Thrilling is the word to describe Exhilarates performance in winning Godolphin its first Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast on 12 January. The Snitzel filly only managed to confirm her place in the field a week earlier after winning a 1100m handicap. It was a tough race for both Exhilarates and rider Kerrin McEvoy. The pair were slow to begin and were held up mid-race towards the tail of the 16-strong field. However, when asked to go Exhilarates showed great character and turned it around with her amazing speed to win the 1200m contest. Half a length behind with three strides to run, Exhilarates pulled a Houdini to win by three-quarters of a length from Dubious with Hightail a further head behind.
For trainer James Cummings, the win was a personal triumph, but one for which he declined to take credit. “This has been a tremendous effort by the whole team,” Cummings said. “You are seeing a far different horse from the filly who was beaten at Rosehill on her first start. “But that is the case with many of our young horses as we don't rush them early in the season and around Christmas they start coming into their own.” Exhilarates was fifth of five on her first start on 10 November at Rosehill and later was second twice before shedding her maiden status in a minor event at the Gold Coast last Saturday, which got her into the big one.
The Magic Millions Classic is officially a Restricted Listed event because it is confined to horses sold at the Magic Millions yearling sale. Exhilarates became eligible thanks to Godolphin returning to the Australian sales as a buyer in 2018 for the first time in almost a decade. One of the first horses purchased was Exhilarates, a daughter of the leading sire Snitzel and the Group One winning mare Samaready. She was bought for A$600,000. Cummings added: “She’s going to be cherished by the farm for many years to come.” The win that came on Cummings’ 31st birthday also continued a glorious run for jockey Kerrin McEvoy who earlier this season won the Group 1 Melbourne Cup for Godolphin on Cross Counter.
McEvoy also won Australia’s richest race, The Everest, for the second successive time last October. The win earned Exhilarates automatic favouritism for the world’s richest 2yo race, the Group 1 Golden Slipper, run at Rosehill on 23 March. In winning the Magic Millions Classic, Cummings joins his legendary grandfather on the trainers’ honour roll. Bart Cummings won the race in 1989 with Malibu Magic and in 2007 with Mimi Lebrock.