Improving stayer Grand Marshal completed the transformation from Melbourne Cup support-card winner to Group 1 champion with victory in the $1.6 million Sydney Cup at Randwick on Saturday.
A little more than four months after he won the $100,000 Visit Victoria Plate (2800m) on the day Protectionist won the Melbourne Cup, the Chris Waller-Grand Marshal proved too strong for a field that included that German import.
The British-bred galloper turned in a resolute performance to wear down stablemate Who Shot Thebarman and score a thrilling win in the 3200-metre event.
Waller said the rise in trip was the key for Grand Marshal, who finished third in the Group 2 Chairman’s Stakes on Monday, but he was just happy to see the stablemates settle down to fight it out.
“A two-mile race is a different complexion altogether,” said Waller, who won his first Sydney Cup in 2011 with Stand To Gain.
“Who Shot Thebarman was getting a dream run following Protectionist and then to see Grand Marshal storm home down the outside, it was pretty good.
“It is something special when the two stablemates fight it out.”
Grand Marshal, a son of Dansili, produced a sustained burst to come from near the rear and round up his rivals.
Who Shot Thebarman, who ran third in the Melbourne Cup behind Protectionist, looked the winner at the 200m but was nabbed in the final stride by Grand Marshal ($41), who won by a half-head.
Victorian stayer Like A Carousel – the $151 outsider of the field – ran the race of his career to finish third, six lengths away.
Hartnell, the $1.65 favourite, led but weakened in the straight to finish fourth, although he reportedly pulled up lame, while Protectionist was under pressure from the 700m and only battled into seventh position, beaten almost 16 lengths.
“He was really disappointing,” jockey Craig Williams said of Protectionist. “We got into a nice position and I thought this is what he needed, a bit more give in the track out to this distance, but at the 1000m I didn’t have a horse and I was gone.”
Waller’s success wasn’t confined to Randwick, with the champion trainer producing Hong Kong recruit Silverball to win the Ross Stevenson Trophy at Flemington.