Josh Parr was confident progressive three-year-old Mental would relish a dogfight and the gelding proved him right at Rosehill on Saturday.
Mental ($4.80) had to work hard to get past the gallant Pampelonne ($5) in the Sportingbet Handicap (1350m) but came out on top by a long neck to record his third win from as many starts this campaign.
Favourite Said Com ($2.50) was doing his best work late to finish another half-neck away in third.
“He’s a nice little horse with a lot of upside and he showed today the toughness that I thought he had in him,” Parr said.
“I thought if it turned out to be a dogfight today I would be quite confident he would stand up to it, which he did.”
Parr hadn’t ridden Mental in a race since his debut in April but heeded the advice of Darley’s number one rider Kerrin McEvoy, who was in Melbourne to ride Helmet in the Cox Plate.
“Kerrin actually gave me a call this morning and said to me, ‘when you go for him, really go for him because he can wander a bit’,” Parr said.
“But I think the winkers have really brought him on today.”
From barrier two Parr was able to give Mental the run of the race in the box-seat with Pampelonne having to cross from barrier eight to take up the running.
The Tim Martin-trained Pampelonne was game in defeat, kicking strongly in the straight and forcing Mental to fight hard to get past him in the final 50 metres.
Martin said he would push on with plans to take Pampelonne to Melbourne for a Listed 1400m event on the final day of the Flemington carnival.
Peter Snowden’s stable foreman Brad Widdup believes Mental’s victory could have the trainer also thinking of a possible trip south.
“He (Snowden) might try to find something for him now,” Widdup said.
Martin said the trip away would benefit lightly-raced Pampelonne.
“Jay (jockey Jay Ford) said if you swap the barriers today you swap the result,” Martin said.
“I think we’ve got to (press on to Melbourne). I think the winner and the third horse are good horses and our bloke needs racing.
“The trip to Melbourne and a run there will do him the world of good.”