Aardies Express and co vs Ladies in Red

By Adam Hamilton

A herd of Kiwi mares are out to spoil one of champion Australian mare Ladies In Red’s farewell parties.

Trainer Emma Stewart revealed Ladies In Red, a winner of 25 of her 32 starts and over $1 million, would retire from racing later this year.

But the six-year-old daughter of Mach Three still has two major Group 1 targets on the radar.

The first is the $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Mile (formerly Ladyship) at Menangle on May 4. Later, she will head to Albion Park for the Golden Girl in July.

But standing in her way at Menangle are talented and classy Kiwi mares like Aardies Express, Manhattan, Braeview Kelly and Illavabubbles.

While Ladies In Red was this week given a golden ticket straight into the Queen Elizabeth – which she richly deserves – the four Kiwis will have to qualify through two lead-up races.

In fact, all four will clash in the first of the qualifiers, Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 3 Sibelia Stakes (1609m) at Menangle.

Most interest will be around buzz Kiwi mare Aardies Express, who makes her debut for Jack Trainor, but has to overcome a wide draw (gate 10) in a strong race.

Aardies Express, who won 13 of 19 NZ runs, sparked huge interest with a blazing Menangle trial win last week.

The Always B Miki mare cruised to a 12m win in a 1min51.7sec mile, closing-off in a stunning 25.2sec quarter.

“She’s good, really good,” Trainor said, “this looks like a really strong Queen Elizabeth.”

Such is the boom on the mare, she is a $1.80 favourite despite the wide.

Trainor, who has three runners (and emergency Ardens Delight) in the field, will drive Aardies Express.

Impressive last-start winner Manhattan, who has a lovely barrier three, will be driven by Jack Brown, while Josh Gallagher has the reins on defending champion Braeview Kelly (nine).

The Jason Grimson-trained Illavabubbles will driven by Cam Hart from barrier one and is looking to bounce-back from a disappointing fifth to Manhattan last start.

Illhavabubbles and Manhattan are $5 equal second favourites.

Adding to the depth of the Sibelia are classy Victorian mare Soho Historia (gate eight), a stablemate of Ladies In Red, and the emerging Promiseland (gate six).

Stewart revealed she would chase more Queen Elizabeth runners by sending Treachery, Major Delight and Fiamma up for the final qualifier on Saturday week at Menangle.

Many of the beaten brigade from the Sibelia will back-up again the week after as well.

“It’ll be good to get a line on these other mares through Soho Historia this week,” Stewart said. “She’s come back really well, the trial was excellent and she’s got a lot of gate speed to put herself right into the race.”

Emerging young NSW horseman Seaton Grima has picked up the drive on Soho Historia.

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