The connections of Steel Prince (IRE) will be hoping for a weight penalty into the Melbourne Cup after the stayer took out the $400,000 Group 3 Geelong Cup on Wednesday.
Steel Prince led home a one-two finish for his trainers Anthony and Sam Freedman when he defeated Le Don De Vie who was having his first start for the stable after arriving in Melbourne with 28 other international horses earlier in the month.
The stayer can be rehandicapped for Wednesday’s victory and with 52.5kg in the $8 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November currently sits 35th in the order of entry.
The next round of Melbourne Cup declarations close on Monday and there is expected to be a number of higher horses in the entry order to be missing.
Steel Prince ran ninth in last year’s Melbourne Cup with the same weight he currently has after running seventh in last year’s Geelong Cup.
The stayer earned his place in last year’s Cup after winning The Andrew Ramsden (2800m) at Flemington the previous May, a race Oceanex won this year to gain her place in the Cup.
Steel Prince was given the perfect ride by Jye McNeil.
Le Don De Vie took up the lead from Entente with Steel Prince tracking the pair. There was little change until the runs started from the 600m with Entente the first to lose ground.
King Of Leogrance snuck up on the fence straightening to join Le Don De Vie as Steel Prince loomed three wide with Skyward, Ashrun and Plantinum Invader also in contention.
Steel Prince, Le Don De Vie and King Of Leogrance then dropped those runners at the 200m with the Freedman pair drawing clear over the final 100m.
In the end it was the $3.50 favourite Steel Prince scoring by a long-head from Le Don De Vie ($8) with King Of Leogrance ($8.50) 1-¼ lengths away third.
Jye McNeil likes the win with Steel Prince (IRE), picture Racing Photos
For Sam Freedman, it was his first win in a Group race since joining his father in a training partnership this season.
He said Steel Prince was going better this year leading into the Melbourne Cup.
“He had a chequered last prep, got scratched at the gates in the Herbert Power last year and we lost five or six days work with him,” Freedman said.
“It wasn’t perfect so he’s had a perfectly planned prep this time and we know, or we hope, we get in the race now.
“Hopefully he’ll get a penalty to get into the Melbourne Cup and he wouldn’t shirk the task.
“They’re both nice horses, but credit to this horse, he’s incredible.
“He’s obviously been around a while and he keeps turning up and I said to Jye that if you’re right there at the top of the straight he’s a horse that loves a dog fight and he was too strong today.”
Steel Prince is an Irish-bred seven-year-old by gelding by Nathaniel (IRE) from the Danehill (USA) mare Steel Princess (IRE) and has now won nine of his 26 starts and $1,064,412 in prize money for his owners Collins St Partners, Mr B N Griffith, Mr T J Storey, Mrs A L K Andrews-Burgio, The More You Put On, Mr A Marostica, Ms N Hartmann, Cavalluccio, Mr P N Finn, Mr G Argyrou.
Freedman said the stable would press forward to the Melbourne Cup with Le Don De Vie who was also in need of a win and a potential penalty to push him up the order of entry.
“If he gets in we’ll go to the Cup, if not, there’s a 2600-metre race on the last day that could suit,” Freedman said.
Craig Williams, who rode French-bred import Ashrun into fourth place, said the stayer would derive a lot of benefit from his Australian debut.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t handle getting down the hill here at Geelong,” Williams said.
“At the top of the straight we weren’t really going anywhere and when I straightened, I thought he was a bit plain, but the last 50 metres he was very solid to the line.
“I think he’ll get so much from today’s run.”
Left to right, Steel Prince, Le Don De Vie (GB) and King Of Leogrance (FR), picture Racing Photos