Reliable Tradesman delivers under pressure in Ipswich Cup
DARREN Weir watched Saturday's Ipswich Cup - or most of it - from the scale area at Melbourne's Moonee Valley racecourse and was resigned to his hot favourite Tradesman being beaten a long way from home.
Like punters who backed the horse from $1.95 to $1.80, the trainer was dumbfounded when Dean Yendall found himself three wide on the hot pot after jumping from gate five.
Halfway through the race, Weir walked out of the room, only to be coaxed back to the screen when Tradesman kept finding.
Chris Munce's First Crush made the favourite work all the way to the line, but in the end class told and Tradesman was able to overcome the wide run and land the $175,000 Cup.
It was Weir's first Ipswich winner, after having only four other previous runners at the venue.
Yendall described the run to the line as like being in "a swordfight", after he and First Crush's rider Matt McGillivray tangled whips on several occasions.
"It was a massive effort. Three deep, no cover," Yendall said.
"None of the boys wanted to play my game so we had to be three wide, but he settled good.
"Last time he over-raced when they went pretty slow. They didn't go real quick today either. But I knew I just had to be a touch closer at the right stage of the race.
"I know he's not a real sit-and-sprint horse. You just have to wind him and keep winding him up. I knew I had the horse underneath me. I knew he was the class horse in that race.
"My only problem was whether he was going to get around the track. It's pretty tight out there, but he adapted to it pretty well and he won in the end."
In a tight finish, many on ground level weren't sure who would gain the judge's verdict, but Munce, who won the race as a jockey in 1994 on Oompala, was resigned to his fate as they hit the line.
"I thought he got beat," Munce said. "He's a tough little horse and he's done us proud again."
Munce is leaning towards the Grafton Cup next month, as opposed to the Caloundra Cup at the end of this month.
"He likes his races spaced a bit, so he definitely can't do both," he said. "His owner Max Whitby has always been keen to win a Grafton Cup, so I'd love to be able to win it for Max."
One of the outsiders, All In Vogue, did best of the rest to finish third.
Victorian Smart As You Think continued her habit of running well without winning the race.