Anthony Cummings’ gamble to run Fiveandahalfstar in the Victoria Derby has paid the highest dividend with victory in a race he has dreamed of winning most of his life.
Cummings was unusually conservative early in the week about running the gelding who won his second restricted race in Sydney seven days ago.
While he was wavering, Damien Oliver rode Fiveandahalfstar in trackwork and persuaded the trainer he should run.
“You watch all this stuff when you’re a kid in Adelaide and dream of it,” Cummings said.
“I watched Dad (Bart) win this race and it’s wonderful to win my first.”
New Zealander It’s A Dundeel was the dominant $2.70 favourite for the Flemington feature with Fiveandahalfstar sent out at $41.
Oliver tucked Fiveandahalfstar in behind early leader Jimando and took over coming round the home turn.
With plenty of energy conserved mid-race, Fiveandahalfstar denied all comers as they tried to catch him.
Super Cool ($6) got within 1-1/4 lengths with Rawnaq ($101) running on for third another three-quarters of a length away.
“When It’s a Dundeel got beaten last week it opened the door. He had been the dominant horse going to the race,” Cummings said.
“Our horse won really well last week but then I couldn’t get the float I wanted to get him here and there’s a problem with that.
“I couldn’t be sure he’d settle in but he did.
“He turned up on Wednesday and worked really well.
“It’s probably the first time I’ve had to be talked into running a horse in a Group One.
“The aim of the stable is to be there and be part of every Group One race you can.
“You take aim. You don’t always get there and sometimes you are and sometimes you only just should be.
“The reality is if you don’t have a go you’ll never know.”
Oliver said he had a perfect run and had no concerns about the 2500 metres even when the challengers came in the straight.
“Jimando was a bit keen from the 2000 (metres) to the mile but then he switched off and my horse relaxed really well,” Oliver said.
“The horse is very fit. He’s had a busy schedule but has stood up to it well.
“He was so loose and relaxed. He conserves a lot of energy.”
Like Cummings, Oliver believed It’s A Dundeel’s defeat in the Vase at Moonee Valley was a boost to his rivals.
“When he got beaten and they finished in a bunch at Caulfield (Norman Robinson) I thought there was no standout and it’s worth a crack.”
Fiveandahalfstar is raced by a syndicate which includes Hal Dyball and Julia Ritchie who also raced his father Hotel Grand, a Group One winner of the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and the Randwick Guineas (1600m).
“I knew he (Fiveandahalfstar) would run the trip,” Cummings said.
“His father was 2000-metre winner and we probably never saw the best of him.
“He is related to a 3200-metre winner so there were no concerns there.”
New Zealand trainer Murray Baker said the distance was not the issue for It’s A Dundeel, who kept coming from back in the field to finish seventh.
“He had every chance and he whacked away,” Baker said.
“I’ll take him home and bring him back in the autumn.
“It’s not so much that he didn’t stay. He’s had a hard campaign and I think it might have caught up with him.”