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Article 12th July 2023 Newmarket

By Graham Clark

George Boughey admits bargain buy Via Sistina would have a ‘pretty sexy’ profile if she could enhance her status in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, however he has warned she will only run in the Group One on Ladies Day at the Boodles July Festival at Newmarket (Friday 14th July) if conditions are suitable.  

Purchased for just a paltry 5,000 guineas at the Tattersalls December yearling sales in 2019 the daughter of Fastnet Rock has proven to be one of the shrewdest purchases in recent seasons having amassed more than £300,000 in prizemoney in 10 career starts.

And having tasted victory on her Group One debut in the Yulong Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh last time out connections of the daughter of Fastnet Rock are entering the mile prize full of optimism that she can double her tally of victories at the highest level. 

However, although Via Sistina has been declared for the £291,565 contest the Newmarket handler has stressed that she will only take her chance providing enough rain falls at the July Course in the lead up to the race. 

Boughey said: “We will work as if she is running but she needs the rain for her to run.

“The Falmouth has always been a plan for her as she does look very good on a straight track, but softer ground is key to her. 

“There are lots of times she could run where she will get soft ground and we are not going to do anything that is not in the best interests of the horse.  

“If it did rain, she will be very competitive. We will walk the track and if it is the same as Ireland last time I imagine she will take her chance, but if it is any faster she won’t.

“For her pedigree, if she was to win a Falmouth she would be pretty sexy.” 

Via Sistina found only Creative Flair too strong on her stable debut for Boughey in the Group Three Newmarket Pony Academy Pride Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October ahead of scoring at the same level at Toulouse next time out.

This year, Via Sistina has taken her form to new levels with an impressive victory in the Group Two Howden Dahlia Stakes back on the Rowley Mile before her latest triumph in Ireland, performances Boughey believes are in part down to a National Hunt icon. 

He added: “We actually thought she would run very well on her stable debut, and she did, and she was possibly an unlucky loser. It was then a case of finding the place to make her a Group winner at four before shooting for the stars with her this year. 

“She settled in well but it wasn’t until she went to Henrietta Knight’s for the winter that she really reset. I’ve never been down there but it is obviously a super place to send them.

“We just turned her out with her shoes off to go and be a horse for a few months. She did great and immediately when she came back in I noticed a different horse. 

“I met Henrietta Knight at Cheltenham and I told her how well I thought she had done. It hasn’t surprised me now that she has gone on to do what she has done having seen the development over the winter.

“I didn’t think she would win the Dahlia by six lengths on the bridle, but I was bullish enough on the day to think she would win.  That for me was a Group One performance in a Group Two and it has kind of stamped her authority on the division really.”

Although Via Sistina has done most of her winning, including last time out, over 10 furlongs, Boughey does not expect the drop back to a mile to inconvenience her in any way whatsoever.

He added: “There are very few horses in training that can be favourite for Group One races over various trips and I think she has that versatility in that she stays and has got plenty of boot. 

“She showed a proper turn of foot in the Dahlia and I think over a mile she would be equally as effective. 

“It is a bit of a question mark coming back to the mile as she hasn’t ever been there, but for her career going forward we want to try and keep some speed in her. 

“Group Ones are the hardest races to win but that is what we get up to do and try and find horses to win those races. 

“To have a filly who looks to be at the top of her division with the form to back it up in the book is hugely exciting and very rewarding for everyone here.”

While Boughey has been the benefactor of inheriting Via Sistina following Joe Tuite’s decision to hand in his trainer’s licence last year her owner Stephen Hillen admits it was case of being in the ‘right place at the right time’ when he purchased her. 

Hillen, who owns Via Sistina with his wife Becky, said: “It was her pedigree that drew me to her as I’ve always been a big fan of Fastnet Rock and there is a good percentage of stakes winners with that cross of Fastnet Rock and Galileo (sire of her dam, Nigh). 

“I had seen her before she went through the sales ring and she was big, backwards and very immature. 

“I was just in the right place at the right time and I just got lucky. You don’t think you are going to buy a horse for that price.”

Having served stints working for the likes of Barry Hills along with being assistant trainer to Paul Cole, Hillen has experienced plenty of good days in racing, however none he insists match up to the feeling of owning a Group One winner. 

He said: “I remember Paul won several races at Royal Ascot one of the years I was there, and you got a tremendous buzz out of that, especially being hands on and it was a great grounding. 

“It was great seeing all those good horses pass through his hands like Sri Pekan and Snurge while I was there, but when you have got your own good one it is much more fulfilling.

“I think you can mark the performance up in Ireland as nothing came from off the pace at that meeting. She had probably six lengths to make up in straight and won comfortably by two lengths. It was an amazing performance really. 

“I was then quite emotional, but with the stewards’ inquiry I had to get myself together again. She is something special to us. It would be great to win the Falmouth Stakes as it is a very prestigious race.”

While Hillen has heaped plenty of praise on Boughey for transforming the fortunes of Via Sistina in the past 10 months he feels none of the success she is currently experiencing would have been possible without the upbring she received from Tuite.

He added: “George has done a magnificent job with her and she has improved every start and arguably she should be unbeaten for him. We got the Group win in Toulouse last year and this year has been a steady climb. 

“I’ve always said every time she has won it is huge thanks to Joe. He minded her and didn’t ask her to do too much too soon. 

“She won that maiden at Goodwood for Joe on her second start, and that was where we thought we might have something special on our hands.

“Joe is a top man and he looked after her in the early days when she needed it and we are now reaping the rewards because of his patient approach.”

The Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Photo credit: The Jockey Club


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