plagued Sydney for much of the week held off as the third Group 1, the $200,000 John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks proved something of a cakewalk for a filly many suggest will be Australian pacing’s next superstar, Very Pretty.

It was the eighth successive win for the Emma Stewart-trained and Mark Pitt driven Very Pretty, and such was the quality of her win that some of those on track suggested we may see her back for the million dollar TAB Eureka at Tabcorp Park Menangle later in the season.

She had little trouble holding off Lux Aeterna and Zena Rhayne Bow, cruising home by 12.5m in a 1:56 mile rate.

According to her Victorian reinsman Mark Pitt: “Once we were able to get away with a 31s quarter it was always going to be mission impossible for her rivals.”

Then it was onto the race that many people came to see with one of the best fields of mares ever assembled in this part of the world.

The draw favoured another Victorian star, Ladies in Red and her reinsman David Moran drove almost the perfect race, finding the front and running them along with some quick quarters.

Meanwhile, second favourite Aardies Express was stuck back near last – and posted three-wide for the journey.

Yet this amazing mare, with former Kiwi Jack Trainor aboard, put in a finish that many could not believe they were seeing as she tore down the outside to grab Ladies in Red in the shadows of the post, scoring by a neck in a 1:49.9 mile with pole marker Illavabubbles (Chloe Formosa) a close third.

“We were stuck three-wide and there was not much pace on in the middle of the race,” said Trainor, pictured above with Aardies Express post race.

“But she dug deep in the straight and I could not be more proud of her.”

Trainor has won three of the past four of this major mare’s feature: “I’m just so blessed to keep getting these great mares,” said the Menangle-based horseman.

“After being stuck wide for the whole journey she’s earned a few days on the paddock to recover before we decide where to head next.”

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