Self Sense caused his second country cup upset within a week as David Brideoake's eight-year-old gelding withstood a protest to claim Saturday's $350,000 Ladbrokes Mornington Cup (2400m).
Self Sense ($12) settled midfield and moved into the race boldly under Luke Nolen approaching the home turn before fending off the persistent challenge of Tarquin ($13) up the straight to win by a short head.
Fred Kersley, rider of runner-up Tarquin, lodged a protest claiming Self Sense had caused interference to his mount around the home turn. However, stewards quickly dismissed his objection and Self Sense was granted ballot-free exemption into October's G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
"What a day," Brideoake said. "This is his third run in the (Mornington) Cup and he's run good races but had no luck - that's outstanding, what a great animal.
"He just loomed and he's a very big, powerful horse now. I thought Luke (Nolen) did a great job on him.
"It's terribly exciting, it just doesn't get better than this at all.
Self Sense and Luke Nolan, picture Quentinjlang.com
Self Sense has juggled racing on the flat and competing over jumps during his 59-start career, which has seen him win almost $1.474m in prizemoney.
However, his latest victory, six days after claiming the $125,000 Yarra Valley Cup (1950m), may delay or even permanently end his jumping career, where his highlight win came in last year's Australian Hurdle (3400m) at Sandown Lakeside.
"I'll have to reserve my decision, I can't answer that now, it's too hard," Brideoake said.
"He does like a jump and it stimulates him. Round and round in trackwork he gets a bit lazy but the moment he jumps some fences he's back in the zone."
G1 Mackinnon Stakes winner Trap For Fools ($4.50) ran a brave race with 61kg to almost lead throughout with 61kg.
No horse has won the Mornington Cup with more than 59kg in the past 20 years so his attempt, which saw him fall a length short of victory, contained merit.
Stars Of Carrum ($5.50) finished fourth after being held up at a vital stage approaching the home turn. The three-year-old son of Fiorente, who was placed in last year's G1 VRC Derby (2500m), was doing his best work on the line which pleased trainer Robbie Laing.
Stars Of Carrum will now head to Sydney for the G1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 6.
Hang Man, the heavily-backed $3.50 favourite, attempted to circle the field from his rearward position but never came into contention with connections pondering his ability to strongly run out 2400m.