Verry Elleegant after winning the 2021 Melbourne Cup.
In all likelihood, Verry Elleegant, the superstar Australian mare, won’t return to her native country to contest the Melbourne Cup this year. The 2021 winner of the “race that stops a nation” is off to Europe to campaign for some of the biggest prizes in the Northern Hemisphere in the coming months. So it seems that Australia’s loss is Europe’s gain, but the move, including a split from trainer Chris Waller, raises more questions than answers.
For context, Verry Elleegant had the best part of four glittering years of success under Waller. Often teaming up with champion jockey James McDonald, the mare won a glut of Group 1 races, including the Caulfield Cup, Chipping Norton Stakes (twice), Australian Oaks, Ranvet Stakes, and many others. She was named Australian Racehorse of the Year for the 2020/21 season, with last year being capped off with that stunning win in the Melbourne Cup.
It’s not unheard of for superstar horses to head north (or south) to try something different, but, to be frank, some eyebrows were raised at the decision of Verry Elleegant’s owners. With Waller, they had a recipe for success, and with a record A$300 million being announced in prize money for the upcoming Victoria racing season, it’s not as if money alone is the answer.
Plans vague for super mare
The problem lies in that we just don’t know the plans for Verry Elleegant in Europe. Statement from her camp have been vague, and we have heard little to nothing from her new trainer, Chantilly-based Francis-Henri Graffard. However, what we do know is what everybody wants to see – Verry Elleegant take a tilt at the 2022 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Palmerbet rates her as a 20/1 (21.00) shot for the Arc, and this Palmerbet review will inform you that the Aussie bookmaker is usually on the money when it comes to fair odds. It seems a fair price, given the uncertainty over her participation. Until we get further confirmation of the plans for Verry Elleegant, punters would feel a lot more confident with their money on the market leader, Desert Crown.
Testing the waters in France
Nonetheless, connections want to test the waters, so to speak, in France over the coming weeks and months before deciding on whether the Arc is the prize to be aimed for. We expect to hear news of a plan any day now, but, as ever in horse racing, these things can be fluid. It’s been made abundantly clear by Verry Elleegant’s team that she needs to run 2400M+ to show her true potential, and the Arc is run over 2400M.
Although it is not impossible for a horse to run in Europe in the early autumn and come to Australia for the spring, it’s obviously not ideal. Moreover, Verry Elleegant’s camp has pointed to the fact that running in Europe’s top staying races would see her “weighted out of Australian soil”. So there is little chance of a stunning arrival to contend for Australia’s spring cups.
And that, perhaps, is the point. There are no half measures here. Verry Elleegant’s owners want to – in their own words – “do it properly”. They will campaign the Australian wonder horse 1000s of miles away from her home and be fully committed to staying there. It is a gamble – a big one – but will it pay off?