RECORD-chasing mare Saint Cecelia confirmed expectations by winning the $1,118,000 Eileen Cliggott Trophy highlighter at Caymanas Park yesterday to mount her 12th consecutive win and duly equalled the record set by War Zone, the 1996 Triple Crown winner.
The record-equalling run also had special significance for trainer Spencer Chung, as it helped to celebrate his mother's birthday.
Saint Cecelia, the repeat reigning Horse-Of-The-Year, was being ridden by Shane Ellis for the 10th consecutive occasion of her 12 races, and coupled well under top weight of 57.0kg after shooting from barrier #5 to grab the lead.
And skipping along nimbly after assuming the lead, the 1-9 favourite was never headed. Rounding the final quarter bend she then tightened her grip on proceedings with rapid strides to run 1,300 metres flawlessly in a smart 1:18.1 minutes, to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
The lightly weighted Palace Gold, ridden by Paul Francis, a 7-1 betting option, did most of the stalking and rallied strongly in the final 200 metres. However, the 'queen' of sprints was game and Palace Gold had to be content with second. Typewriter, a 4-1 stablemate of the winner ridden by Dick Cardenas, finished third, another two lengths back, with stablemate The Guv completing the frame as a 19-1 chance under Kerry-Gayl Robinson in the field of six.
Giving weight all round, Chung said: "I was impressed with Saint Cecelia's performance of clocking 1:18.1. I was expecting her to do a time of around 1:19.0."
Asked what is next for Saint Cecelia, Chung said he was "looking forward to breaking the record. This is racing. Nothing lasts forever, and we have to take it while we have it."
Ellis was also impressed with the mare's performance: "She was just out for the stroll and she felt really good over the trip as she was enjoying every moment of it. She just seems to be getting better and better everyday," the one-time champion jockey added.
Owned by Robert F Chung & WP Valentine Chung, Saint Cecelia, a seven-year-old chestnut mare is by Burning Marque out of She's On Wheels (Bates Motel) bred by Ham Stables Ltd. It was her 21st win from 32 career starts and she earned $648,650.00 as the winner's share for a bankroll of $18,635,750 lifetime.