Once an ugly duckling filly with pigeon toes and imperfect knees, and now a queenly Group One-winning swan – that’s Alverta who will step out for Arrowfield and Australia at Royal Ascot in the Golden Jubilee Stakes G1 on the final day of Royal Ascot, tomorrow, Saturday 19 June (Sunday morning, 20 June, 12:50 am AEST).
We caught up with her trainer Paul Messara (pictured with the mare at Newmarket in early June) and asked him for the inside story on the six-year-old daughter of Flying Spur and Grilse.
What was she like as a yearling?
She was a big, stringy looking thing, but as soon as she was broken in and started to be ridden she really started to look quite good. As a youngster she was a non-fuss type, just got on with her work. She was quite pigeon-toed as well as offset, so from the beginning my approach to training her was to take it easy.
What’s the story with her name?
Arrowfield Stud’s former marketing manager Frank Pollio named Alverta. Her dam Grilse is named for the first salmon of any generation of smolts to return as adults, having spent one winter at sea, growing from a few ounces to small adults weighing several pounds. Alverta refers to an extraordinary new caviar from mature, white sturgeon farmed in Northern California.
What are Alverta’s special characteristics?
As she’s become older she has become quite particular about the way she likes things done. She’s not keen on people fussing over her, and likes to be left alone. She is always stabled in the same box whenever she returns to the stable from a trip or after spelling, as this is ‘her’ box and she won’t settle as well in any other one.
She’s also looked after by the same team of people, Lewis Seib our fillies’ foreman and, of course, Leah Gavranich. Leah and Alverta have travelled a lot together and they have built a trust and understanding of how they like things done; or more accurately that Leah knows how Alverta likes to have things done!
What happened when she retired to stud last year and then returned to the stable?
She didn’t take too well to the courting process, or rather lack of it, and when she failed to go in foal and returned to training, she had changed. She’d had seven months off and came back to the stable stronger, more frisky and with a can-do temperament. Our riders commented that she was fresher than the two-year-olds, quite playful on the track and shying at things that haven’t moved since the Arrowfield Training Centre was built. She’s a perfect example of the benefits of time, and Alverta is now a mature mare, with her own ideas.
Her biggest asset as a racehorse?
They talk about good racehorses having heart. That’s Alverta. She has never put in a bad race. If she’s not in the finish, it’s not for lack of trying. She is honest and we love her for it.
When did you first realise she had Group-winning potential?
Alverta was always the honest mare who tried hard, but always seemed to get the placing, not the win. She featured in many Group and Listed races, but more often than not would be narrowly beaten. She just didn’t have that extra Group One gear that other horses had.
Then she came back in after her seven-month spell and I knew she was different, but still, I never thought she would be my first Group One winner.