The clash of two of Sydney’s favourite race mares was as emotionally contrasting as the three lengths margin between them as First Seal swept home over the top of her rivals to win the Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes (1300m).
The ghostly grey Catkins was conspicuous trailing the six-horse field to the line — a rare failure for a mare who has been renowned as a first-up specialist with an outstanding home track record.
“Catkins seems fine but her run is a concern, obviously,’’ trainer Chris Waller said. “She might be telling us she has had enough but we won’t jump to any conclusions on raceday.
“The owners are fantastic and want to look after the horse first. If Catkins shows she has had enough, the owners will be happy to stop with her.
“If we can’t find a reason why she didn’t run in the first three today, then it could be it.’’
Hugh Bowman, rider of Catkins, wasn’t making any excuses for her run.
“She did get chopped out in the straight but that was because she wasn’t going well enough to take the gap,’’ Bowman said.
But Catkins’s flop should not take the gloss from the brilliant return by First Seal ($3.60) who swamped her rivals to win by nearly a length from Telepathic ($10) with a long head to I’ve Got The Looks ($5.50).
First Seal was having her first run after 11 months due to a troublesome hoof problem but trainer John Thompson deserves credit for nursing his mare back to form and fitness.
“It is a relief to have her back — great to see her win,’’ Thompson said. “I told Blake (Shinn) before the race not to panic and ride her to hit the line.
“There is plenty of improvement in her but she could not have done anymore today.’’
Shinn said he always felt First Seal had her rivals covered despite giving away a start from the turn.
“The pace was strong and that was always going to be in her favour. She did get a little tired late but got the job done.’’Thompson confirmed First Seal will go to the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) in two weeks before deciding the mare’s autumn program but the $3 million Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick on April 2 is her main goal this campaign.