Hauraki’s thrilling last-stride Epsom Handicap win happened too quickly for trainer John O’Shea to consider the horse a winning chance.
In coming from last to win Saturday’s Group One over 1600m at Randwick, Hauraki moved O’Shea to declare: “I’ll take it, but I can’t believe it.”
The win gave Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin its second $1 million Sydney Group One win for the season after Astern won the Golden Rose in September.
And that was enough for the usually reserved O’Shea to celebrate Hauraki’s scintillating victory with gusto.
“We didn’t even get to cheer because he came that quick,” O’Shea said.
“I thought we was going to run fifth.”
Fabrizio set a cracking pace after jockey Johan Victoire elected to take off at the 1000m, opening up a huge lead.
When he tired and returned to the field, Hauraki ($6.50) remained last in a seemingly impossible position to win the race.
But jockey James McDonald asked the horse for an effort and he took off.
Hauraki swamped the field to beat David Hayes-trained Dibayani ($26) in the final stride with the Chris Waller-trained Mackintosh ($9.50) third.
McDonald said Hauraki had been given the perfect preparation to shake his Group One bridesmaid tag.
“There have been a few doubters of him but he is my favourite at the moment,” McDonald said.
“He is a strong horse and a strong-willed horse.”
O’Shea said Hauraki’s switch to Godolphin’s Osborne Park farm had been crucial to unlocking the horse’s potential.
He also paid tribute to McDonald for helping take the horse to the next level.
“You come here today and you get one of those James McDonald specials,” O’Shea said.
Hauraki is set to have another showdown with champion mare Winx, who defeated him in the George Main Stakes.
“He’s earnt himself a run in the Cox Plate now but everything after today is a bonus,” O’Shea said.
Le Romain stuck on well to finish fifth while Happy Clapper was strong late and grabbed fourth.
Happy Clapper’s trainer Pat Webster said the horse was looking for 2000m.
Darren Weir failed to break his Sydney duck with Palentino who was disappointing and finished last.