Sydney’s premier trainer Chris Waller will have his first live Melbourne Cup chance with a horse he bought in the hope of winning “an ordinary Saturday race”.
The Waller-trained, Irish-bred Kelinni surpassed his modest ambitions with victory in the Group Three Lexus Stakes (2500m), the win earning him an automatic Melbourne Cup start.
“This is the cream on the cake,” Waller said.
“Tuesday is the bonus.”
Kelinni($9.50) scored by a neck from the luckless Dare To Dream ($8.50) with a length to Exceptionally ($10) in third place.
In a race that offered the final chance of a Cup start for several runners, including the favourite Gatewood, Kelinni proved the superior stayer – and by far the best chance Waller has had in Australia’s greatest race.
But the man who dominates Sydney racing said he hadn’t anticipated anything like a Melbourne Cup when he bought Kelinni in England.
“I just try and buy bread-and-butter horses, Saturday winners,” Waller said.
“I’m not over there looking for Cup horses.”
Kelinni follows the same path as last year’s Lexus winner Niwot who finished eighth in the Cup and was the first Australian horse home.
Kelinni, who escaped a penalty for his win, will carry his original handicap of 51kg, the same weight as Niwot.
For the other Cup aspirants the Lexus provided only disappointment.
Bart Cummings’s bid to have a third Cup runner with Dare To Dream met trouble when the horse missed the start and again when it failed to get a clear run inside the final 200m.
Gatewood had an easy run but only plodded to finish sixth while fellow English entry Ibicenco ran a surprisingly good race for fourth.
In a slightly ironic postscript to the race, Waller will take over the training of Gatewood.