A Double Celebration

BEFORE yesterday, Steven King's best birthday present in racing had been the 1991 Melbourne Cup on Let's Elope. Winning yesterday's feature double at Flemington was, he said, even better.

By completing the big sprint double on Glamour Puss in the group 2 Age Classic, followed up in the next race with Valedictum in the group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m), King took out riding honours over the four days of the VRC spring carnival.

Yesterday's double brought his total to six wins for the carnival, including three group 1s and two group 2 races. He also won the jockeys' excellence award, judged by former Australian international jockey and hall-of-fame member Ron Hutchinson.

Hutchinson awarded a total of 20 points for rides in the Victoria Derby, Myer Classic, Mackinnon Stakes, Salinger Stakes, Melbourne Cup, VRC Oaks, Age Classic and Emirates Stakes, with a maximum of 10 a race to any one jockey.

Although Hutchinson said he awarded Glen Boss "10 out of 10" for his win on Makybe Diva in the Melbourne Cup, King took the honours for his overall consistency in the feature races. King won a handsome trophy and an overseas holiday for his efforts.

The Let's Elope victory came on King's 22nd birthday. At that carnival, King also won the Caulfield Cup on Let's Elope and the Victoria Derby on Star Of The Realm but he said this year was probably more satisfying because "I've learned to appreciate it more".

Valedictum brought up his 52nd group 1 success after his wins on Glamour Puss in the Salinger last Saturday and the oaks on Serenade Rose.

King's carnival took some of the attention off Danny O'Brien's feature double yesterday, which followed up his group 1 Salinger success with Glamour Puss, which was also his best VRC spring carnival result.

"I thought I could win four or five races over the four days and Valedictum was probably a bit unlucky last week, so I'm pleased with the result," O'Brien, 35, said.

He described King as a very cool-thinking jockey who obviously suited his horses.

King said he had had some doubts about Valedictum running out a strong 1600 metres but O'Brien had persuaded him that dropping from 56.5 kilograms the previous week to 52.5 kilograms yesterday would make all the difference.

"He paid the penalty in handicaps for being so consistent early on, but I thought he was nicely weighted today," O'Brien said.

New Zealand mare Miss Potential, who eased from $7.50 to $11, went to the front early from her wide barrier and then was taken on for the lead by the speedy Volitant.

After shaking off Volitant, Miss Potential again led inside the 400 metres before being swamped and weakening to finish 12th.

The Peter Moody-trained Calveen again ran home strongly to finish fifth, just behind Niconero.

In a fast-run race, King saved Valedictum, who was easy in the betting at $26, for a late dash at the leaders.

Valedictum emerged from the pack halfway up the straight and went on to win by three-quarters of a length over Infinite Grace ($15), with Shania Dane ($4.60 favourite), who had looked the likely winner early in the straight, a neck away third.

By TONY BOURKE - The Age

Check out the the full article in The Age

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