High-class New Zealand mare Prowess put a frustrating early spring behind her in style with a bold Melbourne debut in Saturday’s Gr.2 McCafe Crystal Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley.
The daughter of Proisir was a Group One winner on both sides of the Tasman last season, culminating in a three-length demolition of her rivals in the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) in Sydney in late March.
That performance prompted her connections to set their spring sights on Saturday’s Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m), but some cruelly timed minor setbacks disrupted her build-up through August and September. Prowess eventually made it to Cox Plate Day, albeit in a supporting race over a shorter distance, and she landed that consolation prize in impressive style.
Ridden by Mark Zahra, Prowess settled nicely in fourth place in a field of only six, enjoying a cosy run along the rail. An opening appeared on the outside of the front-running Tuvalu at the top of the straight, and Prowess worked through her gears, lengthened stride and finished over the top of that rival.
Fellow Kiwi-bred Antino dived through the inside in the final 100m in an outstanding performance of his own, but Prowess was out of his reach and took the win by a short neck.
“It is great to be back over here and winning again,” said Robert Wellwood, who trains Prowess in partnership with Roger James.
“Ideally we would have liked to have been running in the Cox Plate today, but she just had a few little niggles. They weren’t major, but just stopped us at some crucial times.
“We’ve been able to get the preparation back on track now. All going well from here, we’ll head to the last day at Flemington for the Champions Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m), and we’re really looking forward to seeing her back up over further again.
“She’s in awesome order, and in hindsight, the setbacks have probably been a blessing in disguise. She’s developed, and I really think she’ll be even bigger and stronger next year. She’s pretty immature.”
Prowess followed in the footsteps of another top-quality mare trained by James, Silent Achiever, who also won the Crystal Mile as a four-year-old in 2012.
“Roger has always said that they have similarities,” Wellwood said. “I reckon they both had a few little struggles early in the their four-year-old preparations, and that’s why they ended up in this race.
“It’ll be terrific to be here next year going 440m further.”
Saturday’s performance made a favourable impression on Zahra, who was also in the saddle for the Vinery win seven months ago.
“She’s as big and strong as ever,” he said. “I think the barrier boys were calling her a boy. She’s huge. She’s a big mare and I reckon she’ll improve a lot from today.
“There’s still a lot of improvement to come. When I got the gap, I thought she’d scoot away. I reckon she’s still a bit rusty this prep and will improve off that.”
James and Wellwood went to $230,000 to purchase Prowess out of Hallmark Stud’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Book 1 Yearling Sale draft on behalf of owner Dean Skipper.
One of five individual Group One winners for the remarkable stallion Proisir, Prowess was bred by the Baker family of Hallmark Stud and is out of the Don Eduardo mare Donna Marie, who is also the dam of the stakes performer Ajay Tee.
From 11 starts, Prowess has now had eight wins, three placings and more than $1.5 million in prize-money. – NZ Racing Desk