Hucklebuck caps red-letter SA day

Hucklebuck capped a massive day for South Australian racing and trainer Phillip Stokes with a victory in Saturday’s $1 million Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.

The son of Elvstroem’s win was the fifth of the day for a South Australian-trained horse and a third for Stokes, who also triumphed with Eclair Big Bang in the Emirates Airline Handicap (1400m) and Held Hostage in the SecondBite Plate (2000m).

The Tony McEvoy-trained Le Roi in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) and Lord Aspen for trainer Mick Huxtable in the Hilton Hotels and Resorts Plate (1400m) completed the red-letter-day for South Australia.

Hucklebuck’s victory provided both Stokes and jockey Dom Tourneur with a maiden Group 1 success in Victoria.

Stokes said he only decided to run the four-year-old after he was convinced the horse had pulled up well following his win in the Yellowglen Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on Derby Day.

He said the win was made even more special when Hucklebuck’s owner Thomas Li surprised him after the race.

“It’s fantastic to have Thomas here and to train a Group 1 winner in Melbourne,” Stokes said.

“Thomas has been a great support of the stable and it’s fantastic to get a big win for him.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Stokes said the strong pace set up by Tasmanian gelding The Cleaner suited Hucklebuck, who he never doubted would run a strong 1600 metres.

“I always was (confident) but I was just playing it down (in the media), he said.

Settling just behind the speed, Hucklebuck ($10) travelled sweetly for Tourneur before sprinting to the front midway down the straight and holding off the late challenge of Lucky Hussler ($7) by a head, with The Cleaner ($16) holding on for third a further 1.25 lengths away.

Tourneur said it was particularly special to ride his first Group 1 in Melbourne for Stokes.

“It’s a terrific feeling and particularly to do it with Phillip who has been a terrific support of mine,” Tourneur said.

“The horse has been brilliant to us. His record should read better than it is but and he was a bit friendless (in the betting) today and he’s come out and shown us what he’s made of.

“I managed to peel off and get a nice run and once I pulled out I thought he’d be very hard to run down.”