The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
The 2023 Melbourne Cup is calling for spring sensational Just Fine after the class import narrowly fought off a challenge by outsider Spirit Ridge to salute as the odds-on favourite in a thrilling edition of the Group 1 $750,000 The Metropolitan (2400m) in Sydney.
The Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained European, formerly owned by the Royal family, was backed as if unbeatable in his third Australian run in staying showdown on Epsom Handicap Day at Royal Randwick.
The six-year-old son of Sea The Stars made it three-from-three down under backing up from his Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) win at the track to just get home for the punters in the mile and a half classic.
History was made at the meeting with a Group 1 double for the girls as Rachel King produced a 10/10 ride to get Just Fine home in The Metropolitan one run after Kathy O’Hara won the Epsom aboard Rediener.
“It was very special, Kathy was the first person to come up next to me and give me a fist pump and I couldn’t have been happier to see her win the Epsom,” King said after the race.
“Kath’s been someone I’ve looked up to from the minute I’ve been in Australia so to follow her today and she won her Group 1 first and I got to get mine next. Girls are taking over.”
It was a sensational performance by King who resisted the temptation to get out too early allowing the favourite to build momentum at his own pace before making her move once into clear ground on the straight.
“I wanted to give my bloke as easy a time as possible and not give him too much work to do. Luckily once he got his nose in front he was very tough,” she said.
Just Fine ($1.75F) was settled just off the pace throughout as the Annabel Neasham-trained Spirit Ridge was taken to the front looking to go all-the-way.
Regan Bayliss partnered the last start Newcastle Gold Cup runner-up who was forgotten by the punters going around at 40/1 in the Group 1 despite his nice lead-up form.
The evergreen nine-year-old was huge turning The Metropolitan into a two-horse thriller over the closing stages with Spirit Ridge fighting hard to go stride-for-stride with the best backed horse on the card all the way to the line.
He was just outclassed in the final stride however as Just Fine won with the 50kg lightweight to firm notably in markets for the Group 1 $8.41 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday November 7.
“Fantastic, I’m delighted for the horse, for everyone involved, there’s a lot of people,” co-trainer Bott said post-win.
“For My Racehorse to support us, it’s a unique ownership opportunity that can touch so many people.
“Hopefully it’s a popular win, glad we were able to deliver.
“Thrilling finish, I wasn’t sure we were going to get the upper hand. It was tough, well done to the horse.”
The Metropolitan trifecta was completed by the Kris Lees-trained Kalapour ($18) who was also eye-catching running third a gap back to the top two horses.
Bott was quick to confirm plans to head south with Just Fine now with the world’s richest handicap calling for the progressive stayer who has already made a massive impact with the fans in Australia.
“I think we might have to, it’s hard to deny it after that. He just continues to improve and go the right way for us and he opened up more options for him today staying that trip,” he said.
Just Fine also set a new track record winning in 2 minutes 26.11 seconds.
2023 The Metropolitan Results & Finishing Order
|1||14||JUST FINE (IRE)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Ms Rachel King||2||50kg||$1.75F|
|2||8||SPIRIT RIDGE (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Regan Bayliss||0.16L||13||52.5kg||$41|
|3||10||KALAPOUR (IRE)||Kris Lees||Kerrin McEvoy||4.46L||3||52.5kg||$18|
|4||13||MILITARY MISSION (IRE)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Zac Lloyd (a)||5.53L||15||51.5kg||1.5kg||$21|
|5||12||BENAUD||John O’Shea||Ms Jamie Kah||5.77L||1||51.5kg||$12|
|6||3||CLEVELAND (IRE)||Kris Lees||Damien Oliver||6.14L||12||54.5kg||$16|
|7||5||BOIS D’ARGENT (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Dylan Gibbons (a)||6.44L||9||53.5kg||$31|
|8||9||HO HO KHAN (NZ)||Mitchell Freedman||Ms Tahlia Hope||7.25L||11||52.5kg||$71|
|9||18||WINEGLASS BAY (IRE)||Chris Waller||Ms Kathy O’Hara||9.06L||4||50kg||$51|
|10||15||AL AABIR (IRE)||Chris Waller||Jay Ford||9.71L||7||50kg (cd 50.5kg)||$18|
|11||11||TORRENS||Marc Chevalier||Ms Jenny Duggan||9.98L||10||52kg||$71|
|12||7||MANZOICE||Chris Waller||Michael Dee||12.49L||6||53kg||$31|
|13||2||NAVAJO PEAK||David Payne||Chad Schofield||15.45L||14||55.5kg||$71|
|14||4||MAJOR BEEL (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Tim Clark||17.06L||5||54.5kg||$16|
|15||17||MR WATERVILLE (IRE)||Chris Waller||Tyler Schiller||23.55L||8||50kg||$12|
|1||KNIGHTS ORDER (IRE)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Adam Hyeronimus||0|
|6||HOSIER (IRE)||Mark Minervini||Jason Collett||0|
|16||FUTURE HISTORY (GB)||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Dean Yendall||0|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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