Luke Nolen and Moment of Change celebrated a triumphant return to the Group 1 winner’s stall today at Caulfield.
The three-time Victorian Metropolitan Jockeys’ Premiership winner and consistent gelding both broke frustrating elite-level droughts with their victory in the $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m).
It was Nolen’s first Group 1 since partnering Black Caviar to victory at her final racetrack appearance, in the T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick last April, and Moment of Change’s first since his Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes win the previous September.
The five-year-old son of Barely A Moment survived a late charge from Eurozone score narrowly and provide Nolen, who only recently returned from a five-week freshen up, with his 34th Group 1 success.
“It’s been pretty well-publicised that I took a bit of time just to gather the thoughts – it probably was a good time to step away for a bit – so it was good to bounce back with a winner on a Group 1 day,” Nolen said.
It was the fourth time in the past five years Nolen has partnered a Moody-trained runner to Orr Stakes success, following back-to-back wins with Typhoon Tracy in 2010/11 and Black Caviar’s win two years ago.
Moment of Change deservedly joined them on the honour roll after a consistent run that saw him register seven top-four finishes at Group 1 level in between elite-level victories.
The Orr Stakes was the first time he’d started beyond 1200m since the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and Moody was pleased to see that result in breakthrough win.
“He’s had three runs at seven furlongs here now and he’s undefeated, so that probably speaks for itself,” Moody said.
“It has been a frustrating 12 months, when you get beat 10 times in Group 1s, but the horse has always returned a cheque and always done us very proud and to have him back here at home under these conditions today, it was good to see him salute.”
Moment of Change, who led at a solid tempo, scored by a short-half-head from Eurozone, narrowly denying Bart and James Cummings their maiden Group 1 success together with Shamus Award half-a-length back third.
The Cox Plate winner trailed Moment of Change in the run and did his chances no favours by hanging in in the straight but the colt’s trainer Danny O’Brien was satisfied with the effort.
“He probably just peaked a little bit late, which you’d expect when you’ve done all that work up on the speed,” O’Brien said.
“His target is the Guineas. He’s in great order for it now and he’ll more than likely go straight into that race now. He has had a tough run today, so three weeks into the Guineas will probably be perfect for him.”
The $500,000 Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) is at Flemington on 1 March, while Moment of Change will next be seen in the $500,000 Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) back at Caulfield seven days earlier.
The Orr Stakes success was part of a running double to close out the day for Moody and Nolen, who later combined to win the $150,000 Group 3 Routley’s Bakery Bellmaine Stakes (1200m) with A Time For Julia.
That victory completed a winning treble for Moody, who earlier produced underrated mare Spirits Dance to notch a winning hat-trick in the $135,000 Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes (1200m).
Story by Brad Bishop