Scintillating Sepoy salutes at first WFA test in Manikato Stakes

Champion colt Sepoy passed his first test at open age in emphatic fashion, demolishing a field containing some of Australia’s top sprinters in the $500,000 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night.

The Peter Snowden-trained three-year-old made the leap from underage star to unqualified superstar when he combined tenacity and brilliance to street his rivals in the 1200-metre Group 1.

Sepoy’s Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper double was trainer Peter Snowden’s highlight of last season and he was ecstatic to see him rise to another level on an unfavourably slow track at his toughest test to date.

“He’s a great horse and I’m very lucky to have him,” Snowden said. “It was a tremendous win, he did it the hard way, but just showed everyone how good he is.

“I was very worried about the wet conditions, he’d been on a wet track before, it was his only defeat, but he was underdone that day and tonight he was better prepared and the horse went really well.”

Unlike against his rivals his own age, whom Sepoy has bullied for the majority of his career, the son of Elusive Quality was made to work overtime for Friday night’s win.

Jockey Kerrin McEvoy had to dig him up to hold his position on fence after dwelling slightly at the start from barrier one and he was then pressured for 300m by Buffering, who tried desperately to cross to the fence.

Sepoy was afforded around 400m to settle into his rhythm once Buffering couldn’t cross, but he again had to respond rounding the home turn, which led to the most impressive part of his performance.

Despite rivals who had had much easier runs looming ominously just before straightening, Sepoy was still able to call on his trademark brilliance to explode away and take his record to eight wins from nine starts.

At the line the $1.80 favourite had 2.3 lengths to spare over Sister Madly ($17), who stuck on well after racing on Sepoy’s back, while More Joyous ($4) finished the race off solidly for third but was never a factor despite having the run of the race one off the fence in fourth spot.

McEvoy said it was a great effort to win so comfortably given the early work he did.

“He did switch off when I got there which really helped,” McEvoy said. “Buffering really made me work, definitely, but once we hit the first bend and he hadn’t crossed me, he was never going to get in front of me.

“The best part about him is that he’s relaxing now. When you do that early work on him, he can switch off and come back to you, which is what the good horses do. It was a dream ride.”

The strength of Sepoy’s win raised hopes that he may take on Black Caviar in the $1 million Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington on 5 November, but while Snowden didn’t rule it out he said the main aim remained the $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington on 29 October.

“The reason I’ve always said the Coolmore is the target is because it’s his own age, three-year-olds, and hopefully the boss (Sheikh Mohammed) is here on Derby Day,” Snowden said.

“That’s when the Coolmore is on and that would be the icing on the cake if we could win a Group 1 on the day that he’s there. For me that’s better than beating Black Caviar.”

Rainbow on track to Chase Guineas pot of gold

Rick Hore-Lacy’s stellar run continued when Chase The Rainbow defied the pattern to claim Friday night’s $200,000 Group 2 Essendon Jeep Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley.

Just six days after Hore-Lacy provided the first two horses home in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, Chase The Rainbow affirmed his reputation as a leading contender for the $1 million The Age Caulfield Guineas with an impressive win.

On a wintry night when most winners came from prominent positions in the run, Chase The Rainbow unleashed a whirlwind finish from the rear to confirm Hore-Lacy’s strong opinion of him.

“It was tempting to ride him closer given the pattern of racing tonight, but I told the stewards we were not going to change his riding style,” the Caulfield trainer said.

“He’s a very promising horse, he doesn’t pull and once you kick them up and teach them to pull, it’s bloody hard to get them out of the habit.”

Despite the moderate tempo, jockey Dean Yendall was content to sit back near the rear aboard the $2.60 favourite before commencing his run from the 500m.

Chase The Rainbow had plenty of ground to make up after Cute Emily ($5) dashed clear at the 200m but he let down impressively over the concluding stages to get home by 1.3 lengths with Sabrage ($6) 1.5 lengths away third.

The performance had Yendall, who is yet to ride a Group 1 winner, excited about next Saturday’s The Age Caulfield Guineas.

“It was a really good effort to run them down like he did and the last furlong he put in a 10-and-a-half (seconds split), he was going that quick,” Yendall said.

“I’d probably say at the moment that he’s the best horse I’ve ever sat on, so hopefully he takes me places.”

Hore-Lacy said that would first be the Guineas, on 8 October, with the $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby on 29 October the long-range aim.

“Yes we will (go to the Guineas) and then we’ll come back here for the mile-and-a-quarter race (Mitchelton Wines Vase) on Cox Plate Day and then we’ll go for the Derby,” he said.

Definitely Ready takes up the Challenge for Kavanagh

His stay at the top of the leaderboard is likely to be brief, but Definitely Ready put his name up in lights with victory in the opening heat of the Essendon Mazda 55 Second Challenge at Moonee Valley on Friday night.

The Mark Kavanagh-trained speedster struck the first blow in the series that offers a BT-50 Mazda to the trainer of the horse who posts the fastest time across the 18 heats with an all-the-way win over the quirky 955-metre event.

The deteriorating slow track means his time of 56.68 is unlikely to last as the benchmark time for too long, but that mattered little to Kavanagh who was just happy to see him return to the winner’s stall after his career looked at the crossroads.

At his previous start, Definitely Ready was effectively pulled up after experiencing more throat issues.

“He had an ulcer in the back of his throat dislodge his soft palate which made him choke,” Kavanagh said of his previous start. “We were of the belief that his wind operation had re-collapsed, but that wasn’t to be.

“It’s pretty satisfying for a trainer to get a horse back from being hopeless last start to being in form like he is today. It’s pretty satisfying for us.”

The son of More Than Ready, a marked drifter from $3 to $5, was back to his brilliant best on Friday night, finding the lead in a race stacked with early pace before holding on to score a narrow head win over the fast-finishing Rocking Force ($16). Caplamp ($19) was a half neck away third.

Definitely Ready, who was ridden by Michael Rodd, completed a race-to-race double for Kavanagh, who earlier combined with Hall of Fame jockey Damien Oliver to win the $150,000 Group 3 TBV/Gallagher Bassett Champagne Stakes (1200m) with Miss Stellabelle.

The daughter of Dehere made it two wins from as many starts this time in following a Bendigo maiden win when she came from last on the fence just before straightening to win running away from Platelet and Miss Zoom.

Miss Stellabelle has become yet another high-quality filly to emerge from Kavanagh’s Flemington yard, which is also home to Thousand Guineas favourite Atlantic Jewel and Sunday’s Edward Manifold Stakes favourite Celebrity Girl.

Kavanagh said the best of Miss Stellabelle wouldn’t be seen until the second half of the 2011/12 racing season, however.

“She’s jumped from a maiden to a Group 3 and only good horses do that,” Kavanagh said. “We won’t overdo it, we’ll keep in mind that there’s plenty left in the tank for the autumn.”

Hore-Lacy in heaven following Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes quinella

Rick Hore-Lacy celebrated one of his biggest thrills in racing when he prepared the quinella in Saturday’s $350,000 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield.

Toorak Toff attained dual Group 1-winner status when he benefitted from a stellar Craig Williams ride to hold off stablemate Pinnacles in the 1400m Group 1.

Hore-Lacy was ecstatic to see the entire, who has had a throat operation since winning last year’s $1 million Golden Rose, rediscover his best form on the biggest stage.

“He’s always been a good horse and with all the problems that he’s had it’s just wonderful to see him come back and beat a good field like the way he did,” the Caulfield horseman said.

“He had the throat operation and I’ve just had a lot of problems with him, but this time everything’s gone smoothly.”

Toorak Toff (56.5kg) took full advantage of being given the run of the race by Williams to become the first horse since Testa Rossa (58.5kg) in 2000 to carry more than 55.5kg to victory in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes.

The four-year-old lobbed in the box seat after jumping well from barrier five and Williams was able to peel off the heels of leader Master Of Design rounding the home turn and put his stamp on the race.

The son of Show A Heart, who started at $12, claimed the lead 150m from home and was ridden out by Williams to score by 1-1/2 lengths from former Doncaster Handicap placegetter Pinnacles ($26) with Master Of Design ($21) boxing on for third, a further head back.

Majestic Music ($61) did her best work in the final 100m to flash into fourth place, while boom three-year-old Smart Missile had to settle for 10th but lost few admirers with his run.

The heavily-backed $2.90 favourite faced a near-impossible task after dawdling out of the barriers and settling last, but he was doing his best work late along the fence and powered into 10th placing despite not getting into the clear until around 200m from home.

Toorak Toff’s win continued Williams’s affinity with the race, which he has now won back-to-back twice. He scored aboard Barely A Moment and Rewaaya in 2005 and 2006, before teaming with Response to win last year.

Williams’s father Alan also has fond memories of the race, riding Private Talk to victory in 1976 and training Black Rouge to score in 1993.

“It’s a great thrill for me with the history of the race,” Williams said. “My father won it as a trainer and a jockey and when I first come back from Hong Kong it was my first really big thrill to win on Barely A Moment.”

Helmet hurtles to impressive Caulfield Guineas Prelude win

Helmet’s Caulfield Guineas campaign is firmly back on track after the star colt turned in a faultless display to demolish his rivals in Saturday’s $175,000 Group 3 The Age Caulfield Guineas Prelude at Caulfield.

The dual Group 1 winner displayed none of the wayward tendencies that have plagued his career to cruise to the fifth win of his eight-start career in near-track-record time and bring a big smile to the face of proud trainer Peter Snowden.

“Today’s the first day I can say he did everything right,” Snowden said. “He bounced perfect, he travelled good off a hot speed, he relaxed good and then quickened into his stride.

“To me, I think it’s only a touch of what the horse’s ability truly is.

“He’s copped a fair bit of work the last week and jumps (training), we’ve done a lot with him, and I think it’s brought the horse right on now and hopefully he just goes on with it in a fortnight’s time.”

The $1 million The Age Caulfield Guineas (1600m) will be run on Saturday, 8 October and Helmet is now the $4 second favourite behind Smart Missile ($3.20).

The son of Exceed And Excel got within 0.2secs of his sire’s track record when covered the 1400m on the Guineas Prelude in 1:21.4.

Helmet jumped beautifully from barrier five and jockey Kerrin McEvoy was content to sit in secnd spot behind Golden Archer, who got fired up after being driven to the early lead and ran the field along.

McEvoy popped off the fence at the 600m and ambled alongside Golden Archer at the 500m, sitting quietly until soon after straightening when he dashed clear.

The $2.60 favourite powered away over the concluding stages to score by 3-1/4 lengths from Secret Hills ($18), who stuck on well after racing prominently, while Specter ($14) flashed home to cut Running Tall ($51) out of third placing.

Golden Archer ($3.60) weakened badly late after his earlier efforts and beat just one runner home.

McEvoy was thrilled to see Helmet bounce back after a pair of third placings at the first two runs of his campaign and said he felt he had the race won a long way out.

“He travelled up and always travelled like a winner from about the 1000 onwards,” McEvoy said.

“It was good to see him concentrate and do it properly because we’ve all had faith in him, it was just getting a bit annoying with his antics. Today was a real positive step and he’s got great ability as we can see.”

Helmet now progresses to the $1 million The Age Caulfield Guineas and remains entered for the $3 million Tatts Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on 22 October.

“It’s there, but he’s got to be as dominant or even more so next start for me to think about that because that’s an absolute professional race at a very tricky track,” Snowden said of the Cox Plate.

“If he can win next start we’ll think about it, but at the moment I’m just thinking about two weeks’ time.”