Tuvalu won the Group 1 Toorak Handicap over 1600m last Spring
Lindsey Smith knew Tuvalu was a Group 1 horse the moment he crossed the line on debut, a seven-length winner in the ‘Star of the West Maiden Plate’ at his home track Warrnambool. He was a $200,000 purchase at the 2019 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, the upper echelon of Smith’s price range, but now with prizemoney of $1.6 million and counting, he has already paid his way eight times over and looks a genuine player in this month’s $5 Million Sharp EIT All-Star Mile at The Valley.
“He was the type of horse Chris (Wells) and I like,” Smith told us during the week.
“He had a big, long shoulder and a short back, something I look for, and I thought he was the top of the horses I looked at.
“He was at the higher end of our budget. The 200, there wasn’t another bid there. I was maxed out.”
Tuvalu has proven a remarkably consistent horse for the Smith stable, a banner horse in fact for the once WA-based trainer who moved across to Melbourne three years ago. He won three of his first five starts, only beaten on two occasions by Weight For Age star I’m Thunderstruck, and from there on in he continued to either win or run second all the way up until last Spring.
He started favourite in the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes and was only narrowly beaten in third, and then went around at a bigger price and landed his first win at the elite level in the Toorak Handicap. The victory was made all the more special by virtue of the fact that it was also jockey Jarrod Fry’s first Group 1 too, and Smith says sharing that moment with Fry was just as enjoyable as winning the race in itself.
“It was good. I took a back seat; I’ve been there myself a few years ago.
“I just know how enjoying it is, to watch him with his wife, his mother and his family.
“I think that was as good of a thrill as winning.”
This preparation, Smith tried the blinkers on Tuvalu first up in the C F Orr Stakes and the plan backfired on him, with the son of Kermadec getting keen in the run and fading out to run seventh. Smith then opted against running him last week at Sandown where he was nominated for both the Futurity and the Peter Young Stakes and will instead run this week at Flemington in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes.
“I just thought that if I gave him another trial yesterday, that I could just top him off.
“I thought, he has a chance to win the Blamey, but in the Futurity, they might’ve just gone a bit quick for him at 1400.
“And I hadn’t really fine-tuned him for the 1800, and the way the race was run, it was a very hard run race the Peter Young, so I might’ve dodged a bullet there.
The Blamey Stakes carries a golden ticket into the All-Star Mile, but after finishing inside the top 10 in voting in seventh place, Tuvalu has already secured his position in the Sharp EIT All-Star Mile on March 18. Smith says the tight-knit town of Warrnambool are right behind his horse, and he is sure to give a good account of himself in the big race as he always does.
“We thought if he got in, he deserved to be in. You know what you’re going to get with this horse. He generally finishes top two, so because you (owner ambassadors) get so much money if you win it, you might as well be on a horse who tries his best.
“I like the concept of it. It feels like a Grand Final so you’re always thinking how can you improve to beat Alligator Blood, he was great the other day. I’m Thunderstruck is 3-0 his way, he’s got the wood on me. So, I’m going in there thinking I’m the underdog.
If Tuvalu is to win, it would be one of, if not the biggest victory the Warrnambool trainer has ever had. The five-year-old gelding will head to The Valley third up this preparation, and if he could topple the more fancied runners, it would be a win not only for Smith but also for the whole town.
“It would be great for the exposure of the stable to lift us up a little more, and good for the community of Warrnambool. I did drive people mad down the street to vote for him, they thought I was a bit of a pest, but anyway, hopefully they get him in and hopefully someone who picked him gets $250k.”