The formidable combination of trainer Gai Waterhouse and jockey Damien Oliver was to the fore again at Moonee Valley on Friday night as Pheidon raced to victory in the Group Two Alister Clark Stakes.
Oliver, whose big-race wins this season include the Melbourne Cup and Australian Cup on the Waterhouse-trained Fiorente, labelled Pheidon ($7) a real surprise package after the lightly-raced gelding took out the 2040m event for three-year-old’s by two lengths over Cadillac Mountain ($10) in his first Melbourne start.
Surge Ahead, the $4 favourite, set a solid tempo throughout after crossing to the front early and battled on gamely to finish another half-head away third.
Pheidon is nominated for the $2 million ATC Australian Derby (2400m) next month and stable representative Roger Elliott said Waterhouse would decide where the gelding heads next.
Oliver is still unsure how the son of Al Maher would measure up in the Derby but believes it could be worth a go.
“It wasn’t the strongest field today, so I guess it just depends on what’s up in Sydney,” Oliver said.
“But he certainly surprised me with his authority today.
“He’s pretty casual on the (training) track but with blinkers on under raceday atmosphere tonight he really switched on and won well.
“I’m sure he can continue on and I guess you’d have to stick your toe into the water to find out.”
Oliver positioned Pheidon in a perfect trail in third behind Surge Ahead before making his move rounding the home turn and powering clear.
“It’s a pleasure to ride for Gai because her horses put themselves up there out of trouble and they give you a good kick when you ask them,” Oliver said.
Oliver rides the Waterhouse-trained Bull Point in Saturday’s Group One Randwick Guineas.