Injury plagued Sydney galloper Whitefriars continued his love affair with Melbourne landing his second Group 2 of the season at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
The Rick Worthington-trained five-year-old added the $200,000 Essendon Mazda Australia Stakes (1200m) to the Salinger Stakes (1200m) he claimed at Flemington last November.
The victory came courtesy of an aggressive ride from grand veteran Jim Cassidy who surged forward from barrier seven and sat parked outside the emerging Undeniably on a hot tempo.
With reigning Australian Horse of the Year Typhoon Tracy stalking the leaders at her resumption from a spell, Michael Rodd attempted to take advantage of his fitness edge on the leader.
Undeniably ($9) pinched a break upon turning for him, but Whitefriars ($9) dug deep to wear him down by a short head with Typhoon Tracy ($1.60) a length from the winner in third.
The winning time was a slick 1:09.66 which was less than half-a-second outside Miss Andretti’s course record. It was Whitefriars’ sixth win from just 20 starts and took his earnings past $600,000.
“That was a great ride,” declared Worthington. “We had a plan and tonight it worked…all credit to the horse.”
Cassidy said the plan was to be positive and ensure that his rivals had to chase hard.
“The plan was to be aggressive, go forward and be first one or two. If I had to lead and dictate so be it, but Roddy (Undeniably) was keen to lead and he wanted to put the pressure on 600, 700 (metres) out,” he explained.
“To ask him to do what he did tonight showed that he’s gone up a notch because I’ve been riding him the other way, quiet and finishing off. I asked him to do it at both ends tonight and he’s done it, so it’s good.”
Worthington said the horse had continued to improve and would be given a shot at Group 1 glory in the $400,000 Sportingbet Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on 12 February.
“He deserves a crack at it,” he said. “We thought the horse had improved this prep, but we needed to see it. He stepped up tonight, I hope he pulls up well and we can go from there.”
Longer term Cassidy is eyeing off a Group 1 mile during the Sydney Autumn Carnival.
“I’m trying to talk him (Worthington) into going to the Doncaster,” he said. “I think he’s a real Doncaster horse. He’s improved and he’s getting better with every run.”
Of the beaten brigade, Michael Rodd was delighted with the performance of Undeniably and said he believes the horse will only get better when he extends to a mile and is ridden quietly.
Luke Nolen was far from disappointed with the run of Typhoon Tracy saying that the glamour mare wasn’t sharp enough for the tempo of the race and would be much better suited at 1400 metres.