Plan comes together with Aretha

Aretha (Jonathan Riddell) fighting best on the inside to just nab Rainbow Dash in today’s J. Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes.

It wasn’t all plain-sailing, but a plan hatched early in the season came to fruition when Cambridge filly Aretha became the 50th winner of the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes today.

Leading trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman believed Aretha had the potential to be a serious prospect in the Gr.2 J. Swap Contractors Matamata Breeders’ Stakes and, despite her lack of racing, she prevailed in a tight finish with another second-upper, Rainbow Dash.

‘’It had always been the target, but it hasn’t been easy getting here,’’ said Forsman. ‘’She was shinsore after her first start and she had a few weeks off.

“She has been feeling the ground, but the easing of the track helped her. We got her here then it was down to Jonathan (Riddell). She was drawn one so I said not to panic, just use the draw and stick to the fence, and he rode her beautifully.’’

After trailing third, Aretha came through on the inside and got the better of the leader Rainbow Dash in a head-bobbing finish, scoring by a nose with three-quarters of a length to Aalaalune, who produced an eye-catching finish for third.

For both Riddell and Forsman, it was there first win in the country’s top juvenile fillies’ event and for Baker it was his second with a long wait between times. Baker won the race 27 years ago with the in-form Kate’s Myth when training at Woodville.

Baker and Forsman prepare Aretha for her Cambridge owner-breeder Greg McCarthy, who was over the moon with the win. “This is my best result in 30 years,’’ he said. ‘’I’ve had other winners with Murray, but not one as good as this.”

Aretha became not only the first southern hemisphere stakeswinner for her Windsor Park sire, Charm Spirit, but also his first winner “down under.”

Aretha made her first public appearance in early November when winning a Cambridge 800m trial then three weeks later she repeated the dose at the Matamata trials before making her debut with a third in the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m) at Trentham.

Form from that Trentham race has stood up well as the winner was Aotea Lad, who went on to finish second in the Karaka Million 2YO and again second at Matamata today in the Gr. 3 Waikato Stud Slipper (1200m).

Baker and Forsman will wait for a few days to see how Aretha comes through today’s race before deciding whether or not she heads to Ellerslie for the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes (1200m) on March 9.

Whatever the decision she promises to be an appealing three-year-old prospect, particularly considering her pedigree as she is a direct descendant of the Japan Cup and multiple Group One winner Horlicks and therefore also closely related to Melbourne Cup winner Brew.