Group One winner Hey Doc has signalled he is on target for another successful campaign with a fighting win in his season return at Flemington.
The Australian Guineas winner resumed in Saturday’s Group Three Aurie’s Star Handicap (1200m) and after taking a leading position on the grandstand side of the straight course, the four-year-old fought off a strong late challenge from Cannyescent and Grande Rosso.
The victory sets Hey Doc up for a crack at the $1 million Group One Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in three weeks, the gelding’s first spring target.
Trainer Tony McEvoy praised the ride of Luke Currie and said Hey Doc ($5) showed his fight when it mattered under a top weight of 59kg, fending off the challenge of Cannyescent ($3.60) by a half-head, with Grande Rosso ($12) another half a length away in third.
“When the fight came, Hey Doc was in for the fight,” McEvoy said.
“It was fantastic. He lifted with his big weight and showed that he’s a real class horse.”
Hey Doc had his final start of his three-year-old season in The Goodwood in May and McEvoy believes Saturday’s race will bring the gelding on “in leaps and bounds”.
“We’ve got three weeks now to just fine-tune him into the Memsie,” he said.
“You look at the history of this race, good horses return in it and run well in it. And he’s fitted that mould beautifully.”
Currie said he was happy to roll forward to get to the outside fence, believing that was the best part of the track on the day.
“Then he went pretty steady in front and was always going to be hard to catch,” Currie said.
“But he was first-up with 59 kilos. It’s a bit of an effort.
“I thought he had a few things going against him today and good horses find a way to win.”
Damien Oliver felt Cannyescent was going to pick up Hey Doc inside the 200m when making his run from behind him but said the winner proved too strong.
Last year’s Group One Myer Classic winner, I Am A Star, finished fourth under 58kg after beginning awkwardly.
“She battled well and should have a good campaign going forward,” jockey Dwayne Dunn said.