Phillip Stokes said he didn't mind which of his horses won when they drove to the line together in the David Bourke Memorial Handicap at Pakenham on Saturday, but he couldn't hide his delight with the comeback win of Snitzkraft.
Starting at $4.80, the five-year-old Snitzel entire beat his slightly better-fancied stablemate More Than Exceed ($4.60) in a tight finish in his first start for nine months following tendon issues.
Stokes said he felt Snitzkraft, who is prepared out of the trainer's Pakenham stables, was the better of the two horses, but coming off his issues, he didn't want to expect too much.
"I was just rapt they were both there," he said. "It was a super finish."
The tendon problems have settled down but Stokes' wariness has not. He favours a summer campaign in Melbourne for the horse - taking in sprints such as the Standish Handicap at Flemington on New Year's Day - rather than a Gold Coast trip for the Magic Millions.
"With all his niggling problems, I feel a bit hesitant to travel him," Stokes said. "The owners might not like me to say that, but I'll talk to them."
The victory was the fourth this week for in-form apprentice Teo Nugent, who suspected the winner of more than half a million dollars in stakes was close to his best after an impressive recent trial.
"I don't think he'll find too much trouble finding his best form now," he said.
The 21-year-old Nugent's 141st career win was special one, he explained, as he rode for Stokes in his early days.
Sniztkraft and apprentice Ted Nugent, picture Quentinjlang.com