Dragon Queen claims the honours in the Lisa Chittick Plate

Group Two winner Dragon Queen (5 m Sweynesse – Happy Endings, by Tavistock) put her hand up for Australian assignments after winning the $40,000 Lisa Chittick Plate (1400m) on Saturday at Matamata.

Defending her title admirably when finishing third in the Westbury Classic (Gr. 2, 1400m) on 21 January at Pukekohe, having won the race in January 2022 at Ellerslie, Dragon Queen brought sound form to the race and combined with jockey Opie Bosson to beat a small but select field.

Trailing third while dual course winner and twice stakes placed stable-mate Sassy Merlot (Burgundy) strode clear in front, Dragon Queen travelled nicely into contention approaching the home turn and Bosson kept her up to the task in defeating Clever Ruds (El Roca).

“I thought when I ranged up that she’d just going flying past, but she waited for the other one and I had to get to work,” Bosson said.

While co-trainer Pam Gerard had some trepidation about Dragon Queen handling Heavy 9 footing, she also realised her top weight (58kg) was earned and that warranted respect.

“We left her in despite knowing the track was too wet for her, but with all the horses that scratched from the race we decided to run, and she was probably going to otherwise gallop between races anyway,” she said.

“There were not a lot of options for her next week, Opie (Bosson) kept her balanced which is the main thing in that sort of going and she was good enough to win.”

For the mare with illustrious owners: Sir Owen Glenn (Go Bloodstock) and Alan Fu (Pegasus Bloodstock), Jayven & Kathy See, Dragon Queen was bred by Dowager Duchess of Bedford & Estate late Duke of Bedford, selected by Paul Moroney, and purchased for $50,000 as yearling at 2019 Karaka Book 3 Sale, from the draft of Brighthill Farm.

Her grand-dam was Champion 3YO and Filly of Year Snap (Kingdom Bay), raced by Lord (Robin) and Lady (Henrietta) Tavistock.

“She’s been in the top four in 20 of her 27 starts, which shows that she always tries hard and we never really worry that she’s going to underperform,” Fu said.

“We always know that she’s going to try her heart out when she’s racing. Pam was trying to lower my expectations a bit because of the heavy ground, but it did improve a bit during the day which probably helped her.

“Pam has been very patient with her and we run her about eight times a year. It is a very good training effort from the team.

“She’s going to Australia in the next couple of weeks, straight to Sydney, and see if her rating would get her into the Coolmore Classic (Gr. 1, 1500m), if not then the Emancipation Stakes (Gr. 2, 1500m), and nominated for Queen of the Turf (Gr. 1, 1600m).

“She’s a five-year-old now and been good to us and we want to give her every opportunity to have a try out in Australia.

“It is only her third win, but she’s competitive at a high level and probably a bit underrated. She’s never far away.”

Speaking at the presentation of the Lisa Chittick Plate, Dave O’Sullivan, her father, said: “It was Lisa’s birthday a few days ago on 16 February and every Sunday I go to see her and Marie (late wife) and they’re buried alongside each other.

“They don’t argue with me now, and thank you to the club for letting me say a few words and congratulations to the winning connections.”

Mark Chittick said: “Congratulations to Alan to Sir Owen, who are a big part of the racing fraternity and great to see them get a result like this with a Group Two winner in a race we hope to make into a stakes race.

“The Lisa Chittick Plate has been run four times now, won last year by Imperatriz who has now won four Group One races, while also won by dual Group One winner Conventina Bay, and dual Group Two winner Supera, so we’re heading in the right direction for an upgrade and there is great form around the race.

“Dennis Ryan (then Matamata Club president) spoke to me about fitting this race into the programme on Matamata Breeders’ Stakes Day and we felt it incredibly appropriate to put Lisa’s name to it.

“When we can get it upgraded to a stakes race we plan to have a slight name change and call it the Lisa Chittick Champagne Stakes, which we think would be fitting.

“It was also fitting and sentimental that Dragon Queen was ridden by Taiki Yanagida in her stakes win.

She ran down the straight here at his memorial and she’s won incredibly well today and I’m sure he’s there with her today as was Lisa.”

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