The Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) lost a major drawcard with the withdrawal of Al Too Hard (Casino Prince) but Ferlax (Pentire) relished the chance to stamp himself as a top three-year-old prospect with his win in the $750,000 Flemington feature.
Ferlax and Stephen Baster, picture Sportpix.com.au
An elevated temperature prompted All Too Hard’s trainers Hawkes Racing to scratch the precious colt, denying him the chance to become the first three-year-old since Mahogany (Last Tycoon) to win both the Caulfield and Australian Guineas.
The CF Orr Stakes and Futurity Stakes winner’s removal from the Australian Guineas field threw open the event with Ferlax the one to step up to take his chance with a strong performance.
The Jim Conlan-trained gelding posted wins at Echuca, Benalla and Sale on his way to Flemington before astute guidance from jockey Stephen Baster guided Ferlax home for a Group 1 win at his first metropolitan start.
Baster guided Ferlax into the box seat from barrier eight before obtaining an inside run at the 350 metres, which proved sufficient for the lightly-raced galloper to dash home a half-length clear of his opposition to cap the jockey’s triumphant return after the Singapore Turf Club abruptly ended his stay in January.
“It’s just a big thrill to come home and have the run that I’ve had,” Baster said. “Jim put the shades (blinkers) on him today and he was a bit revvy going to the gates so I thought it might have been a mistake but that’s why I’m the jockey and he’s the trainer, he has got it spot on.”
“I was looking to get off (the rails) and I couldn’t and then Bossy’s (Glen Boss, Ajeeb) laid off and it opened the opportunity for me.”
Ferlax defeated the unlucky You’re So Good (Savabeel) by a half-length while Sheer Talent (Redoute’s Choice) was another three-quarters of a length away in third. Ferlax started at $17 on track but paid $15.50 on the Victorian TAB. The three-year-olds completed the 1600 metres in 1:35.09, which was 1.6 seconds outside the track record. The time included a last 600-metre sectional of 33.91 seconds.
Conlan, who trains Ferlax for leading Victorian owner Jonathan Munz, said he could take Ferlax on a trip to either Sydney or Brisbane in the coming weeks for Group 1 assignments against older horses.
“We’ve just got to be careful about how we place him now because this is obviously a stallion-making race and he has got a nice pedigree, he’s out of a nice Marscay mare,” Conlan said.
“We’ve got Sydney coming up but it might even be ideal to back off him and look at maybe going to the All Aged (Stakes) or maybe even going to the Stradbroke (Handicap) while he is still going to get in okay with the weights.”
Stephen Baster, picture Sportpix.com.au