If the Turnbull Stakes (Aus-I) was any indication, the big group I races in Australia may not go according to the script this year.
On Oct. 6 at Flemington racecourse, day one of the Spring Carnival kicked off with the $500,000 (US$451,000) Turnbull, a 10-furlong affair that always holds the key to many of the carnival’s largest races. This year it had nine previous group I winners engaged, and the remaining six had won at group II or III events. It was a cracking field and was run truly on a slightly rain-affected track.
The winner was Devil Moon (King Cugat-Classy Babe), an underated model of consistency – but one of the six who had not won at group I level. She paid $14 for the win for every $1 bet, and she won the race in the style of a genuine group I performer. None who finished behind her, with the exception of third-placed Haradasun (Fusaichi Pegasus -Circles Of Gold) are likely to beat her again this year. She dominated them all, sitting up in second spot until straightening, then kicking away at the furlong pole to win by a half-length from the 200/1 extreme bolter in the field, Scenic Shot (Scenic-Dianella) – another of the non-group I winners.
Many lengths back was Haradasun, whose effort was full of merit as he covered an enormous amount of extra ground. He remained no closer than three off the fence throughout the race.
The other stars included Cox Plate hopefuls El Segundo and Marasco; Caulfield Cup favorites Eskimo Queen and Efficient; and Melbourne Cup contenders Zipping, Blue Monday, Tawqeet and Blutigeroo. None of them gave a yelp, all finishing well back. Zipping was fifth across the line and although his run was commendable, he was five lengths behind the winner.
Often with a field of 15 chock full of stars, attention goes to the beaten ones. But the story of note here is the winner. Devil Moon is an outstanding racehorse, winner of her past three on the trot, and may be one of the top three in the land.
Now a 4-year-old, Devil Moon was having her 16th start and now has eight wins. Her rider, Corey Brown, didn’t get the call up to ride the horse until he arrived at the track.
Hugh Bowman had been booked to steer Devil Moon after her regular rider, Michael Rodd, chose instead to ride Marasco in the race. But Bowman told stewards he could not fulfill his commitment because he was suffering from a foot ailment. Brown was then called in to ride her.
“I bet Hughie is feeling a lot sicker now,” said Brown with a laugh after the race.
Devil Moon, trained by the rapidly emerging horseman Mark Kavanagh, will head to the $3.5 million Cox Plate over 10 furlongs Oct. 27 if Brown has any say in the matter. “I don’t have a ride in it yet, but if she goes to the Caulfield Cup, well I have a mount there,” he said.
Kavanagh was noncommittal as to which race his tough-as-teak mare would contest. “I don’t know where we go now,” he said.
“If you look at these horses, Marasco and Haradasun and El Segundo are three of the top horses in the land, along with Miss Finland. So for (Devil Moon) to win as well and as dominant as she did in this, you think, ‘Wow, we can compete in the Cox Plate.’
“It’s a great position to be in, and I love it. I reckon after about the fourth bottle of Moet tonight, I’ll have it all plotted out.”
Devil Moon has now earned AUS$830,000.