Patrick Bartley -Apr 14, 2012
WHEN members of the racing media and senior executives from race clubs across Australia sit down to determine the champion three-year-old filly of the year, the result is expected to be a thriller.
Not for decades have two fillies, Mosheen and Atlantic Jewel, had so much on their female rivals.
Today at Randwick the puzzle could become even more vexing with the return of the unbeaten Atlantic Jewel in the $175,000 Sapphire Stakes.
It would appear that the group 2 race is at the mercy of one of the most gifted three-year-olds in the country.
With five effortless victories from as many starts, Atlantic Jewel is expected to add another win to her already imposing profile.
The latter part of her spring carnival and a majority of the autumn were thwarted due to soreness in her back.
Trainer Mark Kavanagh has carefully pencilled in a limited autumn in a bid to leave her fresh for the spring.
Not for a long time has one season produced two such outstanding fillies.
No one at Caulfield last October could doubt that Atlantic Jewel had the wood on Mosheen after she effortlessly went past her to win the Thousand Guineas. So amazing was the victory that the Mosheen camp then changed strategy to avoid Atlantic Jewel during the spring.
But after what appeared to be just a track gallop in the group 2 Wakeful Stakes, Kavanagh elected to sideline Atlantic Jewel after detecting problems with the filly.
The strength of Atlantic Jewel can be more than measured five days later when Mosheen easily accounted for her three-year-old filly rivals in the VRC Oaks.
Where voters will be scratching their heads is that while Atlantic Jewel was superior to Mosheen in the spring, much has changed in the autumn.
With Atlantic Jewel sidelined, Mosheen created headline news by winning three group 1 races in the space of six weeks.
Two of those were against the males in the Australian Guineas and the Randwick Guineas and her performance was further enhanced by the number of obstacles that were placed in front of Mosheen, who, like Atlantic Jewel, is a daughter of Fastnet Rock.
Indifferent tracks and poor barrier positions in both races were not enough to stop Mosheen from arguably becoming the best three-year-old in the nation - regardless of gender.
The return of Atlantic Jewel today will only make the question of who is the better horse more challenging.
But it is important to remember the speech jockey Danny Nikolic gave after Mosheen had coped with barrier 16 from the tricky 1600-metre start at Flemington in the Australian Guineas.
Nikolic said: ''I know Atlantic Jewel had the better of us in the spring but I really believe that we've got much, much better and we're now probably on terms with her.''
Voters will have to decide on the potential of Atlantic Jewel, with many believing that she has the natural capabilities to go with the likes of Black Caviar.
Unfortunately that will not eventuate, with the world's premier sprinting mare heading to Adelaide while Atlantic Jewel is in Sydney. Voters may also be swayed by the fact Mosheen has collected four group 1 victories since Atlantic Jewel last raced.
The category of champion three-year-old filly will be an interesting vote to see which of the daughters of Fastnet Rock gets the nod, and the impact of the result will largely overshadow the category for the three-year-old colts and geldings.
Much anticipation will surround Atlantic Jewel's racetrack return at Randwick today.
Kavanagh and connections did give some thought to the three-year-old contesting the group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes, but decided to take the softer option in the Sapphire Stakes.
So whatever the vote, which will no doubt be a tight margin, it seems Australian racing will be the big winner, having two world class fillies in 2012 and beyond.