Mornington trainer Matt Laurie joked that Bob Peters doesn’t need another Group 1 trophy for his mantel piece after Portland Sky and Celebrity Sky shared the spoils in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Laurie screamed himself almost hoarse as his three-year-old Portland Sky kicked clear in the straight and looked all set to give the trainer a second Group 1 win, his first coming with Escado in the 2013 South Australian Derby at Morphettville.
After what seemed an eternity, the judge could not separate Celebrity Queen ($9) and Portland Sky ($10) with Kemalpasa ($41) a short-neck away third.
It was a brave move by Laurie to tackle the Oakleigh Plate after originally considering the Group 2 Zeditave Stakes (1200m), won earlier in day by Oxley Road.
“That is tremendous but I’m not shocked,” Laurie said.
“We’ve always had a big opinion of the horse. I toyed with the idea of running him in the Zeditave, I thought that would be easy money.
“In the end we thought if he doesn’t perform, we won’t have lost too much, it just wasn’t his time, but if it comes off, there’s a lot of reward.
“I’m glad we took the punt.”
“I was screaming from about the 400 (metres), hence the voice. It was incredible.
“I didn’t think they could split it and I was happy that they couldn’t. It would be nice to be a clear winner, but half-a-win is certainly better than running second.”
Apprentice Teo Nugent landed his first Group 1 aboard Portland Sky.
“It was a long way to the post about 50 metres out with ‘the wizard’ blowing down my neck,” Nugent said.
“The emotions are coming and it is a great thrill.
“He had a great turn-of-foot when I asked him, especially being 1200 back to 1100, but he’s got an abundance of form around through Tagaloa and Aysar.
“Obviously, they went 1400 to a mile but he stripped 8.5 kilos today and he got 50 kilos and took me a long way to the line.”
Sharing the prize with Portland Sky was Perth visitor Celebrity Queen who added to the Group 1 haul of trainers Grant and Alana Williams and jockey Willie Pike.
Pike stayed to the inside, one place most of the riders had been reluctant to go during the day.
“With the day I’m having I’m pretty happy to share one,” Pike said.
“The other end is a second, so I’ll take this.
“I was trying to steer away from the inside but I couldn’t find the way out to the middle of the track so just went where I had to.
“She was very brave right thought the line and attacked every bit to it.”
Grant Williams said Celebrity Queen had risen to a new level in sharing the prize.
“She’s been such a trier, very rarely she gets beaten and she always has a crack,” Williams said.
“I thought, watching the race, we had just got there, but when I saw the slo-mo I thought we’d lost.
“So, it was a weird feeling because I’d thought we’d lost so I’ll take a dead-heat any day.”
What the Beaten Jockeys said:
Jamie Kah (Zoutori): “He was ok. He just struggled to pick up on the turn when they kicked. He was good late.”
Kerrin McEvoy (Dirty Work): “Huge run. I rode him to try and get out off the fence and without much room he flew late and should have won.”
Damian Lane (Kemalpasa): “Big run. Really good.”
Damien Oliver (Standout): “He was ok. They were just a bit sharp for him over that trip, I felt.
Mark Zahra (Mizzy): “No good today.”
Michael Poy (Ancestry): “Jump in grade. Nice enough return but may have needed the run.
Patrick Moloney (Bold Star): “I thought he ran good. Just ran like he wasn’t 1200 (metres).
Jye McNeil (Brooklyn Hustle): “She ran fantastic. Just held up for too long.”
Daniel Moor (Garner): “He needs to be on the outside of runners.”
Lachlan Neindorf (How Womantic): “A game run. The class was probably a little bit too tough today, but she held on gamely like she always does. She’s only been beaten a couple of lengths to the line. I was happy.”
Dean Yendall (Prophet’s Thumb): “Inside is not off.”
Will Price (Riding The Wave): “It was a good run. He jumped really well, but is probably better off being ridden a bit further back.”
Dean Holland (Sword Of Mercy): “It was a great run. She attacked the line savagely.”
Damien Thornton (Hanseatic): “Barrier made it too hard.”
Michael Dee (Ranting): “It was a good first-up run. He’ll improve with it.”
Glen Boss (Anders): “He may need good cut in the ground to show his best. He travelled like a winner, gave me a great ride but just never came off the bridle. I’m not blaming the track, it’s beautiful but he may just need it soft.”