Veteran hoop Jim Byrne will chase a fourth...
Trainer David Payne had plenty to celebrate at Moonee Valley on Saturday after three-year old colt Tarka pulled off an upset over one of racing’s biggest favourites.
It came down to a tight photo finish, but after opening at almost no-chance $21 odds with Ladbrokes, the colt of All Too Hard went on to win the $196,000 Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) by the narrowest of margins.
The story of the day though was of course The Autumn Sun. Bookmakers seduced punters late as Chris Waller’s prized-colt drifted from un-backable $1.40 odds all the way out to $2.40, but that was only the start of the day’s surprises.
Moments before disaster struck, jockey Kerrin McEvoy looked to have the run of the race sitting third-last close to the fence before moving two-wide on the final turn.
With a wall of horses in front, June’s Group 1 J.J. Atkins Stakes winner was held up in traffic with just over a furlong to go, and simply ran out of time to make a move. By the time McEvoy found daylight, it was too late, as The Autumn Sun still ran home to finish third.
Up ahead, the battle between two very promising stayers came right down to the wire, with Tarka lunging toward’s the line to beat Chris Waller’s Dealmaker by a nose.
It was a win jockey James McDonald knew his horse was capable of, although he couldn’t believe the wide gap in the market.
“I couldn’t believe everyone gave him none” McDonald told Sky Racing after the race.
“I said to my manager, not easy for a three-year old to win with 61kgs. He’s had so much improvement, he’s toughed it out, he could be a real derby horse.”
With Saturday’s race marking the start of The Autumn Sun’s Spring campaign, the $1 million Golden Rose Stakes (1400m) on September 22 will mark his chance at redemption in a fortnight’s time.
As for Tarka, he’s now two-from-two this prep and looks well suited to attempt a Group 1 run sometime very soon.
“He’s got so much untapped potential, he’s got more improvement, he looks like me after 18 months off” McDonald told Sky Racing post-race.
“I wasn’t sure if I got there, but it’s 1-0 to JMac”.
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