Turn Me Loose wins thrilling Emirates

New Zealand trainer Murray Baker collected his second feature Group 1 victory of the Spring Racing Carnival when Turn Me Loose claimed Saturday’s $1 million Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.

The in-form four-year-old just had enough in reserve to hold off the fast-finishing Politeness – who just missed out on her second Group 1 of the Melbourne Cup Carnival – and secure his third-straight Stakes victory.

Baker, who three weeks earlier claimed the $3 million BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) with Mongolian Khan, said Turn Me Loose could now be headed to Hong Kong for the International Mile (1600m) in December, with the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in April a long-term target.

“He’s a very good miler, he’s so big and strong and he runs great sectionals and makes it hard for horses behind him,” Baker said.

“I’d certainly like to take him to Sydney. The Queen Elizabeth is a good race, it’s worth a lot of money and I’ve won it with (It’s A) Dundeel and I’m sure this horse will run 2000.

“He’s out of a Danehill mare that’s out of a Sadler’s Wells mare and he relaxes well and he’s fast so I think he can do it.”

Turn Me Loose ($9) was sent straight to the front by jockey Kerrin McEvoy, where he remained throughout to win by a half-neck over Politeness ($10), with Rock Sturdy ($31) a further neck away in third.

McEvoy picked up the ride on the son of Iffraaj after the horse’s regular rider Opie Bosson was suspended on Derby Day.

Damien Oliver said eighth placegetter Disposition ($5EF) simply performed below his best, while Bow Creek ($5EF) – who weakened into 12th – was subsequently found to be lame.

Meanwhile, Baker revealed Mongolian Khan was on the improve after his spring campaign was ended by a colic attack, and could be headed home from the Werribee Equine Clinic within a week.

“He’s on the improve but it’s been a slow process. He’s had one or two hiccups along the way but hopefully he’ll come back,” he said.

“He’ll probably be there (at Werribee) for another week just to be safe but everything’s heading in the right direction.”

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Track to blame for Chautauqua defeat

Jockey Dwayne Dunn has blamed Chautauqua’s shock defeat in Saturday’s Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington on the soft track.

The five-year-old finished runner-up, a short-head behind the Chris Waller-trained Delectation ($14), for the second-straight year in the $1 million Group 1 after he was also narrowly beaten by this year’s third placegetter Terravista ($9.50) 12 months earlier.

Dunn said the only reason he could find for the defeat was the fact the $1.90 favourite wasn’t at his best with the sting out of the track.

“He tried really hard but he probably didn’t quite sprint as hard on that sort of going,” Dunn said.

“He’s probably better on top of the ground where he’s got more of an electrifying sprint but he still toughed it out right to the wire.”

Hugh Bowman could offer no excuses for Terravista saying he had every chance but was just narrowly beaten by two better horses on the day.

Kerrin McEvoy said the fifth-placed Srikandi ($6.50) ran well but probably wasn’t at her best down the straight.

“She wanted to lay-in a little bit from the 600 which didn’t help but she’s run a gallant race and off the back of that you’d say that she’s probably better around a bend,” McEvoy said.

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Dandino delivers Cup consolation

Veteran stayer Dandino continued the biggest week of trainer Darren Weir’s career with a victory in Saturday’s $300,000 Group 3 Queen’s Cup (2600m) at Flemington.

The nine-year-old import recorded his first win since August 2013 and landed connections a $100,000 bonus – available to any horse that paid up for the Emirates Melbourne Cup that didn’t make the field – on top of the $180,000 first prizemoney.

Weir, who admitted he still couldn’t believe he’d won Tuesday’s ‘race that stops the nation’ with Prince Of Penzance, said it was a great to get a win with Dandino who was sent to the stable following a tendon injury.

“He came to us with a significant injury and (owner) Darren Dance asked if I was prepared to give him a go and I said with a horse like him I’m prepared to give it a crack,” Weir said.

“I got the Ballarat Vet Clinic involved and they need to be thanked because they’ve kept a close eye on his leg the whole way through and have told us when we can work him and when we can’t.

“When he ran at (the) Geelong (Cup) the plan was to try and win to get a penalty and sneak into the Cup but he had every chance but the winner was too good on the day and this is a nice back-up.”

After settling in fourth position on the back of the favourite Secret Number ($2.70), when jockey Ben Melham angled Dandino ($3.90) into the clear at the top of the straight he finished powerfully to win by 1.75 lengths over Secret Number, with Don Doremo ($31) a further half-head away in third.

In further news, Melham was later suspended for 15 meeting for the winning ride after he was found guilty of careless riding for an incident in the home straight which caused Secret Number to be checked.

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Williams dares to dream with Divan

Divan showed his connections that he could be an Emirates Melbourne Cup horse, after holding on to win the Starlight Children’s Foundation Plate (2000m) for prominent owner Lloyd Williams.

Macedon Lodge had little luck in ‘the race that stops a nation’ in 2015, with The United States finishing 14th – while two others Team Williams had a share in, Bondi Beach (16th) and Kingfisher (19th) – fared no better.

Already with an eye to the first Tuesday in November in 2016, Nick Williams said four-year-old Divan – who held off the well-tried Velox from Lindsay Park – could very well be a top stayer after watching just his seventh career start.

Williams said given Divan’s bloodlines – he’s by Zabeel out of Seachange – success with the gelding would hold more sentimental value than most.

“Racing’s about dreaming, and there’s nothing we’d love to do more than have that horse in the Melbourne Cup next year,” Williams said.

“Being by Zabeel, we’ve owned over 100 of them over the time – he’s now deceased so there’s no more Zabeels.

“There would be nothing make us happier than to win the Melbourne Cup with a Zabeel.”

Williams noted Divan’s last start – when he closed home hard for second in the Group 3 Bendigo Cup (2400m) – told them plenty about his staying prowess.

Bendigo Cup winner The Offer went on to run 3.3 lengths eighth on Tuesday for trainer Gai Waterhouse.

“He ran beyond all expectations in the Bendigo Cup when he was 27 ratings points out of the handicaps, but managed to finish three-quarters of a length second to Gai’s horse The Offer,” Williams said.

“We put him back in his right grade today. He ran well.

“He looked like he was travelling so well at the turn.

“I was wondering whether Ollie [Oliver] would get out or not – but you put the best on, and they manage to do the best.

“You thought he might put four or five lengths on them, but he probably just didn’t like the soft ground absolutely.”

He added: “He’s a stayer, but he’s very immature.

“What we’re just trying to do is get some experience into him this campaign, so we can target bigger races in the autumn and next spring.”

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Jameka Crowns Maher The Oaks King

Thunderstorms earlier in the day could not dampen the hopes for Jameka in the VRC Oaks (2500m) at Flemington and the favourite duly saluted, becoming the eighth Inglis graduate to win the Group 1 fillies Classic in the last 12 years.

Jameka (Myboycharlie x Mine Game) helped trainer Ciaron Maher to back-to-back wins in the Group 1 VRC Crown Oaks over 2500m at Flemington, equalling the deeds of Australian Hall Of Fame trainer John Hawkes following the win of Set Square in 2014.

The daughter of Myboycharlie jumped to the lead from the barriers but settled early in the race, and it was just the run she needed to take the lead again at the 500m and fend off a late challenge by Honesta to win by more than two lengths.

Prior to the race, Maher was confident that her convincing Group 2 MVRC Moonee Valley Vase win last month had ideally prepared the filly for Oaks victory, saying “We’ve really targeted the Oaks with her. With that run under her belt she’s just starting to peak at the right time.”

Maher’s sentiments were just as positive following today’s win, saying “She’s a special filly. She’s just a beautiful mover and very clean winded.”

Jockey Damien Oliver was very impressed with today’s performance, saying “I had a lot of faith in this filly’s staying ability.”

“She was going too easy a long way from home. I had to let her go!” Oliver added.

Bred by Gilgai Farm, Jameka was sold to her trainer for $130,000 at the 2014 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale before being syndicated to a large group of owners that include many Warrnambool locals, like the filly’s trainer, Mr Ciaron Maher, Halo Racing Services Pty Ltd, Mrs J M Mckenna, Mr D Degenhardt, Mr T A Cole-Sinclair, Mr M R Fallon, Mr G M Verdoorn, Mr S Priestley, Mrs S Cockram, Mr M V Mills and Ms J L Nolte.

To date, Jameka has won three and placed in five of nine career starts, and today burst past the $1 million mark with her earnings.