Rivals out to break Epsom hoodoo for mares

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Thu 1st October 2020

Probabeel and Funstar enjoyed a tremendous rivalry as three-year-olds but they each face an uphill battle to win the Epsom Handicap.

Only three mares have triumphed in the Group One Randwick mile in the past four decades and one of them was the incomparable Winx.

The others were Secret Admirer nine years ago and La Niege in 1976.

Probabeel’s trainer Jamie Richards is unperturbed by the statistics, adamant his charge has the right formlines to figure in the finish.

“The statistics are there and records are made to be broken. I wouldn’t be too concerned about that,” Richards said.

“Obviously we’re not Winx but we’re going well.

“She has got genuine Sydney autumn form which, in our opinion, is one of the most competitive jurisdictions in the world.

“If you’ve got a horse that can be competitive in their own age group there then step up in handicap conditions as a four-year-old, we think we’re in with a nice chance.”

Richards came agonisingly close to winning his first Epsom last year when Te Akau Shark failed by a short head to chase down the Chris Waller-trained Kolding.

Waller has a remarkable record in the big Randwick miles having won the Epsom four times and the Doncaster six, and Triple Honour’s 2008 Doncaster victory was the champion trainer’s first at Group One level.

The importance of the twin races is not lost on Richards.

“These big Randwick miles got Chris Waller’s career going and even some of the Kiwi-bred horses, for example Sacred Falls who won a Doncaster, and Rangirangdoo,” Richards said.

“I am certainly looking forward to the race and hopefully we can get our name on the board.”

Probabeel and Funstar have clashed six times and the ledger is even with the Kiwi mare beating her nemesis home three times and vice versa.

They have drawn alongside one another on Saturday with Probabeel in barrier 18 and Funstar to her outside.

Richards is looking forward to the latest chapter in their rivalry.

“Absolutely. They have come through slightly different paths to get into the race but we’re pleased with how our mare has gone about her lead-in races and we’re happy with her,” Richards said.

The only query for the New Zealand trainer is where he will watch the race.

Richards will be at the Hawkes Bay meeting on Saturday where his runners include 10-time Group One winner Melody Belle and the Epsom will be on when he is in transit.

“I will probably be on the way home from the races in New Zealand,” Richards said.

“We might be watching it on the side of the road somewhere.”