Cards fall nicely for Shuffle Dancer

Pakenham trained Shuffle Dancer wears down Royal Merchant to win the Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes at Sandown on Saturday. 321356 Picture: MORGAN HANCOCK

By David Nagel

When it comes to his thoroughbreds – Pakenham trainer Peter Moody has always had a way with the girls and his charming ways continued on a big day of racing at Sandown Lakeside on Saturday.

The trainer of champion mare Black Caviar doubled his lead as the most winning trainer of the $300,000 Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes (1400m) after his exciting prospect Shuffle Dancer overcome the odds to thump the field of three-year-old fillies.

Jockey Ben Melham – who won last year’s edition of the Armanasco on Lavish Girl – settled back in the field from a tricky gate before sitting three and four wide the trip.

Shuffle Dancer showed great constitution to wear down Royal Merchant in the shadows of the post, edging to the lead with 50 metres to run and proving too strong to the line.

The Moody camp has now won four Armanascos – following the wins of Set For Fame (2010), Meliora (2013) and Spirits Dance (2014) – with Danny O’Brien, Lee Freedman and Pat Hyland having two wins each.

Katherine Coleman, assistant trainer to Moody at Pakenham, said the daughter of I Am Invincible/Palace Talk showed maturity beyond her six-start career to grind out the victory.

“I thought she was super, she was tough today, she did get a little nice cart into it but I thought she was good through the line,” Coleman said.

“She has had a little freshen up between runs and I think she’ll improve from this but she was still strong through the line.”

Coleman and Melham devised a careful plan before the race, based around keeping Shuffle Dancer out of trouble from barrier nine in the 10-horse field.

“That was Ben’s concern pre-race, we thought it might be a bit sticky from that gate but he did a good job getting her into that spot,” Coleman said.

“That was really important black type for her today and then she’ll probably head towards the Kewney now.”

Melham will more than likely be aboard in the $300,000 Group 2 Kewney Stakes – to be run at Flemington on Saturday 11 March – after making it back-to-back wins on the filly.

“She’s a good filly, she hasn’t got a lot of good tactical speed and in today’s race that was my concern,” Melham said.

“From an awkward draw it was a tricky speed map, but I was able to get a bit of cover from Dear Jewel for the first part of the race.

“It followed on outside of the leader and I was able to flush She’s Licketysplit out and get a good cart from it around the turn.

“It’s a good training performance because he had to put her on ice for a little bit.

“She had a trial to keep her up to the mark.

“She was quite warm behind the barriers and I imagine she’ll improve again from that.”

Melham was unsure whether Shuffle Dancer would get much further than the seven furlongs.

“She’s got good determination and desire to win, she’s pretty straightforward, but I’m not sure,” he said.

“It wouldn’t shock me if she could get a bit of a trip and she’ll allow herself to do so with her racing manners.”

Shuffle Dancer has now won three of her six career starts, amassing more than $320,000 in prizemoney.

Cranbourne trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace bagged training honours on the day with a winning treble, while Group 1 wins went to Little Brose (Ben and JD Hayes) in the Blue Diamond, Alligator Blood (Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott) in the Futurity Stakes and to Queensland trainers Steve O’Dea and Matt Hoysted with Uncommon James in the Oakleigh Plate.

Group 1 racing will move from Sandown to Flemington this week with the running of the time-honoured $1million Australian Guineas (1600m).