Startantes set for $2 million The Invitation

What began as a hit-and-run mission to Sydney for a throw at the stumps in a $1 million race has turned into an epic adventure for connections of Queensland filly Startantes.

A late entry for the Golden Rose, Startantes ran the race of her life to finish sixth to top colt Anamoe in a performance trainer Robert Heathcote described as “the best sixth placing I’ve ever had in my career”.

Instead of sending her on the float home, Heathcote rolled the dice again and backed her up in the Flight Stakes.

Startantes rattled home to snare a valuable Group 1 placing and in doing so, grabbed the attention of Australian Turf Club officials, who subsequently gave the three-year-old one of 12 spots in Saturday’s first edition of the $2 million The Invitation (1400m).

“We threw caution to the wind when we paid up $37,000 to run her in the Golden Rose and she ran an absolute cracker,” Heathcote said.

“We doubled down and went again in the Flight Stakes and that third in the Group One I think is the reason why we’ve gained a start in this Invitation for $2 million.

“So there may well be a silver lining behind this cloud for us.”

With COVID restrictions preventing Heathcote from travelling to Sydney, his trusted staffer Melanie Sharpe has been updating him daily on Startante’s progress and the trainer says all reports are she is continuing to thrive, despite a lengthy campaign.

The only three-year-old in Saturday’s race, the filly takes on a field of experienced mares, led by seasoned stakes performers Entriviere, Sweet Deal and the luckless Icebath.

Startantes will receive at least five kilos from her nearest-weighted rivals and Heathcote is hoping the pull in the handicaps will negate her relative inexperience.

“It’s choc-full of Group Three, Group Two, Group One, Listed winners,” Heathcote said.

“She’s going to have to be on top of her game, but I suppose that’s where her weight allowance could kick in.

“Melanie says she is bright as could possibly be. She’s only pint-sized but she’s nuggety and she’s tough.”

The Invitation is the latest race launched to further bolster Sydney’s growing spring carnival with The Everest now its undeniable jewel in the crown.

Heathcote has no doubt the fillies and mares’ feature will become a permanent and successful fixture.

“I want to give the ATC and (Racing NSW CEO) Peter V’Landys credit. Look at the field they’ve assembled,” Heathcote said.

“It’s a quality field and good on them for this innovative race. Have a look at The Everest. Everyone poo-bahed the Everest and now it’s all everyone talks about for six months.”

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