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Booker has held on to win the half-a-million-dollar Group One Oakleigh Plate at Caufield

Narrowly beaten in the Oakleigh Plate as a three-year-old, Booker has triumphantly returned to deliver co-trainer Matthew Ellerton a third win in the Group One sprint at Caulfield.

Ellerton has previously won the time-honoured race with Miss Kournikova (2001) and River Dove (2003).

Now training in partnership with cousin Simon Zahra, Ellerton said it was satisfying to add another after Booker produced an impressive showing first-up in Saturday’s 1100m sprint.

Favourite Nature Strip ($2.30) sped along in front in the capacity field but when he started feeling the pinch, Dean Yendall made his run between horses on Booker ($18) who burst to the lead at the 100m.

Encryption ($19) finished strongly to grab second, three-quarters of a length behind Booker, while lightly raced Eduardo ($5) ran gamely to finish another nose away third in his first Group One test.

Nature Strip faded to finish 10th.

Booker was beaten less than half a length when fourth last year after her spring preparation got off to a rocky start, a throat issue delaying her return.

“She had a minor throat operation before she resumed in the spring so it was a chequered preparation last time but we have had a really smooth preparation with her this time around,” Ellerton said.

“It’s very satisfying … she’s a bit older and stronger now.

“It’s a great result. She’s certainly a deserved winner of a Group One.

“She’s a quality mare and hopefully this is her preparation to shine. I think she’s got good improvement in her too from today.”

Ellerton praised the “10 out of 10” ride of Yendall who had Booker midfield from barrier 14 before making his run from the top of the straight.

Nature Strip’s jockey Damian Lane offered no excuses for the beaten favourite who won the Group Two Rubiton Stakes over the course and distance two weeks earlier.

“You would have to say he was disappointing,” Lane said.

“He didn’t begin very well but he mustered nice speed.

“I was confident coming down past the 600 metre mark but soon after I was gone.”

Joe Bowditch copped a nine-meeting suspension for careless riding aboard Viddora at the 100m mark before the mare finished eighth.

 
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