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Just Benjamin has turned around his fortunes with a hard-fought victory at his second Australian start

European import Just Benjamin has turned around his fortunes with a hard-fought victory at his second Australian start.

After a luckless first-up fifth for Anthony Freedman at Caulfield over 1600m early last month, Just Benjamin returned to the track on Saturday to win the Mal Seccull Handicap (1800m).

Jockey Damien Oliver took Just Benjamin to the front before the four-year-old dug deep in the straight to record a narrow victory.

Sent off the $2 favourite, Just Benjamin defeated Sam Slick ($11) by a long head with fellow European import Aktau ($3.80) a head away third.

Freedman conceded riding Just Benjamin in front was not ideal.

“I think he got over-racing early and the only way he could get him to relax was take him to the front,” Freedman said.

“I think he (Oliver) thought it was a very messy race, but I didn’t leave him with any instructions and great jockeys make those decisions.

“The horse got a bit strong early so he let him roll a bit to get him to relax, but I don’t think that’s the way to ride him.

“He’s got the win on the board now so we can look done the track for other races.”

Freedman said the Mornington Cup (2400m) on March 21 was a likely target with that winner gaining a guaranteed start into the Caulfield Cup in the spring.

Jye McNeil, rider of Aktau, an impressive winner at his first Australian start at Flemington in December, said the import wasn’t suited by Saturday’s soft conditions and would be improved by the experience around Caulfield.

“He wanted to lay in when they were getting off the fence coming down the side and just lost his spot,” McNeil said.

“But he was strong through the line and will be much better for the experience around here.”

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