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It came down to a photo finish, but the Peter and Paul Snowden trained Stronger proved too good at the Gold Coast on Sunday winning the Group 3 Ken Russell Memorial Classic (1200m) in thrilling fashion.
The $140,000 race is the perfect lead up into the Brisbane Winter Carnival, and although the Snowden two-year-old opened as a $3.80 chance, the colt by Not A Single Doubt ran every bit like a favourite.
On a heavy track, Stronger and jockey Blake Shinn found themselves on the widest part of the track entering the straight, racing alongside short-price favourite Accession. The two went toe-to-toe, but Shinn found an extra gear over the final 50m to win by a nose at the line.
Stronger, who ran third on a heavy 10 during the Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) back in March, has won only once on a wet track. Paul Snowden said after the race he had a plan in mind, which Shinn executed to perfection.
“Just got him pulled out of his comfort zone to a degree, obviously handling the wet conditions today was key, but I thought it turned out lovely, we always wanted to follow that horse (Accession) and have last dibs at him and it worked out good” Snowden said.
The Chris Waller trained Accession entered the race with strong first-up form and race fitness on his side, but Snowden always knew Stronger was up for the challenge.
“That was another tick in the box, to his credit though he’s had a good time between drinks and hasn’t had too much work in between, just didn’t want him to go too aggressive, which he can do when you line him up early” Snowden said when asked on Stronger’s fitness.
“But obviously we’re in Queensland and the pace and the races are quite stronger, we had no worries about getting back and settling, just getting to the right part of the track is the key today.”
With the inside portion of the track deteriorating, Shinn wisely chose to find an outside lane at the final turn. Having now won twice this prep, the stable has a decision on its hands as to whether or not it heads to Doomben or Eagle Farm over the coming weeks.
“We’ll wait and see” Snowden said.
“Obviously the next step is the seven-furlong race, not sort of to hell-bent on thinking he can handle a strong seven, we’ll take him, we’ll assess and see where we end up.”
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