McMullan repaying faith

By Jonny Turner

Woodlands Stud reaped the rewards from giving a rookie trainer a go on a big weekend for the breeding giant.

The Auckland stud secured its second confirmed starter in the group 1 Nevele R Fillies Series when Princess Jessie scored a front running win in a series heat at Methven on Sunday.

The Simon McMullan trained 3yr-old will join fellow Woodlands Stud product Need You Now, who won a series heat in Auckland on Friday night, in the $140,000 final.

McMullan credits Woodlands Stud for taking a chance on an emerging trainer like himself with his promising filly.

“I have to credit Andrew Grierson for giving a young trainer a go and giving me such a nice filly to train,” McMullan said.

“They could have sent her to any trainer in the country.”

Princess Jessie made her way to his West Melton barn after the trainer made enquiries with the stud to see if he could take on one of their horses after he had looked after Utmost Delight for former training partner, Steven Reid, ahead of her group 1 win in New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes, almost two years ago.

“I trained a few for Woodlands when I was in partnership with Reidman and I looked after Utmost Delight when she won the group 1 down here,” McMullan said. 

“Not long after that, I sent an email saying I would really love the opportunity to train one for them.”

Princess Jessie ran three sound races in strong fields before turning heads with a 1.54.9 mile (1609m) win at Wyndham in her start prior to Saturday’s win.

McMullan puts the filly’s upgrade in form and back-to-back wins down to him making some minor changes to her training regime.

“She probably wasn’t going quite as well as I was hoping in her runs previous to her last two starts.”

“So, I have changed her training around a little bit and it really worked.”

Princess Jessie had formed a strong partnership with driver Jonny Cox, who has had her in the lead to win her last two starts.

“I think she is a better filly driven like she has in the last two starts,” McMullan said.

“I think she likes to be up amongst it up.”

The filly will step up significantly in class from Saturday’s conditioned heat to the Nevele R Fillies Series.

McMullan is hopeful Princess Jessie can handle the task.

“I always thought she could measure up to the Classic races.”

“I am not saying she is going to win one, but she is definitely still on the way up and hopefully she can step up to that level and be competitive.”

Princess Jessie scored by three-quarters of a length over runner-up Maharani, who tracked her throughout.

Vesnina put in an eye-catching performance to run third on debut.

The Darren Keast trained 3yr-old may have tested the winner had she not paced roughly in the straight.

The favourite, Miss Graceful, who like Princess Jessies is also bred and raced by Woodlands Stud and raced by one of its syndicates, ran fifth.

The stud’s syndicates enjoyed an excellent weekend with Some Do joining Need You Now in the winner’s circle at Alexandra Park on Friday night.

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