It is all about attitude, ability and aptitude. Horses don’t know how old they are, and if they are feeling good then it doesn’t matter much.
Thus two-year-old filly Fontiton, making her first racecourse appearance, raced like an experienced old hand and scooted up in the opening race on Cox Plate day, the $250,000 Inglis Banner.
And nine-year-old gelding Eight Bills, who hadn’t been on the track for some 10 weeks, showed his venerable age was certainly no barrier to his prospects when he scored his 11th career victory in 48 starts in Saturday’s second event, the $60,000 City Jeep Handicap.
Fontiton ($3) made every post a winning one under Mark Zahra to score easily by six lengths in the Inglis Banner to give trainer Robert Smerdon the first leg of an early double, completed when odds-on favourite Lumosty won the group 2 Drummond Golf Fillies Classic an hour later.
The two-year-old Fontiton looked sharper and smarter than all her rivals throughout the 1000-metre race and was never troubled to see off the Queensland-trained Hot Snippety ($5.50), with Peter Moody’s Braccenby running on to take third place.
Afterwards, Smerdon said that while she looked precocious at this stage, Fontiton would be much better in the autumn and could grow into a Thousand Guineas filly this time next year.
“She is naturally quick, but we have always thought she would be better later over a bit further, and she came into training simply to have a bit of education and go back to the paddock. But everything we did with her, she just handled so well, she’s got an old horse’s attitude,” he said.
“We never planned to be here, we never thought she was a really early two-year-old as talented as she is, but when they are up and going and the money is there …
“Its a cliche, but if you look at her she has good size, length and scope on her. In six months’ time she will be a nicer horse, and in 12 months she might be a Thousand Guineas filly.”
Zahra added: “He [Smerdon] wouldn’t bring them here unless they have a good hope. She trialled really well the other day, but two-year-olds, until you bring them on race day, you never know. But that was like a trial again.
“I just got her out and running, brought her back in tempo, gave her a little shake-up, saw the big screen and shut her down.
“She’s pretty good … when they are first up they have to go on with it, but you don’t get more impressive than that.”
Eight Bills has been around the traps and, most recently, was running in Darwin, where he took out the Northern Territory’s main short-course event, the Palmerston Sprint. But that was in August, and he hadn’t been seen on a racecourse since.
However, he is a horse with a terrific first-up record (five wins from 10 starts) and he showed once again how good he was fresh.
His trainer Stephen Brown was not present on Saturday – he is in England, looking to buy a couple of contenders for next year’s cup races at the horses-in-training sales – but Eight Bills was presented ready to do himself justice, as he proved.
“He was always travelling. They weren’t going at any great speed, and I was mindful 400 [metres] out that I needed to get on me bike … it’s a bloody good effort,” winning jockey Dean Yendall said.
“You wouldn’t even know he’s a nine-year-old. Up in Darwin during that carnival he gave me a great feel … you wouldn’t even know, you would think he was a three-year-old.”
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