McEvoy fancies Fashion
Australian trainer Tony McEvoy, the man who moulded the early career of Hong Kong Derby fancy Elegant Fashion, yesterday drew a comparison with the champion mare Sunline while assessing the prospects of the David Hayes-trained filly on Sunday.
McEvoy pointed out that winning the Melbourne triple crown for three-year-old fillies 12 months ago was something even Hong Kong Mile heroine Sunline, who ultimately won 28 stakes races including 13 at Group One level, could not do at the same age.
'We all know what a great mare Sunline was - world class - but she was beaten in the first leg of the triple crown before winning the second and third legs,' McEvoy said. 'So the effort by Elegant Fashion to retain her form right through the series was truly marvellous.'
Despite the obvious quality of her form, McEvoy maintains this daughter of five-time Group One winning sire Danewin was an even better filly than the form book suggests.
'Elegant Fashion should have been unbeaten across her first seven starts,' McEvoy said yesterday. 'After winning the Moonee Valley Oaks she went to Sydney and ran second to Republic Lass in the AJC Australian Oaks, and it was probably one of her bravest efforts.
'She was having her eighth start in her first preparation and was 'gone' on the corner, but she kept fighting and ultimately ran a very creditable second to a filly we now know is top class.'
McEvoy said he has been following Elegant Fashion's Derby progress closely from afar. 'She hasn't run a bad race since she arrived in Hong Kong, but that's the sort of filly she is - she's very solid and consistent.'
The retained trainer for David Hayes' Lindsay Park operation also advised form students to completely disregard Elegant Fashion's three failures as a spring four-year-old last year.
'She simply wasn't right and we subsequently learned she had a low-grade virus,' McEvoy explained.
In terms of her general character, McEvoy describes Elegant Fashion as being 'like a male'.
'She's just like a colt to train. She's deep, strong and very tough,' he summed up.
After Elegant Fashion was purchased at the yearling sales in early 2000, she went straight to Lindsay Park to begin her basic education.
'She had excellent natural speed and we expected she could have been one of our best two-year-olds,' McEvoy continued.
'But she was kicked [by another horse] on her left hind canon bone and a sliver of bone came away. It meant nothing in the long term but it was enough to stop her racing as a two-year-old.'
McEvoy has worked with the Lindsay Park empire for over 30 years, originally being apprenticed to David Hayes' late father Colin. 'I've probably been associated with all Lindsay Park's great horses during that time,' he said. 'Elegant Fashion would not be quite in the How Now class, but she'd measure up against any other filly or mare we've handled in that time.'
How Now, a New Zealand-bred daughter of In The Purple, won four Group One races in 1976, including the AJC Australian Oaks and the VATC Caulfield Cup. She is generally regarded as one of the best post-war race mares.
And Elegant Fashion's prospects at 2,000 metres? 'It's probably her best distance. She ran a strong 2,400 metres in the Australian Oaks but 2,000 metres is better still. She was unlucky at her last run - I saw the video and I thought she should have won - and I can tell you, she won't be intimidated racing against the males.'