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The Melbourne Cup dream is alive for connections of Exceptionally after the mare turned in a strong staying display in the Banjo Paterson Final at Flemington on Saturday.

As much as $12 was offered about Exceptionally earlier in the week but the mare started $4.80 and proved the strongest stayer in the 2600m event, defeating favourite Streaky Fella ($4.60) by 3-1/2 lengths with 3-1/4 lengths to Crafty Cruiser in third.

Exceptionally winning the Banjo Paterson Series Final at Flemington - photo by Race Horse Photos Australia

Co-trainer Terry O’Sullivan said the Melbourne Cup was the ultimate goal in the spring for the mare, who also won the VRC St Leger at Flemington in 2010.

“We’re a long, long way from a Melbourne Cup in the middle of July,” O’Sullivan said.

“It was a freezing cold morning this morning so it’s a long way from spring time. But we’ll be trying, I can guarantee that.”

Exceptionally turned her recent form around last start with the addition of blinkers at Caulfield and she went on with the job at Flemington after settling midfield.

Jockey Dean Yendall had the mare three-wide but with cover during the run before letting her stride approaching the home turn.

Streaky Fella challenged but Exceptionally wasn’t going to be denied and kept finding all the way to the line.

“You always panic a bit at Flemington when they hit the front that far out,” O’Sullivan said.

“I didn’t know if he had pressed the button a bit early but she hit the line really strong.

“I’m sure she also appreciated the softer ground.

“She probably ran the race of her life when she was second to Zipping on that heavy track in the Sandown Classic (in 2010).

“Hopefully we might get a wet spring.”

O’Sullivan said Exceptionally would have a short break before returning to try to work her way towards a Melbourne Cup start.

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