Consistent galloper Verdasco scored a landmark win for his trainer Sean Mott and qualified for the All-Victorian Sprint Final when he scored in a heart-stopping finish the Cafetto Sprint at Flemington.
Jockey Craig Newitt feared an accidental low whip action may have cost the five-year-old victory in Saturday’s seventh heat of the series over 1200 metres and was relieved when his number was semaphored with barely a margin between four runners.
Only a short half head separated Verdasco ($7.50) from Shock Value ($8) while Prince Obama ($41) was gallant a nose away third, just a short head in front of $2.25 favourite Rue Maple.
Newitt rode Verdasco made a late run at the leaders but admitted he needed all his vigour to get home on the Delago Brom gelding.
“You’ve got to ride him cold but they got me chasing a fair way out,” Newitt said.
In his enthusiasm Newitt said he felt Verdasco shorten stride when he accidentally whipped him down low.
“I might have caught him a little bit low with the stick and he sort of half curled up underneath me,” Newitt said.
“It was a good strong win even though on the line I thought I might have just got rolled.”
Mott, who is 45 and trains at Bendigo, had never trained a winner before at Flemington but knows the track well after serving an apprenticeship as foreman for top trainers John Meagher, Gerald Ryan and Lee Freedman over a seven-year period.
“I spent seven years of my working life here so winning here is a big buzz,” Mott said.
Verdasco is Mott’s headline act in his seven-horse stable and is his only city winner.
He had won twice under lights at Moonee Valley and Saturday’s win was Mott’s first at a Saturday meeting.
“He (Verdasco) had to grind it out today but that’s the way he likes it,” Mott said.
Verdasco copped a mandatory three-month ban after he bled at Stawell last campaign but this preparation Mott has kept him fresh and trained him as sprinter instead of miler.
“We just wanted to give him a sprinters prep to get him right and going right,” Mott said.
The $100,000 All-Victorian Sprint Final (1200m) will be run at Flemington on July 7.
Peter Moody, who is in England with Black Caviar, finished the day with a treble when Club Command landed the Don’t Hold Back Handicap (1410m).
Moody also trained race quinellas with Flamberge and King Krovanh, and Aeronwy and Storm Burst.