Mo’Unga wins Australia’s first Group 1 race of the new season

August 22, 2021

 Mo’Unga, a horse called after a famous rugby player, won Australia’s first Group 1 race of the 2021-22 season at Randwick on Saturday, the AUD$500,000 (US$356,673) Winx Stakes.

The former Chris Waller-trained colt, now handled by English-born Annabel Neasham, won the 7 furlong weight for age contest, The Winx Stakes, named in honour of one of Australia’s greatest race mares, a winner of 33 consecutive races with 25 of them at Group 1 level (a world record).

The 4-year-old entire, Mo’Unga, broke from stall 12 in the 14-runner contest and tracked the defending champion Verry Elleegant, under James McDonald, throughout the race. 

Running well off the fence, Mo’Unga came late to challenge the Chris Waller-trained mare, with the son of Savabeel outstaying the seven-time Group 1 winner by half a neck under rider Tommy Berry.

There was a further half-head back to She’s Ideel in third place, while Japanese import Keiai Nautique came home fourth on his Australian debut. In fact, just over half a length separated the first six horses home in the new season’s opening Group 1.

The winner Mo’Unga is named after New Zealand All Blacks rugby union player Richie Mo’Unga. The 27-year-old Christchurch, New Zealand-born player is of Tongan and Samoan descent and represented the All Blacks in international rugby matches on 26 occasions between 2017 and 2021, scoring 40 points in the process. 

Bred and sold by Waikato Stud in New Zealand, Mo’Unga had  previously won twice from three race at the seven furlong trip. He has now amassed over US$790,000 in purses from his 9-race career to date. He is out of the O’Reilly mare Chandelier and the family of Group 1 Auckland Cup winner Chenille.

It was a third Group 1 victory for conditioner Annabel Neasham who only took out a trainer’s licence at the beginning of last season. The Tony Fung-owned four-year-old Mo’Unga was also Neasham’s first-ever win at the highest level when he took last season’s Sky Racing Rosehill Guineas. 

The winner and runner-up, Mo’Unga and Verry Elleegant, are likely to clash again in four weeks time in the AUD$1 million Group 1 George Main Stakes at Randwick.

Photo: Mo’Unga Annabel Neasham Twitter account @ANeashamRacing

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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