Overseas options open up for hot Santa
ANOINTED as Australia's premier sprinter after jaw-dropping TJ Smith Stakes success, Santa Ana Lane is now likely to be given the chance to prove his bona fides internationally.
Anthony Freedman will consider raids on Hong Kong and Royal Ascot after Santa Ana Lane treated Australia's most decorated speedsters with contempt at Randwick.
Coming from last on the turn, Santa Ana Lane racked up his fifth Group 1 after streaking past dual Everest winner Redzel, Newmarket Handicap and Coolmore Stakes victor Sunlight and a host of accomplished rivals.
The resounding nature of the performance - a 3.5 length romp - leaves Freedman with multiple options, including the Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on April 28.
Beyond that, the once under-rated gelding could lead Australia's charge at Royal Ascot, where he could be joined by Houtzen, Brave Smash and Viddora in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) on June 23.
"We will obviously give Hong Kong serious thought and if things are still good we will head on to Europe," Freedman said.
"He's clearly gone to a huge level now.
"I've sort of worked him out. I know how to train him and that is the key with horses, the trainer works out how to train them and you get the best out of them.
"Keep him fresh, big gaps between runs and he just keeps stepping up to the mark.
"That's number five (Group 1 wins) so we just keep finding good races for him now and hope that he can keep doing it."
If Santa Ana Lane heads abroad, he will follow a well-worn - and fruitful - path.
Australian sprinters, led by Choisir, Miss Andretti, Takeover Target, Black Caviar and Scenic Blast, traditionally excel at Royal Ascot.
And Chautauqua's Hong Kong victory remains one of the most memorable by any Australian horse internationally.
John Hawkes seldom ventures to the races these days, but the master trainer's influence remains huge.
The Hall Of Famer watched Saturday's Randwick blockbuster meeting from his couch, leaving sons and training partners Michael and Wayne to run the family operation at the track.
With 112 Group 1 successes, the latest with Brutal's Doncaster triumph, Hawkes senior remains one of the most potent operators in the game.
Hawkes's knack for finding a good horse is undiminished, as evidenced by Brutal and last season's Golden Slipper winner Estijaab.
Notoriously publicity-shy, Hawkes prefers to be out of the limelight than it.
Still one of the hardest-working figures in racing, the South Australian has forged a magnificent career - and he continues to add significant milestones.
At 49, Glen Boss has experienced far more highs than lows, even allowing for career-threatening falls.
With a trio of Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate triumphs, the Queenslander occupies a rarefied station in racing.
But not even those towering accomplishments prevented Boss from being marginalised in Australia several seasons ago, forcing his relocation to Singapore.Boss's absence has not dulled the enthusiasm for his enduring quality - or discipline.
Boss wasted to ride Brutal at 49.5kg in the Doncaster in an era where stewards' reports are littered with instances of jockeys riding overweight.
Famed for his association with Makybe Diva - and the flawless rides he gave the great staying mare - Boss's performance on Brutal smacked of clinical perfection.
He effectively controlled the tempo on a high-class, lightly-weighted miler - and was never going to lose.
Mark Zahra has not been blessed with the same physiology has Boss, but he has a similar talent.
The Victorian has battled weight issues but his repute as a rider of the highest ilk continues to grow.
His appeal to leading stables is instructive, as evidenced by Anthony Freedman and Lindsay Park's willingness to use him wherever possible.
Zahra's skill set extends well beyond strength and athleticism. He is a superb tactician - even if Santa Ana Lane's superiority meant there was a fair margin for error in the TJ Smith Stakes.
That aside, it was a signature Zahra ride, full of polish and surety.
Hugh Bowman is well accustomed to the slings and arrows of racing despite partnering Winx on a staggering journey of sustained success.
Bowman is pilloried more frequently than other leading jockey, with the possible exception of Craig Williams.
That was never more so than when he got beaten on Osborne Bulls in the Newmarket and then, due to unforeseen circumstances, he had to abandon the Australian Cup ride on Avilius.
Bowman showed on Saturday that he has his eye well and truly in ahead of Winx's Queen Elizabeth Stakes finale.
It will be tough and confronting week for Bowman, pretty much until the time he's legged aboard the super mare for one last lap at Randwick.
When it's over, he'll enter a vacuum familiar to Luke Nolen (Black Caviar) and Boss (Makybe Diva).
Judging by his steers on Microphone and Noble Boy, there shouldn't be any concerns over how he'll handle Saturday's bittersweet exit.
THE WEEK AHEAD
All roads lead to Randwick for Winx's curtain call.
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes marks the last time Winx will be seen in race-day competition, barring an 11th hour change of heart.
The mare who has defined Australian racing for the past four seasons is likely to face a smallish group of rivals as she bows out.
It is a red-letter day for the sport, hopefully acknowledged with a capacity crowd.
Winx's farewell is the centrepiece of a colossal meeting, also featuring three other Group 1s - the Sydney Cup (3200m), Australian Oaks (2400m) and Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m).
Such is the super mare's stature, everything else - including the Sydney Cup - is part of the undercard.
Closer to home, racing continues at Mildura, Ballarat, Sandown, Pakenham, Kyneton, Cranbourne, Ararat and Caulfield.
The Heath stages two Listed contests next Saturday, including the Galilee Series final (2400m) and the Bel Esprit Stakes (1100m).
The picnic circuit moves to Healesville on Saturday.