Levendi has won a dramatic Australian Derby, claiming the race by a nose from Ace High and having it reinforced by stewards after a protest.
Tye Angland fired in the objection against Mark Zahra, alleging the favourite Ace High ($5) had suffered when Levendi ($6) laid in during the final 100m.
To the relief of trainer Victorian trainer Peter Gelagotis and his large band of supporters, Levendi retained the race, with stewards agreeing there was minimal damage to the runner-up’s chances.
The pair had Saturday’s 2400m Classic to themselves over the final stages, with Tangled ($26) best of the rest 5-3/4 lengths away.
“We’ve all started from humble beginnings and you get given opportunities in life when you’ve got the guts and determination to take them,” Gelagotis said.
“We are a big family and that includes all the stable staff.
“You hope the rider is on the job with you and I don’t think we could have had a better guy on top who can be strong in a finish.”
Gelagotis said he had gained confidence after Levendi won last Saturday’s Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
“He has the right breeding to be a stayer and it’s just great to have a horse like him in the stable.
“He was always travelling well and you could see he was going to let down and be in the finish.”
Gelagotis and his brother Manny, who is racing manager for the Moe stable, are proud of their Greek heritage.
“Even Levendi is a Greek name,” Peter Gelagotis said.
“It means strapping young lad or handsome gentleman and that’s him.”
Zahra admitted he was unsure of the result when he and Angland went across the line.
“It is the moment of truth when you pull up and it’s going to be the most disheartening feeling ever or sheer joy and we didn’t know,” he said.
“I said him and (Angland) said me.”
Victoria Derby winner Ace High’s trainer, David Payne, was gracious in defeat.
“I can’t complain,” he said.
“Tye rode him perfectly and it was just a bob of the heads.
“He’ll go for a break now and we’ll look to the 2018 Melbourne Cup in the spring.
“But I did want to win two Derbys.”
Corey Brown was a casualty of the race, injuring his ribs in an incident early when The Lord Mayor suffered a bump and almost fell.