A group of 10 owners gained a dream result with Roman Arch in the rich Australian Cup March 11. Six weeks after they paid $100,000 (Australian funds) for the seemingly out-of-form 7-year-old, they shared the $600,000 first prize in Flemington's $1 million weight-for-age feature.
The flip side to this Cinderella turf story is that the horse's breeder, John Playfoot, sold the horse because his business required an injection of funds and he wished to "move the horse on" before he turned eight.
Before changing hands, Roman Arch won a Toorak Handicap (Aust-I) at four and advanced his earnings to $1.3 million for Playfoot and partners in taking the Sandown Classic (Aust-II) in November.
Out of the 144th Cup the Robbie Laing handled gelding has won 17 races from 73 starts.
At 50-1, the gelded son of Archway was the rank outsider in the field of 12 to contest the Victoria Racing Club's major fall event. With Makybe Diva not there to defend her title, Lad of the Manor, placed behind her last year and a winner of the also weight-for-age Mackinnon over the same ground (2,000 meters) in the spring, was the 14-10 favorite.
Greg Childs had him right up on the pace in fourth on a track biased towards on-speed runners, but his usual finishing kick went missing. Argentian-bred 5-year-old, Vroom Vroom (by Fitzcaraldo), seemed likely to confirm the leader's track theory; in midstretch the 6-1 chance had his rivals in trouble with his bold wire-to-wire bid.
Second favorite Our Smoking Joe (7-2) was the first to change the script although the leader was taking it personally into the final 200 meters. Roman Arch had been parked in third by Craig Newitt and appeared a minor place chance. But to the surprise of all, Newitt switched the longshot off their heels to challenge.
They reached the lead and withstood a late burst by Candy Vale to win by a head. Our Smoking Joe fought on only a short head away to deprive Vroom Vroom from third by a short neck, Lad of the Manor fifth another 1-1/2 lengths adrift. Candy Vale (18-1) came close to defying the trend, coming from last to almost post the biggest success for her sire, Bubble Gum Fellow.
The 2:2.87.41 outside Makybe's Diva record was due in part to a muddling pace, but also excessive overnight watering in the anticipation of a hot northerly wind, which didn't eventuate. The watering was a repeat of the VRC's intervention to enable a surface with plenty of give for the Diva and Vinnie Rose in the 2005 Melbourne Cup.
Apache Cat (7-1) had been a major beneficiary of the prevailing bias with a wire-to-wire success in the $750,000 Australian Guineas (Aust-I) a race earlier. The distinctive white-faced son of Mr. Prospector's three-time graded winner, Lion Cavern won by a length after three-time group I winner Darci Brahma (5-1) faltered on his run in the final drive.
Thin and Crispy (by Brief Truce) headed the remaining seven 1 3/4 lengths away. Singspiel colt Spielmeister (20-1) displayed his Australian Derby prospects with his fourth, ahead of 8-11 favorite God's Own. Trainer Bart Cummings said the track bias contributed to the defeat of God's Own.
The Greg Eurell-trained Apache Cat was rated by Noel Callow to run the 1,600 meters in 1:34 to equal a race record of 14 years' standing. A fifth win in nine starts pushed the gelding's earnings to $790,000. It was the first group I success for Eurell, a mermber of Australia's Equestrian team at the Los Angeles Olymics in 1984.
Lion Cavern shuttled from Wimbledon Farm to Lynden Park for three years from 2000. He died of colic at 16, shortly after his export to Greece in 2005. Part owners Paul Radford and Robyn Lawrie bred their mare Tennessee Blaze (by Whiskey Road) to Lion Cavern in 2001. This cat's almost-completely white face has stood him out from the crowd from day #1. Now there is plenty of substance to go with the style.
The Australian Guineas and Cup upset victories were preceded by another powerhouse sprinting performance by Takeover Target (9-2) to win the $1 million Newmarket Handicap (Aust-I). The $1,250 son of Celic Swing now has a full set of the major sprints run down the Flemington's straight-course -- the first to do so since the Lightning was created 52 years ago.
In the 133rd Newmarket, the bush sprinter stopped the clock at 1:08.03, less than a second outside the 1,200 meters record on an over-watered surface. The 6-year-old takes a burgeoning reputation to England to advance his record of 11 wins and three placings from 18 starts.
Redoute's Choice sons Snitzel (9-1) and Stratum (25-1) will continue their pursuit at Ascot after filling the Newmarket minors. Oakleigh Plate winner Snitzel came up as half-length short after leading, Stratum a short head away.