He’s legit: Litt’s flying colt sets record straight
CASTELVECCHIO had just run the famous Royal Randwick 1600m course in the fastest time ever by a two-year-old when trainer Richard Litt was asked what the future might hold for his stable star next spring.
Litt was being bombarded with questions and all the big races were being mentioned - including the Golden Eagle, Golden Rose, Spring Champion Stakes, Victoria Derby and even the Cox Plate - when the trainer suddenly brought a dose of realism to the discussion.
"I don't even know what those races are because I have never had this problem before,'' Litt said.
"This is a feeling I've never had - this is huge.''
Litt, who hasn't even turned 30 yet, had just won the first Group 1 of his training career with Castelvecchio in the $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m).
This was no routine win, either. Castelvecchio's effort was one for the ages.
The final leg of the Sydney juvenile triple crown was first run in 1861, but no two-year-old has won the Champagne Stakes - or run the Randwick 1600m for that matter - in the time it took Castelvecchio, who recorded a brilliant 1m 33.31s.
This time would have won most Doncasters and Epsoms ever run over the Randwick "mile" and it wasn't far outside the track record held by Hartnell, 1m 32.73s.
Litt, who has been training for less than three years, followed his usual practice and watched the race at the 200m - before sprinting almost as fast as his outstanding colt to the winner's enclosure.
"I had to run back, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I needed a taxi to get here,'' Litt said.
"I knew at the top of the straight we were going to win. I wasn't being too confident but that was how I felt.''
Castelvecchio, confidently backed from $3.60 into $2.90, enjoyed the frenetic early race tempo then accelerated brilliantly from the top of the straight to surge past a very game Loving Gaby ($2.60 favourite) and win by a widening 1½ lengths with early leader Lady Lupino ($11) holding on for third, nearly a length further back.
Jockey Josh Parr has been Castelvecchio's biggest supporter and believes the sky is the limit for the exciting colt.
"There is still a lot there, he's only just learning his craft,'' Parr said.
"He was able to jump today into a midfield position, travel like the winner the entire way and won like a very good horse.
"The writing has been on the wall for some time that the Champagne Stakes was his mark, the 1600m at Randwick.''
Parr paid credit to Litt's management of Castelvecchio.
"What a great man he is,'' Parr said. "The job he has done with this horse has been remarkable.
"We had that period where he had the six-week break between the Skyline and the Sires. He has been able to keep him up and have him peak on the day."
Castlevecchio, named after an Italian medieval castle, is by 2013 Tripe Crown winner (It's A) Dundeel and was purchased by Ottavio Galletta for $130,000 at the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale last year.
It's been a gilt-edged investment for Galletta as Castelvecchio has three wins and two thirds from five starts, earning $1,608,000 in prize money.
Litt said Castlevecchio would go for a spell while he discussed big-race options with Galletta for this spring.
"This colt will improve out of sight as a three-year-old,'' Litt said. "He has a lot of maturing to do, he is only a small horse so he is going to return bigger and stronger next season.''
James McDonald, rider of Loving Gaby, described his filly's effort to cart the field up to tearaway Lady Lupino then hold on for second as "amazing".
"She's come a long way in a short period of time,'' McDonald said. "She's a very good filly and she's only going to get better from here on in.''