British-based syndication group Highclere completed a quick-fire double when former UK trained stayer Lord Belvedere scored a strong win in the Banjo Paterson Series Final at Flemington over 2600m this afternoon. The group had previously won the opening race at Royal Randwick with Edison and both horses have been racing in peak form.
Lord Belvedere started at $2.70 favourite and completed back to back wins with his victory in the Banjo Paterson Final, his fourth since arriving in Australia last season and his seventh career success. The victory also kept his unbeaten record at Flemington intact.
Winning co-trainer Dave Eustace from the Maher & Eustace Stable was glowing in his praise for horse and rider after the race.
"It was a really beautiful ride from Ben He timed that to perfection and he is a horse that is definitely on the up. As I said last time, he'd had a year off and got colic and everyone did a great job in getting him back. There's improvement to come. Eustace said.
"Great for the owners, Highclere. They've had a winner in Sydney today as well so well done to them. The (VRC) chairman, Amanda Elliot, is in this horse. It's good.
"There is a 2800 metre race in two weeks and he's in form. There's not a lot of depth in these races at the moment. Unless he tells us otherwise, I'd say he'll go to that. Then we can just reset a little bit for the spring so the team have done a great job getting him back in form. He's probably not a horse that want to run every two weeks all the time but, as I say, these races aren't strong at the moment.
"I don't think he had the hardest race (today). We were a little bit concerned about the ground but Ben rode the winner of the first and said it wasn't too bad. That filled us with confidence."
For winning rider Ben Melham, it was his third win in the race having previously scored atop Sentire (2007) and Ascana (2005).
"It was a good effort by the horse. They put the gallop on a long way out, as they did the other day." reported Melham.
"He actually caught me by surprise, he left the barriers really fast today and I was aware that was going to happen midrace. So I was sort of looking for something to come around me which it did (Alfarris), just to cart me into it a little bit. But they really put the acid on a long way out.
"I was mindful of him being up in the weights. Just had to time my run to perfection. It took him the whole straight but thankfully he put his head down at the right time.
Runner up Alfarris from Hayes/Dabernig Stable was game in defeat, just failing to hold out Lord Belvedere after hitting the lead early in the straight.
Alfarris also a former UK trainer stayer, was ridden by Luke Nolen who gave him a perfect run in the race. He looked set for victory at his fourth run back from a spell only to be "chinned" right on the post.
Early leader in the race Sasko continued his good recent form battling on strongly to hold down third place while the well backed Sin To Win failed to justify the late support from punters.