Tim Clark landed Autumn Ballet a debut winner in the Black Opal Stakes. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Autumn Ballet waltzes away with the Black Opal

March 12, 2023

Autumn Ballet became the first horse to win the Group 3 $200,000 Black Opal Stakes on debut with a brilliant effort at Canberra on Sunday.

The Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Autumn Ballet sprinted clear of stablemate The Years to win the 50th running of the Black Opal by more than two lengths with Team Snowden’s Make A Call in third place.

Tim Clark, rider of Autumn Ballet, said she is “definitely a filly that can reach very lofty heights.”

“Autumn Ballet’s a very good filly to come here and win so well on debut,” Clark said.

“She’s a lovely filly with a lovely temperament and it is a bit scary to think where she could end up.”

Autumn Ballet is from the first crop of Arrowfield Stud’s boom young stallion The Autumn Sun and was purchased for $340,000 at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale last year.

Catbird (1999) is the only horse to win the Black Opal-Golden Slipper double and he is likely to hold that record for at least another year as Autumn Ballet is not nominated for $5m Golden Slipper at Rosehill Gardens next Saturday.

Connections of Autumn Ballet would still get their very promising filly into the Slipper field with the payment of a $150,000 late entry fee but it would seem highly unlikely give she has only just made her racetrack debut in the Black Opal.

The Waterhouse-Bott stable already have top two-year-olds Red Resistance and Platinum Jubilee fully qualified for the Golden Slipper.


Listen To The Band had to overcome a wide barrier, endure a tough run and eight of his stablemates to win the $150,000 WRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Coonamble on Sunday.

Trainer Clint Lundholm saddled up nine of the 14 starters and had reason to celebrate when Listen To The Band forged clear late to beat the Brett Robb-trained Sizzle Minizzle.

The winner and runner-up have secured their places in the final field for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 1.

Rising nine-year-old Listen To The Band capped a remarkable comeback after not racing for more than two years due to injury before being switched to Lundholm’s Dubbo stables.

In his debut preparation for Lundholm, Listen To The Band has demonstrated outstanding ability, winning five of his six starts including four in succession culminating with his Coonamble win.

Lundholm, who had four of the top five placegetters, told Sky Thoroughbred Central he hasn’t go to the bottom of Listen To The Band yet. “It wasn’t pretty the way it was done,” Lundholm said of Listen To The Band’s win.

“But I don’t know how good this horse is. Every time he steps up in benchmark he gets the job done. He is eight-year-old but he is just killing it.

“This horse can race anywhere. If he can draw a marble in Sydney watch out. He’s in it up to his eyeball, they will know he is there.”

Jake Pracey-Holmes, rider of Listen To The Band, admitted he wasn’t comfortable early when the gelding was wide without cover but said simply: “He’s a good horse.”

TAB Fixed Odds price assessors promoted Listen To The Band to the third line of betting at $11 for the Country Championships Final behind $6 equal favourites Akasawa and Testator Silens.

Coonamble Qualifier runner-up Sizzle Minizzle is at $34.

The Coonamble Qualifier was the last of seven regional heats with two Wildcard races at Goulburn on Friday and Scone next Sunday providing the winners with starts in the Country Championships Final

-Ray Thomas