Astute Irish trainer Dermot Weld dispatched his high class mare Zhukova (5m Fastnet Rock x Nightime, by Galileo) to Belmont in the US for the Grade I Man O’War Stakes on Saturday and emerged triumphant.
Zhukova is the first mare to win the Man O’War since champion French bred mare Waya captured the race back in 1978.
She bolted away from the colts to win the 1 3/8th mile turf contest by a commanding six lengths to the great delight of connections.
"We're absolutely over the moon with that,” said Mark Weld, son and assistant to trainer Dermot Weld.
“It was a major target over the last few weeks. The rain came, which was a huge help. Johnny [Velazquez] was very complimentary about her. He said she could have a future here. She'll come home now, but the [G1 Breeders Cup] Fillies & Mares Turf would be a definite possibility to finish off the year.
“We have the [G1] Yorkshire Oaks in August. We won the Grade I now, so she can have a free pass for the rest of the year."
Zhukova had won six races previously, two at Group III level that had earned the five year-old the title of Champion Older Mare (Intermediate) for 2016.
"I was concerned with the fractions,” added Weld.
“My big fear is that she would get caught, but her class won out. We've known she's a good mare for a little while. You don't beat the Breeders' Cup winner Found very easily, and she beat her pretty handily [in the Alleged Stakes last April.]. She's a homebred. We've had her since she was a foal bred by my grandmother. This is huge for us today. We have a lot to look forward to."
Zhukova is the best of four winners from Group I winning Galileo mare Nightime and is the fifth Group I winner for Fastnet Rock bred from a daughter of Galileo.
She is the 28th Group I winner for champion sire Fastnet Rock, who also had four year old mare Turret Rocks win the Group III Blue Wind Stakes at The Curragh, a race won last year by Zhukova.