Former WA-based sprinter Great Again (by Viscount) opened-up his Melbourne winning account when coming out on top in a dogfight conclusion to the $112,000, Listed, VRC Hilton Nicholas Straight Six (1200m) on the feature Flemington program staged in Victoria.
A race run in exacting weather conditions and on a Heavy 8 surface which called on true grit, Great Again slugged out an enthralling finish which saw virtually all 13 runners in the field still in with a winning chance with a couple of furlongs to race, before the 7-year-old prevailed under a heady Declan Bates ride.
A proven wet-tracker in the West, Great Again showed great determination to fight off all challengers over the final 250 metres of the contest, and in particular the strong late finishing effort of Rich Charm (by Danerich) in second and the revitalised performance of Home of the Brave (Ire) (by Starspangledbanner) in third.
Now trained by former ‘sandgroper’ Lindsay Smith at Warrnambool, Great Again had recorded eight of his previous nine wins at Belmont in Perth before his transfer to Victoria and appeared to relish the inclement conditions he encountered to record his maiden Melbourne success.
Great Again and Declan Bates with Hone Of The Brave and Brad Rawiller outside, picture Racing Photos
Speaking on behalf of the winning trainer, stable representative Shane Jackson declared: “That was brilliant. That was a tough win. He’s a beautiful horse and Declan rode him a treat.
“It’s that big stride late. He was really tough when they were coming back at him.
“It’s a thrill to get him back to what Lindsey said about him. He’s always had a huge opinion of him. Just a great thrill.”
Great Again had been expected to figure in the Wangoom during the Warrnambool Cup Carnival but didn’t take his place in the field due to the ‘good’ condition of the track. Jackson suggested that the decision now looks to have been a shrewd call in light of today’s success.
“It just shows the genius of Lindsey Smith,” said Jackson. “He said from Day One that this fella grows a leg [sic] on the heavy ground and he proved that today.”
Jackson added that the stable were confident Great Again would perform at his first start down the Flemington straight, saying “He’s a straightforward sort of horse” and “it was good to get that ticked off”.
Great Again was ridden with great effect by Declan Bates, who was also impressed with the way the former Western Australian performed.
“Really tough effort,” claimed Bates. “He’s got that high cruising speed, and I just let him roll along and use it. I thought I was a bit vulnerable late, but when they came to his neck he found again, so it was a tough effort.”
Bates also deserves his share of the credit. A rising star in the Victorian riding ranks, the expatriate Irishman is a very capable senior jockey with impressive vigour and balance in a finish — as his winning ride proved once again.
Great Again scored by a short head, with a long head separating second and third.
Starting prices of the race were $12.00 the winner, $31.00 the runner-up, and $11.00 the minor placegetter.
Winning time was 1m11.35s (last 600m in 35.33s).
Great Again is raced by Distinct Racing & Breeding Pty Ltd (Mgr: G W Evans) and has now won 10 of his 22 starts for $455,700 in prizemoney.
A magnificent individual, big in size and brown/black in colour, Great Again is a son of Viscount, himself a magnificent individual, big in size and brown/black in colour.
An outstanding 2- and 3-year-old of his generation, Viscount is probably best remembered for being the ‘meat in the sandwich’ when the super admirable Northerly just managed to shade the equally great Sunline in an unforgettable W.S. Cox Plate.
Viscount was subsequently retired to Woodlands stud, but was later to be considered surplus to requirements when Darley bought out the Ingham brothers.
The race saw a bet of $25,000 @ $4.40 on Milwaukee with tab.com.au. The $4.40 favourite of the race, Milwaukee ultimately finished last.