Headaches follow Champagne honours

Helmet earned Triple Crown honours for Darley at Randwick on Saturday but gave trainer Peter Snowden just as many headaches after a controversial Group 1 victory in the Champagne Stakes.

In a race reminiscent of Viscount’s Champagne victory a decade ago, Helmet veered off the track when given a crack with the whip in the straight.  The sidestep reduced a significant lead to no more than a length but he maintained that margin for the final stages.

Stewards ruled it wasn’t enough to change the result when the inevitable protest came from connections of runner-up Pane In The Glass.

The Champagne Stakes completed a G1 double for Helmet after his victory in the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes at fortnight ago.  Star stablemate Sepoy won the G1 Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper double earlier this year.

Snowden was clearly downcast post-race.  “I thought he was going to win by six or seven lengths.  He’s an exceptional athlete and does everything so easily at home.  It’s just disappointing we didn’t see what he’s capable of today.”

Helmet (2c Exceed And Excel – Accessories by Singspiel) is a younger half-brother to Elusive Quality colt Bullbars who won the G3 C S Hayes Stakes at Caulfield in February.  Their British bred dam has a yearling colt by Commands and a filly foal by Street Cry.

Helmet is Exceed And Excel’s second juvenile Group 1 winner following 2009 Blue Diamond winner Reward For Effort.  The Darley stallion and Widden Stud champion Stratum are on top of the juvenile stakes winners’ table with four apiece.  

Helmet and Running Tall had set slow sectionals in front but the Stratum colt was the first horse beaten in the straight.  Stewards advised Snowden that Helmet must trial satisfactorily when he returns from a winter spell.  Vets reported Helmet sustained a wound to the outside near-side cannon and a cut to the near hind pastern.