The trip to Sydney did not work out for Cherry Tortini however that was swiftly put in the past after the Patrick Payne trained Night Of Thunder gelding won the $300,000, Group 2 Drummond Golf Vase (2040m) at The Valley on Saturday.
Payne sent Cherry Tortini to Randwick for the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m on the 10th but after not missing either a win or place in all of his previous five starts he was seventh.
Back in Victoria he picked up where he had left off aided by a smart ride by Billy Egan. The early pace was slow as Captain Corelli (NZ) and Mark Zahra led the field down the back straight and it was not until the top straight that the race ignited.
Egan took advantage of the lack of pace and at the 350m he sent Cherry Tortini off and wide to take the lead and leave all but Khoekhoe under Fred Kersley struggling. The swiftness of the attack gave Cherry Tortini the advantage on the Soft 7 track and it was sufficient to hold out Khoekhoe and Kersley who pressed hard out in the middle of the track with the margin a short neck.
Khoekhoe (Turffontein) were well clear of Johnny Get Angry (NZ) (Tavistock) and apprentice Lachlan King, the margin 7L. Captain Corelli was fourth a further 1 1/4L back.
The time was 2.10.34 with the final 600m in 38.33 reflecting the heavy conditions. Cherry Tortini paid $2.70 on fixed odds and $3.00 on the tote as favourite. TAB brought Cherry Tortini in from $13.00 to $6.00 for the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington next Saturday. Young Werther (NZ), a late scratching from the Vase due to the downgraded track conditions, is the $4.00 out to $4.50 favourite.
Cherry Tortini and Billy Egan, picture Racing Photos
“It is amazing how things can turnaround. I was dirty on myself after the Sydney run but today was much better," said Payne.
“From a trainers’ point-of-view I didn’t think he had a hard run. We will never know but I still think he had something left in the tank.
“He looked like he wanted to stargaze when he got to the front but, still, it was good to see him back winning like that.
"I think he will be a nice four, five and six-year-old. It was a good tune-up for the Derby but if he shows us any signs that he doesn’t want to go there then we won’t.
“Very pleased today though,” he said
“Once we got down the side I just gave him breathing room and let him build his momentum and swoop on them over the top," said Egan.
“I know he’s won a couple of races, but he’s got the on and off ability without knowing what he is doing. He’s got a lot of learning to do. To see what he’s doing now, all natural ability, is really nice.”
Cherry Tortini, out of the Strategic mare Tortini and a home bred for Sandy Tail and his sister Jill Nivison, relates back to their great galloper Tie The Knot including racing in the same famous red silks with white cap.
After his seven starts Cherry Tortini has now won four and placed in two with stakes of $392,125.
Cherry Tortini strides out for the win, picture Racing Photos
What the beaten jockeys said:
Fred Kersley on Khoekhoe: “Great run by him. He got absolutely pestered in the run. If he had’ve settled a bit better for me I think he would have finished off well but can’t fault him. He likes the 2000 metres but I am not sure he’ll like much further at this stage.”
Jamie Kah on Tanker: “Disappointing. Don’t think he liked the ground.”
Lachie King on Johnny Get Angry: “He was really good. It was a good run for him after he had a little set back in the last week. We had to tinker with a few things, but it’s good to see him back as his usual self. Get him to Flemington next week on the bigger track, he’ll be right there.”