The Dan Morton-trained Stafford’s Lad looks well placed to deliver one of racing’s great transformations in next week’s Perth Cup, following his win in today’s A.T.A Stakes (2200m) at Ascot.
The gelding conceded his rivals a big start at the tail of the field in the $125,000 event, but displayed a powerful finishing burst to run down race favourite Pure Devotion in the final 50m and win by a long-head.
Stafford’s Lad had his first start for Morton in 58+ over 1300m in Broome earlier this year and was beaten more than five lengths on that occasion.
He slowly worked his way up in grade and distance and took out the Kimberley Cup (2020m), before he finished third behind Staaden in the Broome Cup (2200m).
Morton dropped the seven-year-old back to a mile race at Belmont after the Broome Cup, before a Kalgoorlie Cup assault which saw him finish second.
Similarly, in the build up to his Perth Cup campaign, Morton started the seven-year-old over a mile at Ascot in October, before he stepped up to the Ascot Gold Cup (1800m) at blacktype level.
Morton said he was still coming to terms how Stafford’s Lad had gone from ratings races in Broome to being a Listed winner in the space of seven months.
“It’s been a really nice ride for him,” he said.
“He’s one of those dour and proper stayers.
“We are learning as we go.
“We got him back from Broome and he bounced off the float.
“We got him back from Kalgoorlie and he freshened-up again.
“He’s a remarkable animal.”
Taxagano worked his way to the front in the early stages of the Listed feature, with rank outsider Decoy Noxious sitting outside of him.
Midnight Blue and Pure Devotion sat at the back of the field, with Stafford’s Lad behind the Grant and Alana Williams-trained pair.
Pure Devotion, a $2.25 TABtouch favourite, hit the front with 200m to go but couldn’t hold off the charging Stafford’s Lad.
Winning jockey Chris Parnham said Stafford’s Lad would be hard to beat in the Perth Cup on New Year’s Day.
“He’s a proper stayer and he just worked into it,” he said.
“He will love the distance.”
Stafford’s Lad is now a $5 third favourite with TABtouch for the Perth Cup.