Trainers Ben and JD Hayes have a decision to make with star galloper Mr Brightside, who earned a ‘golden ticket’ into next month’s $5 million Cox Plate by taking out the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
A winner of the Doncaster Mile in the autumn, Mr Brightside was expected to dominate the Feehan – and did so – bolting in as a $1.65 favourite for Craig Williams.
Mr Brightside sat outside the leader Earlswood in the run, then powered away on the home turn, winning by four and a half lengths from Inspirational Girl ($6), with Spanish Mission ($8.50) a further three quarters of a length back in third.
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The Hayes brothers are weighing up whether to target the Caulfield Cup or Cox Plate with the five-year-old gelding.
“(The Cox Plate) is very tempting,” JD told Channel 7 Racing commentator Emma Freedman.
“If he keeps proving to be very good at Weight For Age, I think you’d be mad not to (run him in the Cox Plate),” said Hayes.
Mr Brightside is now an $8 third favourite for the Cox Plate behind Anamoe and Zaaki, who kicked off his spring campaign with a win in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
James McDonald controlled the race from the front on Zaaki ($1.90 fav), booting clear in the straight to win by 1 and ¾ lengths from Icebath ($4.40), with Nimalee ($12) third.
With the Randwick track rated a Heavy 9, trainer Annabel Neasham admits she gave serious thought to scratching Zaaki right up until jump time.
“It was going through my mind right until the gates opened,” said Neasham.
“But he’s very forward, I know he’s first-up and he’s obviously going to improve from this, but he’s a strong traveller, and horses who travel strongly on the bridle like he does, it does help them get through the ground.”
McDonald conceded the eight-year-old wasn’t comfortable in the wet ground.
“He had to use all of his ability today to get through that track,” said the champion jockey.
“Obviously the rail has helped him. He has done a really good job at the furlong to kick away with some really good horses chasing him.”
Zaaki’s next target is the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) in a fortnight.