Cherry Tortoni, ridden by Billy Egan (Image: Racing Photos/Natasha Morello)
He did it the hard way, but juvenile Cherry Tortoni maintained his unbeaten status and put himself on a potential path to the Victoria Derby when he stormed home late to win the Listed Taj Rossi Series Final (1600m) at Flemington.
Jockey Billy Egan found himself back in the ruck off a moderate speed at the field turned for home but after allowing the Godolphin horse Alcyone go around him, he came off that’s horses back to run him down in a tight finish.
The $101 outsider Johnny Get Angry got former AFL headliner Denis Pagan off to an auspicious start to his training career when he charged home late for third.
Cherry Tortoni is closely related to former star Tie The Knot and it is likely he will be set on a spring path towards the AAMI Victoria Derby following a short break.
Trainer Patrick Payne said he was delighted for the horse and the owners and breeders Sandy Tait and his sister Jill Nivison, who also bred Tie The Knot.
"I am extremely pleased with the horse," Payne said.
"He’s a lovely horse to deal with. So are the owners, the Taits.
"When Sandy Tait sent him to me he said this is one of the nicest horses I’ve sent down.
"He could be a Derby horse but I’ll be guided by him. I’m not sure how good he’d be against the smarter three-year-olds over 1200 or 1400 metres so I’ll give him short break and look to an early spring mile race.
"He gave weight to the second horse (Alcyone) so I think that might’ve been a difference towards the line finish but he went really well.
"He’s a big horse so I can’t go too easy with him so he’ll just have a short break."
Starting the $2.25 favourite, Cherry Tortoni held a narrow margin over Alcyone ($6) with nearly two lengths to the third horse.
Egan said he felt his rivals had their chance to beat the horse.
"It was an impressive win today,’’ he said. "I thought it was an even race and everything got their chance. I noticed that when I went for him that I really had to stick into him today to get past them.
"The other day there were a couple that were unlucky so we didn’t know what they really had under the hood.
"Today they tested him but it was good to see him put them away still.
"I was happy to wait as long as I could on him, get him to the outside and have the last crack on them.
"It was an evenly run race and every horse got their opportunity. They really put their foot down and it was good that he knuckled down and got on top of them."