Exemplar, ridden by John Allen, wins at Flemington (Image: Racing Photos/Natasha Morello)
It wasn’t particularly pretty, but jockey John Allen ensured import Exemplar can aim high this spring after securing back-to-back city wins at Flemington on Saturday.
With his all-the-way victory where he turned in some ambling mid-race sectionals, Exemplar earned the right to tackle October's pivotal Bart Cummings over the same 2530-metre course at Flemington, where the winner secures a ballot-free entry to the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m).
The grey, who is part-owned and races in the colours of Gerry Ryan, is trained by Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace, who endured mixed emotions through the race as they also prepared hot $1.95 favourite South Pacific, who dropped out to beat just one runner home.
Allen was keen to take up the pace on the grey over the 2530-metre trip of the TAB Handicap to open proceedings at Flemington and once he had secured the lead going out of the straight the first time, he slowed the field to a crawl by the time they’d got to the 800-metre mark.
The seven-year-old son of Galileo who started at $7.50 then skipped clear, leaving the favourite South Pacific immediately struggling as Double You Tee ($4.80) ran on from the rear for second to be beaten a length and a quarter with three and a half lengths to Bertwhistle ($11) in third place.
Eustace said the Bart Cummings was now the aim for the stayer: "You’ve got to," he said. "It’s a race back here at Flemington and he’s a horse clearly in good form.
"He’s very, very sound and moving well. He’s been up for a while, but he hasn’t been over-raced."
Eustace said he would not be surprised if fellow import South Pacific pulled up with an issue after being the first horse beaten.
"He changed leads just as they were quickening and from there he was uncomfortably and that’s a sign that something’s not quite right. He travelled into a nice rhythm and was on the wrong leg around the turn. Something’s not 100 per cent there, I’d imagine."