The Taj Mahal has prevailed in a two-horse staying war to claim successive wins in the Zipping Classic at Sandown.
Victory gave co-owners Lloyd and Nick Williams their eighth win in the 2400m weight-for-age race on Saturday.
The Zipping Classic is named after the Williams-owned stayer that won the then Sandown Classic on four occasions from 2007 to 2010.
Sent off a $3.40 favourite, The Taj Mahal, ridden by Ben Melham, prevailed by a short-half-head from Dal Harraild ($7), with Our Libretto ($7.50) another 1-3/4 lengths away.
“Ben gave him a good ride and I think the runner-up went particularly good,” Nick Williams said.
“When Ben got up alongside the other horse he thought he was going to win but to the second horses credit he fought to the line.
“It was a bob of the head and it could have gone either way.”
Williams said the race fitted the programs of their stayers and he loved seeing his horses race at Sandown.
“It’s the best racetrack in Victoria given it’s geography and it gives every horse its chance,” he said.
Williams praised trainer Liam Howley and staff at the family’s training property at Mt Macedon for getting The Taj Mahal back after a tough lead-up.
The Taj Mahal finished fifth in the Caulfield Cup before having a torrid run in the Moonee Valley Cup, finishing ninth to Ventura Storm.
Ciaron Maher was ruing the bob-of-the-head decision that denied imported galloper Dal Harraild victory in his third Australian start.
Maher said he had seen improvement from Dal Harraild with each start and the different training methods used since his arrival at the end of September.
“He has the sun on his back and a change of environment and he’s been thriving,” Maher said.
“He was the right sort of horse to send out as he’s got really good form on firm tracks and is a really genuine stayer.”
Maher said Dal Harraild could contest the 2500m Pakenham Cup on December 8 and is already thinking of next year’s Melbourne Cup.
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