Sydney’s leading lady of racing Gai Waterhouse now has two hopes in the 2015 Melbourne Cup field next Tuesday searching for her second win in the ‘race that stops a nation’ after the Lexus Stakes victory of her gallant stayer Excess Knowledge who survived a nervous protest to keep bragging rights.
On Wednesday Waterhouse’s former Sydney Cup champ The Offer won the Bendigo Cup and is now a $67 hope through Ladbrokes.com.au, home of Best Tote or SP + 20% across the Victoria Derby Day card at Flemington today, to win the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 3.
Waterhouse broke her Melbourne Cup maiden in 2013 with Fiorente winning her the ‘Loving Trophy’ on the back of a Cox Plate third, and this year The Offer will now be joined in the capacity 24-starter field by the in-form Monsun stallion Excess Knowledge.
Prior to the Derby Day win by the six-year-old in the $300,000 Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m), Excess Knowledge was sitting 30th on the Melbourne Cup order of entry.
The brave Lexus success earned the horse a ballot exemption for the world’s richest handicap, his pre-win $67 price in all-in Melbourne Cup betting set to firm.
Waterhouse nearly lost her second 2015 Melbourne Cup runner however when rider of the Lexus Stakes runner-up, Damian Lane on Zanteca, lodged a protest for interference over the final 200m.
Winning hoop Dwayne Dunn admitted he shifted on the winner Excess Knowledge, but that he didn’t believe he at any time impeded the run of the second placed mare who was beaten by the barest of margins – just a short half-head.
After a lengthy wait the VRC stewards agreed and said that Zanteca at no time lost ground and had a clear run to the in line over the final 150m, eventually dismissing the protest to keep the original placings as they were.
It was the other Waterhouse runner in the Lexus Stakes, which last produced a Melbourne Cup winner in Shocking (2009) who completed the double, was Bohemian Lily who led the field around after jumping away well.
She found the rail and led early from the Darren Weir-trained Zabeel mare Zanteca while Ruling Third was in third just ahead of High Midnight.
The Robert Hickmott-trained Chance To Dance had to do plenty of work but did that to move up into second, while the John O’Shea-trained Havana Cooler, coming off a third in the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) in Sydney back at the start of the month, was midfield on the rail.
The eventual winner Excess Knowledge however was having a horror run caught three wide and deep worse than midfield without cover for at least half of the race.
Once on the straight Dunn had Excess Knowledge creeping up, presenting on the outside before hitting the front and charging to the line.
A late run up the inside from Weir’s last start Geelong winner Zanteca ($13) though saw her drive up the rails giving Excess Knowledge something to beat late, and then beat again in the subsequent protest.
The mare put in a big dive and bobbed the head for a photo finish only to go down a short half-head behind the market mover Excess Knowledge ($4.60) with Havana Cooler ($7.50) crossing third to finish the Lexus Stakes trifecta.
Dunn waited for as long as he could in a cool ride after getting no favours throughout, the horse pulling out all the strings to find the line in a terrific effort.
“I was three wide and didn’t have the best run,” Dunn said.
“But he cruised into the corner and you know what you’ve got underneath you with Gai’s horses.
“She said ‘Don’t be afraid to go early’ and so we did.
“He got a bit lost when he first hit the front, he hadn’t been there in a while, but when I put the sword to him he really lifted.
“It was a good effort and he fought hard late.”
As for heading into the two miles of the iconic Melbourne Cup, Dunn believes the 3200m would be no issue for Excess Knowledge who pulled up beautifully after his win and had plenty still left to give.
“This horse could’ve gone another lap,” he said.
“He’s a gentleman.”
Waterhouse was obviously ecstatic and as enthusiastic as ever about Excess Knowledge’s chances in the Melbourne Cup in three days’ time.
“He is so well weighted in this Cup,” she said, Excess Knowledge allocated only 51kg.
“Is he starting? Yes he is! Will he win? Yes he will! Back him!”
To check out the full Melbourne Cup odds before the field and barrier draw this afternoon, visit Ladbrokes.com.au who are giving away a 2015 Ford Ranger to one lucky Melbourne Cup punter!
2015 Lexus Stakes Results & Finishing Order
Flemington Race 5 – 31/10/2015
|1||3||EXCESS KNOWLEDGE (GB)||Gai Waterhouse||Dwayne Dunn||–||9||56.5kg||$4.40F|
|2||12||ZANTECA (NZ)||Darren Weir||Damian Lane||0.1L||8||54kg||$13|
|3||6||HAVANA COOLER (IRE)||John O’Shea||James McDonald||2.6L||3||55.5kg||$7|
|4||4||ELHAAME (IRE)||Saeed Bin Suroor||Brad Rawiller||2.7L||4||56kg||$9|
|5||2||HAWKSPUR||Chris Waller||Hugh Bowman||6.2L||12||57kg||$15|
|6||13||HIGH MIDNIGHT||James Cummings||Sam Clipperton||6.4L||2||54kg||$41|
|7||7||RULING DYNASTY||James Cummings||Tommy Berry||8.15L||1||54.5kg||$9.50|
|8||9||THUNDER LADY (NZ)||John Sargent||Chris Parnham||8.25L||7||54kg||$31|
|9||11||MANALAPAN (IRE)||Ciaron Maher||Luke Currie||10.5L||13||54kg||$71|
|10||8||BOHEMIAN LILY (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||Jim Cassidy||17.5L||5||54kg||$8.50|
|11||10||ETHIOPIA||Pat Carey||Patrick Moloney (a)||20L||6||54kg||$31|
|12||1||JUNOOB (GB)||Chris Waller||Blake Shinn||45L||10||58.5kg||$17|
|13||5||CHANCE TO DANCE (IRE)||Robert Hickmott||Craig Williams||75L||11||55.5kg||$9.50|