They are two of the best jockeys in Australia -- Darren Beadman the unquestioned best -- but they were outridden by Danny Nikolic, who stole the show on a rank outsider in the Underwood Stakes (gr. I) over nine furlongs at Caulfield Sept. 22.
Beadman rode Marasco, the last start group II winner and second-favorite in the race. Craig Williams was on Australia's best horse, Miss Finland, a raging odds-on favorite. Yet Nikolic, on the horse no one wanted to bet on in the race (and who paid $52 for every $1 wagered), rode as though aboard the favorite.
He piloted Rubiscent, winner of four of his past five starts but in inferior company, up on the speed throughout. He traveled in second pace behind a hot tempo from barrier rise, but tooled his mount to the lead as he rounded the home turn with two furlongs to go. Rubiscent stole a winning break upon straightening and although getting weary near home, hung tough to snare the $210,000 first prize of the $350,000 purse.
Meanwhile Marasco, who began his run when entering the straight, tried hard and looked a hope of catching the winner at the furlong pole, only to wilt over the final 100 yards, winding up third. Beadman was booed heavily upon returning to scale. Williams on the favorite would have been necked had the public been allowed to jump the fence. They were livid with his ride.
His was not a pretty ride at all. He sat on the outside of Marasco throughout in mid-field with both horses seemingly just racing each other. They bumped one another constantly, eye-balled each other throughout and both went wide around the bend. They simply took their eyes off the rest of the field and in doing so, Rubiscent stole the winning march on them. Miss Finland charged home from an impossible position at the top of the lane to wind up a fast-finishing second, with Marasco a battered and well beaten plodding third.
Rubiscent, a talented 5-year-old gelding by Rubiton from Skyescent, won his first group I race -- in fact, it was his first go at a graded stakes race. His only previous appearance in a black type was an unlucky seventh of 10 in a listed race. This was, therefore, a shock result. It was his seventh win from 15 starts.
His trainer, Mick Price, thought he'd run a big race. He didn't, however, expect to beat the two superstars who had won their previous starts at this group level. "I wanted Rubiscent to run second or third so he would get a bit more weight for the G1 Toorak (Handicap) later in the carnival,” Price said. “If he could run a place and get some prize money, then that would lift his rating for the Toorak. But this is obviously better.
“I suppose it’s turned out to be one of those right time, right place races. I don’t know what happened to the two champs, but the chump’s got the money this time.”
Danny Nikolic, who had been riding with success in Hong Kong, returned home just 10 days ago to win his fourth Underwood Stakes.
There were some remarkable performances in the race and wins will follow in major races later in the carnival. Miss Finland strengthened her position in betting for the upcoming Cox Plate (gr. I). Her run was outstanding under the circumstances.
Marasco seemed to find the distance a tad too far, and some have have begun to question whether he is a genuine Cox Plate candidate. That race is 10 furlongs.
When asked about Miss Finland’s performance, Williams said, "I think it was just one of those things. I couldn't have asked for a worse run (in a race). She just kept getting into bother,” he added. "She hit her usual flat spot near the home turn and that cost her the race, but she was brilliant at the end.”
Fourth home was Eskimo Queen, who put in a slashing Caulfield Cup (gr. I) run. The fifth horse home, Maybe Better, ran a fantastic Melbourne Cup (gr. I) trial.
Rubiscent has now earned AUS$363,500 in stakes.