Sydney three-year-old Dawn Passage has moved to equal favourite for the Group One Stradbroke Handicap after accounting for a small field in the $200,000 Inglis 3YO Guineas at Rosehill.
Saturday’s 1400m race lost some of its appeal when boom three-year-old gelding Masked Crusader, who had been the short-priced favourite, was scratched on race morning because of a stone bruise.
His co-trainer Wayne Hawkes told Melbourne radio station RSN they had erred on the side of caution with the promising galloper.
In Masked Crusader’s absence, the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained Dawn Passage was sent out the even-money favourite in a field of five.
And his jockey Adam Hyeronimus ensured the colt was always in control when he positioned him outside leader Bandersnatch early.
Hyeronimus angled Dawn Passage several horses off the fence after entering the home straight and the last-start Group Three Hawkesbury Guineas winner over the same course and distance did the rest.
Dawn Passage had a 1-1/4-length advantage over runner-up Rocha Clock at the finish while $51 outsider Air To Air hit the line well to finish another long head away third.
“We will certainly contemplate setting him for the Stradbroke now,” Waterhouse said.
“Why wouldn’t we? He’s racing in such great form, he’s improving all the time and I know Adrian has been so happy with his trackwork.”
Bott said Saturday’s performance showed Dawn Passage’s added maturity and versatility.
“We had to ride him out of his comfort zone, against his usual race pattern,” he said.
“We were concerned he could be left flat-footed or be unsuited if he was out the back on a slowly run race. So we took bad luck out of the equation.”
Hyeronimus said Dawn Passage had always shown ability but had gone to another level this campaign.
“I’ve ridden some horses that have won good races and ran well but I don’t think I’ve had a horse accelerate like he did that last furlong. So it was very impressive,” Hyeronimus said.
“I always thought seven furlongs, Listed company, was best-suited for him. But the way he’s going he’s gone to another level and there’s no reason why he can’t take that step going forward.”