David Hayes corrected one of the few glitches on his outstanding career record when Eagle Falls won the Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
The time-honoured sprint was a rare Victorian Group 1 to have eluded the Hall of Fame trainer, but he rectified that courtesy of one of his famous gear changes.
Hayes added blinkers to the son of Hussonet for the Melbourne Racing Club’s premier speed test and the gelding responded with a barnstorming finish to sweep a dominant victory in the $400,000 event.
“He had to find a length and I thought he just raced inside them (last start) like he needed blinkers,” Hayes said. “The blinkers first time did the trick in a big race, which was nice.
“We’ve had a bit of a quiet run but we really fancied this horse today, so it’s great.”
Eagle Falls ($21) unleashed a powerful sprint from the second half of the field at the top of the straight to run past his rivals.
He rocketed to the lead around 50m from home and careered away to win by a length and a quarter from the gutsy Avenue ($12), who set a solid pace with Solar Charged, while Hinchinbrook ($26) flashed home along the fence to grab third just a head away.
The win was Hayes’s first at the elite level since Nicconi’s Lightning Stakes win 13 months ago and was only champion jockey Damien Oliver’s second for the season, having won the Golden Rose aboard Toorak Toff in September.
It also snapped a lengthy Oakleigh Plate drought for Hayes’ fellow Hall-of-Famer, whose only other win in the race was aboard Schillaci in 1992.
Oliver said it was great to share victory with Hayes aboard a horse who has an unlucky fifth in last year’s Oakleigh Plate.
“He’s been consistent at the top level without winning a good one, this horse, so he really deserves it,” Oliver said.
“It’s been a while since my last Group 1 and you never (forget) that feeling of winning a big one like that and it was a great buzz.”
For the full result of the Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate, click on the link.