Whoever suggested that fact was stranger than fiction might have had the 2013 Sportingbet Cox Plate in mind.
What script would have had a maiden, who only gained a start in the race after the scratching of the hot favourite, ridden by an apprentice who was yet to win at the highest level winning Australia’s greatest weight for age race.
Shamus Award, the Danny O’Brien-trained colt – who was first emergency for the 2040-metre event – who had not won in nine previous starts, held off Happy Trails and Fiorente to win the $3 million event.
The victory justified O’Brien’s decision to roll the dice with the son of Snitzel, who might have entered the race a maiden but was a six-time Black Type placegetter, including a Caulfield Guineas third placing.
“We were always wanting to run, but we were well aware of the criteria for this race and that we were going to be the last horse into the field,” O’Brien said.
“That happened, we were the first emergency and we had a bit of good fortune with Atlantic Jewel coming out.
“But not much has gone his way the whole spring and over the last seven days we’ve gathered momentum and here we are now.”
Schofield, 19, showed why David Hayes entrusted him with his stable jockey honours at Lindsay Park with a ride well beyond his years.
He found the fence first after jumping well from barrier three and had company in Puissance de Lune, Long John and Super Cool outside him at various stages of the first half of the race.
That trio were struggling when the race was hotting up rounding the home turn and it was Fiorente, despite a wide run throughout, who issued the sternest challenge approaching the straight.
Shamus Award had seen him off by the 100m and all that was then left was to stave off the late surge from Happy Trails, who enjoyed a cosy run on the fence in the second half of the field before weaving a passage through the field rounding the turn.
Happy Trails ($12) failed by a half-head to reel in the $21 chance, who joined Octagonal (1995), Savabeel (2004) and So You Think (2009) as the three-year-olds to win the Cox Plate in the past 20 years.
Schofield said it was a dream to bring up his maiden Group 1 success in the Cox Plate and was thrilled with the way the race worked out.
“He jumped really fast and I let him slide to the winning and I could see Ben trying to ease with Puissance de Lune, so I just maintained the rail,” he said.
“Around the turn and down the side I started to ease home gently and he came back underneath me and travelled well and Fiorente then took off, so that indicated to me that we had him going quite easily. He was strong to the line.
“I had a couple of looks over the last 100 metres and wasn’t sure (if I’d won) but Michael Rodd came up to me and pointed out that the camera was on me.
“I’ve wanted to get a Group 1 win so badly and what a way to do it, in a Cox Plate.”
Fiorente ($8) turned in a sensational Emirates Melbourne Cup trial to finish third, just a long neck away.
Foreteller, who also enjoyed an economical run in the second half of the field, finished strongly to claim fourth placing in advance of Super Cool (fifth) and international galloper Side Glance (sixth).
It’s A Dundeel, the $4 favourite, pulled out to launch a run at the 800m but was beaten before straightening, while Puissance de Lune ($5.50) dropped out late to beat home just two rivals.
Shamus Award is now likely to head to the spelling paddock before being set for the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington in March.
Story by Brad Bishop