Shamus grabs piece of history

Moonee Valley promotes itself as the place where legends are made. Equine legends come along occasionally. But horses who are genuine pathfinders, gallopers who do something for the first time in history, are unique.

And Shamus Award, the Danny O'Brien-trained three-year-old, on Saturday afternoon became a true original when he etched his name in racing folklore by winning the Cox Plate under the guidance of apprentice Chad Schofield. In the process he became the first maiden to win the great race since its inception in 1922. It was also a first for Schofield, as the 19-year-old had never won a group 1 race in his short career.

This was not a triumph without controversy, as there were plenty who were critical of the decision to even allow Shamus Award to take his place in the field as he had not won a race in his nine previous starts.

O'Brien pointed to his official rating of 109 - higher than the great So You Think's figure when he won the Cox Plate as a three-year-old - as justification for his faith in the Caulfield Guineas placegetter, and paid up for him on Tuesday morning. He was declared as the first emergency and it was only due to the unfortunate breakdown of super mare Atlantic Jewel that he even got into the field.

The son of Snitzel seemed to want a longer trip, his trainer insisted, and the $21 shot proved O'Brien's judgment was perfect when he bounced from the gates and set off, taking full advantage of his featherweight burden of 49.5 kilograms.

In the end he had almost all his rivals well beaten some way from home as Schofield rode him perfectly at the front of the field.

Gai Waterhouse's Fiorente, who had worked hard throughout the race to get some sort of position having started from the widest barrier, stuck on gamely and was the only horse to really go with the winner for most of the contest.

It was only in the closing stages that the real danger emerged when the South Australian raider Happy Trails emerged from the pack under Dwayne Dunn.

Nothing was finishing better than the $12 shot, but Schofield had left enough in reserve for Shamus Award ($21) to cling on at the post and win by a half head. Fiorente ($8) ran a tremendously game race to finish a long neck away third. Blake Shinn's bold move to put him right into the contest from barrier 14 ensured he was always in the firing line. The English import, who is one of the top fancies for the Melbourne Cup, held on just ahead of the fast finishing Foreteller ($21), with Super Cool running a brave race to finish fifth.

It's A Dundeel, the only horse to have ever beaten Atlantic Jewel, had suffered a hoof abscess in the lead-up and had not run for five weeks before Saturday's race. He was passed fit to run after a vet's inspection earlier in the day, but found his wide barrier a major handicap.

James McDonald struggled to get the $4 favourite closer to the rail and he eventually finished eighth. But that was a much better performance than market rival Puissance De Lune, who never looked at ease and eventually dropped out to beat only two others home. He was subsequently reported to be lame in his left foreleg, so his participation in the Melbourne Cup must surely be under a cloud.

Still, the day belonged to O'Brien, whose faith in his tough, hardworking colt was vindicated, and Schofield, the son of leading Sydney jockey Glyn Schofield.

"It's a fantastic feeling. I wanted to get a group 1 really badly, and what a way to do it in the Cox Plate. I was confident that the horse would run well but he was a 30-1 pop, Schofield said. Danny didn't put any pressure on me when I worked the horse on Wednesday and I was confident he would run well as he worked nicely."

O'Brien added: "We got our chance to go out there and make our own luck and it shows what a good colt this is. He could have easily been a Guineas winner and a Cox Plate winner, but we are happy to take the Cox Plate. It's a great feeling, these majors are not that easy to win and they don't come along very often."

Story by Michael Lynch, to view full Age story click here

Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here 

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