The Cox Plate looms as a target for powerhouse entire Toorak Toff after he rewarded the faith of his trainer Rick Hore-Lacy with a Group One comeback victory in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield.
Ridden by Craig Williams, Toorak Toff, who was retired a year ago because of a breathing problem, was having only his third run since a throat operation and beat stablemate Pinnacles, ridden by Chris Symons, to give the Caulfield trainer a dream result in Saturday’s feature event.
“It is very satisfying,” Hore-Lacy said. “To get a quinella is just unbelievable.”
Toorak Toff was in the first four all the way and charged to the line 1-1/2 lengths ahead of Pinnacles and pacemaker Master Of Design who was a long head away third.
The win was confirmation to Hore-Lacy that Toorak Toff was back to his best and opens a huge range of options for him including the Cox Plate.
Hore-Lacy said he entered the four-year-old for next month’s weight-for-age classic at Moonee Valley on a whim but is now warming to running him in the event.
“It may not be such a fanciful idea now,” Hore-Lacy said. “On that run you have to have a think about it.”
Toorak Toff was the Group One winner of Sydney’s Golden Rose last spring but Hore-Lacy said that his record at the elite level should be better as he was very unlucky as a two-year-old in the Champagne Stakes and AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes in Sydney.
“He’s always been a good horse,” Hore-Lacy said.
“With all the problems that he’s had it is just wonderful to see him come back and beat a good field like that the way he did. ”
Toorak Toff, who couldn’t find a home at stud last season, had his comeback run in The Goodwood (1200m) in Adelaide in May but got back too far and finished near last, much to the disappointment of Hore-Lacy.
However an encouraging first-up fifth when beaten a length by Lone Rock at Flemington three weeks ago was a sign that he was on verge of winning again.
“This time in everything has gone smoothly,” Hore-Lacy said.
Hore-Lacy said both Toorak Toff and Pinnacles were entered for next Saturday’s Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Randwick but were more likely to clash again in the Group One Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield in two weeks.
Hore-Lacy rolled the dice with his Rupert Clarke runners after he had earlier scratched three-year-old Chase The Rainbow from the Caulfield Guineas Prelude because he feared the track was too hard.
Hore-Lacy trained 1986 Rupert Clarke winner Canny Lass while Williams improved his record to four wins in the last seven years.
Gun Sydney colt Smart Missile started favourite but was fractious at the start and was never a chance when he was slow out of the gates and last most off the way.
He made some ground to finish 10th.