Local trainer Robert Smerdon enjoyed a big pay day in the fourth on Caulfield Cup Day this afternoon with his two tough staying fillies running an ideal 2014 Crown Oaks lead-up, Fontein Ruby and Crafty scoring the Caulfield Classic quinella.
Spruiked primarily as a lead-up race for three-year-old colts and geldings heading towards the Victoria Derby on November 1, the fillies fought back and beat home the boys in this year’s edition of the $750,000 Group 3 racing.com Caulfield Classic (2000m).
The lucrative prize money lured Smerdon and his dynamic duo, and it proved a winning move to run them in this as opposed to the previous fillies-only Crown Oaks lead-up the $120,000 Listed Ethereal Stakes (2000m) won by Set Square.
In a tough staying effort that displayed her tenacity and will to win, Turffontein filly Fontein Ruby ($13) held off a number of late challengers to defeat her stable mate and market mover Crafty ($6), who had to do work from an outside draw.
With the win Fontein Ruby became just the third filly in the past 30 years to win the race formerly known as the Norman Robinson Stakes.
In third was then a brave roughie shot Firehouse Rock ($51) from the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig stables, the Fastnet Rock colt improving on an eighth to Magicool in the Listed UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington last time out.
Magicool wasn’t far off them in the finish today in fifth tracking nicely ahead of the $1.5 million Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The disappointments of the race meanwhile were the favourite Kumaon finishing dead last and early leader Merion coming out of a briskly run Caulfield Guineas and feeling the pinch of that, unable to back-up.
Fontein Ruby meanwhile settled into second behind Merion and she claimed him at the top of the straight with Firehouse Rock, wobbling on the corner but improving well, also sweeping up to take the lead at one stage.
But the eventual winner really responded to the whip picking up and kept finding, putting her head down low and responding again when Crafty came for her.
The fillies then fought it out over the final 50 before Fontein Ruby won by a neck, the $50,000 bargain buy winning the juicy $450,000 first prize.
With today’s victory Fontein Ruby made it back-to-back spring wins following an honest effort in the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on October 4.
Mark Zahra took her out and kept her at the front all-the-way that day and she was out front and sticking around again today with the same hoop in the saddle.
“Smerdy’s stood by me through thick and thin so it’s great to reward him,” the hoop said post-win.
“She’s a great horse, I imagine to watch as well, she’s just so tough.
“She fights back and you’ld love to have a stable full of them.”
While she’s not bred for the distance, today’s Caulfield Classic winner handled her first look at the 2000m without issue indicating the 2500m of the $1 million Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) on November 6 might also not be outside her limits.
“Whether she could run the 2000 (metres) was a question,” Smerdon admitted to TVN after the victory.
“It’s not in her pedigree but she doesn’t know that.”
Smerdon confirmed that both Fontein Ruby and Crafty were now Oaks bound after today’s effort.
“They stayed on really well, they both put in great performances,” he said.
“Both onward to the Oaks, whether they go into the Wakeful first or straight to the Oaks remains to be seen but they’re both heading towards the Oaks.”
The $300,000 Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) runs at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day five days before the Crown Oaks.
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2014 Caulfield Classic Results & Finishing Order
Caulfield Race 4 – 18/10/2014
|1||12||FONTEIN RUBY||Robert Smerdon||Mark Zahra||–||13||55kg||$13|
|2||13||CRAFTY||Robert Smerdon||Craig Williams||0.3L||9||55kg||$6|
|3||5||FIREHOUSE ROCK||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Nicholas Hall||1.05L||2||57kg||$51|
|4||7||LIGHT UP MANHATTAN||Ciaron Maher||Hugh Bowman||1.8L||6||57kg||$41|
|5||4||MAGICOOL||Mark Kavanagh||Glen Boss||2.8L||7||57kg||$7|
|6||3||BACHMAN||Gerald Ryan||Corey Brown||4.3L||4||57kg||$8|
|7||10||CUBAN FIGHTER||Robbie Laing||Dwayne Dunn||4.8L||12||57kg||$101|
|8||6||WAR POINT||Mick Price||Craig Newitt||6.8L||11||57kg||$13|
|9||2||MERION (NZ)||Michael Moroney||Steven Arnold||9.55L||10||57kg||$5|
|10||11||HOME RUN HERO||Matt Laurie||Ben Melham||9.65L||1||57kg||$71|
|11||9||JUSTAWAY (NZ)||Steve Richards||Steven King||13.4L||5||57kg||$51|
|12||8||HAWKING||Mick Price||Jim Cassidy||15.65L||8||57kg||$71|
|13||1||KUMAON||John O’Shea||Kerrin McEvoy||16.9L||3||57kg||$3.80F|