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Exhilarates extraordinary in Magic Millions Classic

Mike Hedge

An incredible performance by an amazing filly has earned Godolphin its first Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast, Australia, on Saturday, 12 January.

Exhilarates, who only confirmed her place in the field a week earlier, was slow to begin, suffered interference mid-race and came from near last to overwhelm her opposition with sustained speed and indomitable courage.

Having been half a length behind with three strides to run, Exhilarates won the A$2 million race by three-quarters of a length from Dubious with Hightail third.

For trainer James Cummings, the win was a personal triumph, but one for which he declined to take credit.

"This has been a tremendous effort by the whole team," Cummings said.

"You are seeing a far different horse from the filly who was beaten at Rosehill on her first start.

"But that is the case with many of our young horses as we don't rush them early in the season and around Christmas they start coming into their own."

While Exhilarates overcame various obstacles on race-day, she also had to put an inglorious start to her career into the background.

The filly had her first start on 10 November, finishing last of five at Rosehill.

Second placings at her next two starts confirmed the team’s faith in her and she then broke through to win a minor race at the Gold Coast last Saturday to earn a start in the big one.

The Magic Millions Classic is officially a Restricted Listed event because it is confined to horses sold at the Magic Millions yearling sale.

Exhilarates became eligible thanks to Godolphin returning to the Australian sales as a buyer in 2018 for the first time in almost a decade.

One of the first horses purchased was Exhilarates, a daughter of the leading sire Snitzel and the G1-winning mare Samaready, who sold for A$600,000.

Said Cummings: “She’s going to be cherished by the farm for many years to come.”

The win that came on Cummings' 31st birthday also continued a glorious run for jockey Kerrin McEvoy who earlier this season won the G1 Melbourne Cup for Godolphin on Cross Counter. McEvoy also won Australia’s richest race, The Everest, for the second successive time last October.

The win earned Exhilarates automatic favouritism for the world’s richest two-year-old race, the G1 Golden Slipper, run at Rosehill on 23 March.

In winning the Magic Millions Classic, Cummings joins his legendary grandfather on the trainers’ honour roll. Bart Cummings won the race in 1989 with Malibu Magic and in 2007 with Mimi Lebrock.