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Lightly-raced stayer Paddy O’Reilly has given his connections confidence heading into the spring after crowning his comeback from a fetlock injury with a Group Three win in the Easter Cup at Caulfield.

The five-year-old, who last start won his first race in 20 months when he landed last month’s Albury Cup (2000m), defiantly fought back to land his biggest success in Saturday’s 2000-metre feature.

Apprentice Jason Maskiell was forced to improvise when the gelding was a shade slow from the gates and lost his chance to be on the pace, but he was able to settle him in the first half of the field and make his run four wide around the home turn.

In a driving finish Paddy O’Reilly was able to hold off a strong challenge from last year’s Easter Cup winner Fanjura to score by a short head with the pacemaker Launay fighting on strongly 1-1/4 lengths away in third place.

“Our intention was to be one of the leaders as there was not a lot of speed in the race, but Jason showed the attributes of a good jockey and summed it up and reassessed to ride his own race,” trainer Robert Smerdon said.

Paddy O’Reilly showed staying promise as a three-year-old, placing third in the Group Three Norman Robinson Stakes at Caulfield, and was ninth to Rebel Raider in the 2008 Victoria Derby.

The winner of four of his 19 starts, it has been a long road for him to start realising his potential as he was off the scene from August 2009 to January this year after a leg injury.

“He got halfway into a preparation and chipped a fetlock so he had to have surgery and go back out again,” Smerdon said.

“He took a little while to get back but probably being by O’Reilly and getting that extra time hasn’t hurt him.

“He was a really nice three-year-old but probably lacked a bit of maturity and had a few soundness issues.”

Smerdon said the Albury Cup was planned as the last run this campaign for Paddy O’Reilly but he recovered so well the Easter Cup became an afterthought.

“We thought the Albury Cup might stop him but he pulled up really well,” Smerdon said.

“Now he has won this we will give a break and see what he can measure to up to in the spring.

“I think he is probably a good-class country Cup horse.”

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