James Cummings has never doubted the resilience of Alizee but after the mare overcame a wide run to win her third Group 1 in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, he was noticeably impressed.
"They don't hand them out and that is probably the toughest I've seen a horse of mine win a Group 1 in such a fashion," he said.
"She's just a brute of a mare and when ridden for a turn of foot, she can be even better."
Alizee ($2.80 fav) was never closer in than three-wide and was positioned further forward than normal but still had a half-length margin on the line over Malaguerra ($51), with the same margin to Alizee's stablemate Hartnell ($16), who flashed through late for yet another Group 1 placing.
"I suppose it wasn't pretty but that's four wins straight for her and that she is a deserving weight-for-age Group 1 winner," Cummings said. "It's a special horse to have in the barn."
Alizee and Hugh Bowman, picture Quentinjlang.com
Group 1s are most valuable for a mare like Alizee, but she will race for no Group status at her next start when she contests for her biggest prizemoney cheque ever when she steps out as the likely hot favourite for the $5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 16.
Despite the Group 1 success and the stirring third-placed performance of Hartnell for Godolphin, the race produced something of a mixed result for the team.
Cantala Stakes winner Best Of Days has been ordered back to the trials after doing his best Chautauqua impersonation by not jumping away with the field.
Stewards ruled that the gates opened for the imported galloper but, in a disturbing development, he refused to race and so must jump from the barriers to the satisfaction of stewards before he is permitted to race again.
"Unfortunately when the gates opened he didn't come out on terms and was slow into stride. By the time he got out, they (the field) had gone 300 metres," said Craig Williams, rider of Best Of Days.
The seven-year-old Malaguerra ($51) almost caused an upset when fighting on from his trailing position.
"He's getting older so perhaps the 1200 metres isn't suiting him as much but he ran well at 1400 metres today," said Malaguerra's regular rider Ben Melham.
Hartnell ($16) sliced his way through the field inside the final 100m to finish third with Dwayne Dunn praising his charge for yet another 'grand performance' at the elite level.
Mark Zahra suggested the fourth-placed Land Of Plenty ($7) may benefit from blinkers for his next start.
Last-start G1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) winner Manuel ($11) stepped slowly from barrier seven but fought on courageously after finding the front.
"Didn't step well so he had to work a bit more to get to the lead," said Luke Currie, rider of Manuel.
The seventh-placed Brave Smash ($10) went to the line untested after being blocked for a run for much of the home straight, much to the frustration of jockey Michael Walker.