By Adam Hamilton
STRAP yourself in for a magical Len Smith Mile at Menangle next Sunday.
Sure the Group 1 Len Smith Mile itself will take centre stage with the likes of My Field Marshal, Soho Tribeca, Majordan, Match In Heaven and others doing battle.
But there will be so many delicious side dishes through the NSW Breeders Challenge finals.
The biggest names in action include Australia’s most exciting three-year-old Ignatius and gun former Kiwi four-year-old Let it Ride.
Ignatius, who upstaged Sicario to win the Breeders Challenge 2YO final last season, has been sparingly raced since, but extended his record to 13 wins and a third from just 14 starts.
His Penrith win two starts had many seasoned experts saying he was the sport’s next big thing.
And there is a lovely symmetry with former dual Inter Dominion winner Beautide, having started his in career for Rattray clan in Tasmania before moving to Jimmy Rattray’s Menangle stable.
Rattray had an armchair drive on Ignatius in their Breeders Challenge semi last night (Saturday), working to the front, dictating terms then ripping home in 55.1 and 27.0sec to win under a hold by 6.2m in a 1min53.1sec mile.
Importantly, the other semi was won in a quicker 1min52.6sec by Kevin Pizzuto’s Picard, but Ignatius sat parked outside him and crushed him in that heat of the series at Penrith.
Everything points to Ignatius easily winning the final and then focus turning to whether Rattray heads to the Queensland Derby or waits to focus on the Breeders Crown.
Let It Ride stamped himself as the one to beat in a strong four-year-old Breeders Challenge division with a narrow, but impressive semi-final win.
Anthony Butt snagged him to last from a wide draw and had to sustain a long three-wide run to beat a gallant and underrated leader San Domino in a 1min51.4sec mile.
Let It Ride was clocked to run a staggering 54.1sec last half, out three-wide for much of it.
But this will be a strong final with the tough Atomic Red doing a power of work and still proving too strong for stablemate Joes Star Of Mia in a 1min51.6sec mile.
The other key Breeders Challenge final will see Victorian raiders Hardhitter and Lochinvar Art head the betting in the two-year-old colts and geldings division.