Right from the time Mourinho was left out of the 2014 Cox Plate, Peter Gelagotis has been driven to have his stable star in winning form for this year’s race.
That ambition is a step closer after the eight-year-old provided Gelagotis with his first Group One victory in winning the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
Ridden by Vlad Duric, Mourinho had specking from $21 to $18 before scoring a short-head win from the favourite Fawkner ($3.40) with The Cleaner ($7.50) a nose away third.
Mourinho started his campaign under fellow Moe trainer Darryl Blackshaw with Gelagotis sidelined due to a race-day treatment suspension.
After winning first-up in the PB Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield, Mourinho disappointed when sixth behind The Cleaner in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 5.
The gelding returned to Gelagotis’s care the following day with the aim of gaining a Cox Plate berth on October 24.
Gelagotis said Mourinho could head straight to the Cox Plate without another run and he will be “chewing the ears off” the selection panel to ensure the gelding gains a start.
But he said he would let the dust settle, celebrate the victory and see how the gelding recovers before deciding if he will have another start before the Cox Plate.
Mourinho could head to the Cranbourne Cup, a race he won last year, en route to the Cox Plate with a $1 million bonus on offer for the two races.
Duric joined forces with Mourinho earlier in the year and they have now captured three Group Two victories and Saturday’s Group One.
He said it was a great effort by Gelagotis putting the polish on the horse he knows so well.
“Everyone wrote him off this time around after a poor run, but it wasn’t one of my best rides,” Duric said.
“We made the most of it today and he’s turned it all around.”
Duric said he favoured Mourinho having another start before such a high pressure race of the Cox Plate, suggesting the Caulfield Stakes on October 10.
“He definitely can be competitive but I’m not going to sit here and crow he can win a Cox Plate, it’s such a difficult race,” Duric said.
“I’m just glad he’s won the race today and gets in now and we get our chance.”
Damien Oliver, who rode the runner-up Fawkner, said the gelding was on target for the Cox Plate while James McDonald said Contributer’s sixth placing was a better performance.
“He did all the basics really well,” McDonald said.
“It will be nice to see him perform over 2000 metres next start here.”