Four-year-old Rekindled Interest has launched himself into serious Cox Plate contention with a last-to-first win in the Group Two Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Trainer Jim Conlan wanted the gelding to show him he was up to the best weight-for-age horses and could not have been more pleased with Saturday’s length win over Alcopop and Whobegotyou who was denied a third win in the race when he couldn’t get a clear run rounding the home turn.
Conlan said he was flirting with the idea of not running Rekindled Interest again before the Cox Plate but conceded that contesting the Group One Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 2 was a more likely scenario.
“Today was really D-day for him,” Conlan said.
“We were going to decide today whether we were going to stick to the weight-for-age program or look for handicaps for him but the answer now is fairly conclusive.”
He said Rekindled Interest’s last-start length fourth to King’s Rose had concerned him as he didn’t finish the race off as well he would have liked.
For that reason he instructed jockey Dwayne Dunn to ride Rekindled Interest quieter on Saturday and get him in a zone where he was comfortable.
As it turned out he was tailed out three lengths last but worked into the race strongly from the 800 metres and loomed up wide on the track on the home turn.
He pinched a break at the top of the straight and was full of running, impressing Dunn with the authority of the win.
“It was great to see that turn of foot off the corner,” Dunn said.
He said the mixed tempo of the 1600-metre Dato Tan Chin Nam may leave some questions as to the best weight-for-age horse but Rekindled Interest could settle any dispute in the Cox Plate.
“He is climbing a pretty big mountain but he loves this track and runs really well over that distance (2040m),” Dunn said.
The winner of three of 10 starts, Rekindled Interest’s only start at the Valley before Saturday was his emphatic win in the Group Two AAMI Vase (2040m) on Cox Plate day last year.
The son of Redoute’s Choice had arthroscopic surgery after he finished fifth in the Victoria Derby and had a preparation without a run in the autumn.
He was an eye-catching first-up second to Temple Of Boom in the Aurie’s Star Handicap at Flemington before his fourth in the Memsie.
“I thought he was a bit plain in the Memsie and today I wanted to see him show that terrific turn of foot that he has shown in the past,” Conlan said.
“I wanted the horse to go back to what works for him and that is to give him the first half of the race in his comfort zone so it didn’t worry me how far back he got.”
He said Rekindled Interest would get 55kg in the Turnbull making it an attractive lead-up to the Cox Plate on October 22.
“We have given slight thought that today would be his last race going into it (the Cox Plate),” Conlan said.
“The timing is not right but he is right where he needs to be at the moment and he is very clean-winded.”
Trainer Jake Stephens said last-start Penny Edition Stakes winner Alcopop was a stronger horse this campaign and was thrilled with second place at the Valley.
He said the seven-year-old would run in the Turnbull Stakes before deciding between the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate for him.