The Darren Weir-trained Voodoo Lad made a much-deserved breakthrough at the elite level when he took out the Dec. 1 Crown Perth-Winterbottom Stakes (G1) during the Ascot Racing Festival at Perth to become the seventh group 1 winner for the brilliant sire I Am Invincible and third this year.
Voodoo Lad, who started his career training at Scone before being switched to Victoria’s premier trainer in 2016, had finished second at the group 1 level, but produced a sterling finish under Damien Oliver to etch his name on an honor roll.
He ran down Perth’s top-class mare Enticing Star, who bounced back from her first defeat in the Lee Steere Stakes three weeks earlier, to beat her by three-quarters of a length.
Victorian-trained sprinter Malaguerra was a neck away in third, and I’ll Have A Bit was 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth. For Western Australia native Oliver, Voodoo Lad was his 115th group 1 winner, and the jockey could not hide his emotion after the race.
“I always thought this horse would be well-suited to this race, with the pressure 1,200 meters, and he showed that today. He finished too strongly for them,” Oliver told Sky Racing.
Voodoo Lad drew post 13, and Oliver elected to go back early as is his normal pattern.
“(The post) probably forced our hand to ride him cold, as he likes to be ridden, and coming to the turn I was following the right horse, Enticing Star, and Malaguerra was in front of us,” Oliver said. “I was able to peel off their backs, and this horse has got a great finish on him when you can switch him off and produce him late.”
It was Weir’s second group 1 win in Perth after preparing Stratum Star to win the Peters Investments Kingston Town Classic (G1) in 2016.
“He really deserves it, that horse. He has run so well in a lot of great races and missed by a small margin, so it is great that he has finally got one,” Weir told Sky Racing. “When he got to the outside about the 300 meters, and he was launching, I thought he was going to be in the money. I must say, I got a bit excited at the 100 meters.”
Weir, who has stabled his Perth team at fellow trainer Lindsey Smith’s property for the duration of their Western Australian campaigns, praised Oliver for his handling of Voodoo Lad.
“It was some ride. He was back last on the fence at one stage, went through them, and then got him to the outside,” Weir said. “It is a massive thrill.”
Weir’s 35th group 1 winner, Voodoo Lad is also the first top-level winner for the gelding’s part-owner, Kevin Maloney of Segenhoe Thoroughbreds Australia.
Voodoo Lad, who was purchased by Segenhoe Stud for AU$36,000 (US$35,028) from Yarraman Park Stud at the Inglis Scone Select Yearling Sale in 2013 by Bill Mitchell, has won 13 of his 33 starts. Bred by the late Noel Leckie, Voodoo Lad has earned AU$1,966,110 ($1,488,030) in prize money.
The gelding is one of four winners for the placed Gilded Time mare O’Fortuna, while his second dam, Sabrina Fair, is a sister to champion racehorse Schillaci and a half sister to listed winner Bialia, with them all being out of listed winner Biscarina. O’Fortuna died in 2012, three months after foaling Voodoo Lad.
For Voodoo Lad’s sire, I Am Invincible, it continued his stellar rise to prominence—with Voodoo Lad becoming his seventh group 1 winner—joining recent Gavelhouse.com 46th New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (G1) winner Media Sensation and Brazen Beau.
Standing at Yarraman Park Stud for a fee of AU$192,500, I Am Invincible is also the sire of Darley Flight Stakes (G1) winner Oohood, Viddora, and Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes (G1) winner Hellbent, who is now standing alongside his sire.