An elated Opie Bosson and Karyn Fenton-Ellis return to scale with Imperatriz after her victory in the Gr.1 Darley Champions Sprint (1200m).  Photo: Bruno Cannatelli

Imperatriz completes perfect prep with Champions Sprint triumph

NZ Racing Desk
12 November 2023

Star mare Imperatriz cast aside any straight-track doubts with a game victory in the Gr.1 Darley Champions Sprint (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.

Ridden by Opie Bosson, the Mark Walker-trained mare sat handy to the speed set by Front Page and powered to the front inside the final furlong before staving off the challenge of Buenos Noches, who got within half a length on the line, with quality mare In Secret beaten a length and a quarter in third.

Winning trainer Mark Walker, who has plotted a perfect Melbourne campaign that has netted three Group One victories and a Group Two from four starts, cut a satisfied figure as the five-year-old mare again proved the perfect ambassador for Te Akau Racing’s new Cranbourne quarters.

“It’s probably a little bit of relief more than anything and it’s great to see Opie on the big stage as well,” Walker said

“Ben (Gleeson) and the team did a fantastic job. I went home after the Manikato and Ben has assembled a great team that we’ve got at Cranbourne and days like this, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Walker was full of praise for the clinical ride of Opie Bosson, with whom he has enjoyed a long-standing relationship

“Opie sums things up so quickly from the jump,” Walker said. “He’s been on the big stage since he was a teenager and nothing really fazes him. It was great to get the win today.”

While further Flemington targets in the autumn and a trip to Royal Ascot has been mooted for the eight-time Group One winner, Walker said no plans have been made at this stage, with the mare heading for a rest before the Te Akau team ponder what’s next.

“We’ll sit down in a couple of weeks once we get the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale out of the way at home with Dave (Ellis) and Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) and we’ll come up with a plan.”

Winning rider Opie Bosson, who notched the 94th Group One victory of his career, was delighted to win for connections.

“This is right up there in terms of career highlights,” Bosson said. “To do it for Te Akau, David Ellis, Mark Walker and the whole team, it is a dream come true riding a horse like her.

“I was expecting Asfoora to slide forward but he took a hold. So I saw Front Page and thought there’s my bunny.

“I probably got there a little bit soon and gee it’s a long way up that straight when you’re sitting there but to her credit she knuckled down and put her ears back and had a decent crack.

“We always knew she was really talented. She’s just getting better with age and she is the real deal and she has proven it now. Hopefully there is more to come for both of us.”

Bosson was quick to put his hand up for any assignments further abroad on Imperatriz and to pit himself against the best riders overseas.

“I love a trip away. It’d be nice to get to Ascot and show them how good she is,” he said.

Bred by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San’s Raffles Farm, Imperatriz is another nod to the success of the breeding operation, which was managed by Bruce Sherwin since it was established in 2008 and in addition to Imperatriz has produced the likes of Group One winners Glint Of Hope, More Than Sacred and First Seal.

Economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm on the outskirts of Cambridge was sold in 2022, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.

Imperatriz is by leading Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group Two-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016.

Residing since then at Bhima Thoroughbreds in New South Wales, Berimbau produced an I Am Invincible filly two years later who was offered at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

She caught the eye of Te Akau’s David Ellis, who secured her for A$360,000 and Saturday’s performance has again confirmed her standing as one of the best sprinters in thew world. 

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