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O Baby breaks out with breathtaking burst

O Baby reignited the race for top dog status amongst this season’s 3-year-old fillies with a blistering turn of foot to race away with the $150,000 Nevele R Fillies Series No.34 Final at Addington on Saturday afternoon.

With dual G1 winner and favoured Twist And Twirl battling into fifth after plenty of early pressure, the title is still up for grabs and will likely be settled in this week’s New Zealand Oaks and at the Jewels. Twist And Twirl will certainly appreciate the extra distance of the Oaks, but the race could still be wide open when the draws are done for a mile at Cambridge.

O Baby once again proved she is right up to the best in this age group however when she carried Natalie Rasmussen to the biggest win of her brief and intermittent driving career in New Zealand. Rasmussen had no option but to ease O Baby back to last early from the outside of the front line, but with plenty of sparks flying up front over the first 800m, out of the early action was the best place to be and Rasmussen had O Baby in the three wide train and tracking Elusive Chick when it really mattered over the last 800m.

Elusive Chick was brave after being camped three wide in the open, but O Baby had been sitting pretty and went whoosh over the closing stages to score by almost three lengths. Rasmussen wound up second with Blacks A Fake in last year’s Inter-Dominion in Auckland and her first driving success here was a good one with Vi Et Animo in the Methven Cup in the spring, but she had never been in this sort of position before.

“I never really thought about much after the draws came out and even though we were travelling easily down the back, I didn’t think about maybe getting up when we swung for home either,” said Rasmussen. “But just towards the finish I thought to myself…oh shit…I’m going to win. “O Baby had no luck in the big races while in Auckland, but she’s quick and she’s strong – she has a bit of everything and is versatile,” she added.

Rasmussen, a ‘third stringer’ for the All Stars Stable behind Mark Purdon and Blair Orange, completed a memorable day when Minnie Moose won the Pascoes The Jewellers FFA three races later, again accounting for partner and ‘boss’ Purdon with the favoured Southwind Arden and again for breeder-owners Braeden and Mrs Caroline Whitelock. The Whitelocks had an even more memorable day as Paddy Brown had started the ball rolling when bolting away with the CHCH Casino Pace for Orange.

This year’s Fillies Final was a torrid affair right from the start and O Baby’s 2.21 and 1.56.3 mile rate in a cold and breezy easterly was exceptional, second only to Carabella’s 2.19.7 in much better conditions last year and since the race went to 1950m 14 years ago. Purdon had to do his utmost to keep The Burning Question from crossing in the first 400m, and then Twist And Twirl soon had the attentions of Dancing Diamonds and Here We Go Again, the latter maintaining the pressure as Carpenter’s Daughter and Alchemist also made midrace moves for position.

In the end it was the three horses in the three wide train over the last half that filled the first three placings. “She wasn’t a big foal but she could be very naughty – Caroline would have to take a stick with her at feeding time,” said Braeden. “Mark has always said she’s like a big horse in a small body trying to break out,” he added.

O Baby won last season’s Sires Stakes in Auckland, but having just missed at the Jewels a race later, this success at Addington and in Canterbury was special and the best yet for the Whitelocks as breeder-owners. They race dual Sales race winner Dancing Diamonds ($342,000) with Phil and Margaret Creighton after buying her at the Premier, but she has yet to win a G1 and O Baby has now won two and $243,000.

More to the point for them, Caroline is a daughter of Nelson Dalzell of the ‘Moose’ breed and hails from Culverden, and O Baby descends from a family which produced Nelson Derby for her great grandfather George Craw in the 1920s. Nelson Derby was from Norice and the Whitelocks got back into this family when they acquired Tuapeka Star (Smooth Fella-Sakuntala) late in life and bred the good racemare and now producer Braeside Star.

That Soky’s Atom mare has left good winners in Ohoka’s Artsplace, Braeside Derby, Johnny Bravo, Paddy Brown and the promising Bettorbeastar, and O Baby is the first foal from her only unraced daughter in the Artsplace mare Braeside Lady. Artsplace was a big factor in this race as he also sired Twist And Twirl and Carpenter’s Daughter. The second foal from Braeside Lady in a Bettor’s Delight colt has died, but the mare has a weanling brother bound for Karaka next year and she is back in foal to Mach Three.

“Our rule is to always sell the colts and keep the fillies and never have more than six broodmares, so sometimes we’ve sold the odd filly like Meredith Maguire (2nd in Fillies Final two years ago). “We’ll be guided by Mark on what’s best to do with O Baby, but maybe we’ll have to make room for her one day and it’ll be her mother that has to go. “This has been a wonderful day for us, but we had a jolt earlier to remind us what has happened here and that many other people are still hurting.”

O BABY TROPHY

Part of a big winning day for Braedon and Caroline Whitelock, pictured with Nevele R Stud's Peter O'Rourke.