A perfectly judged ride by Jeff Lloyd has enabled Audacious Spirit to pass a stamina test and win the Lough Neagh Stakes at Doomben.
Audacious Spirit ($4.40) was attempting 1350m for the first time in Saturday’s Listed Lough Neagh and had only a half-neck to spare from Morning Captain ($4.40) with Phelan Ready ($3.10 fav) 1-1/4 lengths away third.
Lloyd is sceptical about the chances of Audacious Spirit handling longer trips, however, placing a cloud over his chances of winning the Goldmarket Handicap (1400m) at the Gold Coast on New Year’s day.
“It’s probably a race you’ve got to aim for but I wouldn’t have liked it to be an extra 50 metres today because he was paddling at the finish,” Lloyd said.
Trainer Gillian Heinrich missed the Lough Neagh because she was attending her nephew’s 21st birthday party in Aspen in the United States.
Stable representative Peter Cuddihy said the key to Audacious Spirit’s win was gaining an uncontested lead in the middle stages.
“I knew if he got a soft lead today he’d take a lot of catching,” Cuddihy said.
“There was no pressure on him today. Adebisi attacked him last start which made him race a lot more fiercely.
“But he was left alone in front today and was able to pinch it.”
Lloyd said the Doomben circuit also played a role in the gelding’s win.
“The Eagle Farm straight has found him out twice this campaign but the shorter run home here was a big help,” he said.
Kelly Doughty said Morning Captain would attempt to turn the tables on Audacious Spirit in the Goldmarket.
“I was thinking about backing him up here next week over a mile but I think I’ll wait for the Goldmarket,” she said.
“We’ve been beaten half a neck twice in a row now so hopefully it will be our turn next time.”
Damian Browne said Phelan Ready, who hasn’t won a race since the 2009 Golden Slipper, wasn’t as effective at Doomben as other tracks.
“He’s had six starts here now and today was the first time he’s run a place which I think tells the story,” he said.
“On face value he was probably a bit disappointing because he tracked up behind Morning Captain but that horse pulled away from him in the last 150m.”
Paul Hammersley said fourth placegetter Startsmeup ($3.50) found it difficult to make up ground carrying 58kg in a leader-dominated race.