The addition of pacifiers coupled with a superior fitness level were instrumental to Xavio finally finding the shortest way home on Sunday.
The three-year-old New Zealand-bred by Align did show some ability at his third run when third to Golden Dominator and also at his second-last run when an eye-catching fifth to Sonic Blast.
He did not quite act on the rain-affected track at his last outing in a Restricted Maiden race over 1400m on July 6. But the application of pacifiers at a barrier trial on Tuesday however served notice of a marked improvement with a narrow second to smart debut winner World War.
Xavio (John Powell) gets the better of Murali (Joao Moreira) in Race 4 on Sunday, picture Singapore Turf Club.
Whether that form enhancement could translate into victory in the $65,000 Moonee Valley Racing Club Trophy (1400m) on Sunday remained to be seen, but following a never-say-die ride by jockey John Powell, Xavio backed up the gear change with that much-awaited maiden win for trainer Stephen Gray (still in New Zealand on holidays) and owner Paul Hickman of St George Stable.
Sandwiched between Murali (Joao Moreira) and Spicy Cat (Jacky Low) from the 800m point onwards, Xavio ($13) looked to have the race all parcelled up when he drew clear by one length at the top of the straight, until Murali, trainer Bruce Marsh’s only runner for the day, picked himself off the canvas.
Undeterred, Powell kept his mount’s mind on the job and was rewarded with a determined neck-win from Murali with Radiant Roi (Greg Cheyne) third another 1 ¼ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 25.04secs.
Said Powell at the winner’s circle: “When he went past the other horse, I thought he would take one or two lengths on them, but you know Joao, he does not let us go away so easily.
“But luckily my horse was really fit and he was able to kick back to win on the line.”
Senior track rider Matthew Lewis said Xavio was a useful sort who just needed a bit of luck in the running.
“At his last run, the track was too shifty. He didn’t handle it too well,” said Lewis.
“He prefers a firm track and with the pacifiers on, he was a lot sharper today.
“It’s good for Paul who has been one of our best supporters at the stables.”