Former New Zealander Atishu (NZ) (by Savabeel) will attempt to follow the path blazed by Probabeel (NZ) last year and claim the $160,000, Group 3, Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m)-Epsom Handicap double after taking out the first leg at Randwick.
Now prepared by Chris Waller, Atishu ($3.50 fav) showed fierce determination to wear down leader Prime Star (fifth), then get the better of Looks Like Elvis (by All American) as the pair drew clear to fight the race out.
Atishu proves too strong in the Bill Ritchie, picture by sportpix.com.au
Atishu scored by a half-neck over Looks Like Elvis ($31), with the winner’s stablemate Aramayo (by Poet's Voice (GB)) another 1-1/4 lengths away at $13.00.
The winner of Saturday’s 1400m race earns an automatic berth in the Epsom and Waller has confirmed that is the next race on their radar.
“It’s a big help because you know you’re in the field with a light weight,” Waller said. “She’ll be well placed there, and the extra 200 metre and the tough Randwick mile will really suit, so we’re on track.”
Fellow Kiwi-born mare Probabeel won the Bill Ritchie Handicap 12 months ago before going on to Epsom Handicap success.
Atishu was a duel Listed winner in New Zealand but Saturday’s triumph was her first black-type victory in Australia. After making a winning debut for Waller over 1400m at Randwick last month, she was a last-start fourth to Soldier Of Love at the same venue and her race fitness was a telling factor on Saturday.
Jockey Tim Clark said Atishu adjusted well to a muddling tempo and had a good will to win.
“She was able to adapt well. I always felt she was going to be really strong late,” Clark said.
“She’d had a couple of runs and she was coming back in trip slightly, so she really toughed it out well.
“She’s had three runs here in Australia for Chris and she hasn’t put a foot wrong, so she’s heading in the right direction.”
Atishu had been a $21 chance for the Epsom but firmed into $13 after Saturday’s win.
Bill Ritchie Handicap, photo finish picture ATC