Tannhauser hangs on for close win
Clements' rising star gives connections and supporters a scare in hat-trick bid
Connections and punters alike had their hearts in their mouths when odds-on favourite TANNHAUSER blew the start, but his class still saw him prevail on Sunday.
An impressive winner in his last two outings, both by shooting straight to the lead and breaking his rivals' hearts thereafter, the Tavistock three-year-old certainly put a big dent on his chances of a third straight victory in the $80,000 Australian Turf Club Trophy, a Class 3 race over 1,200m on the Polytrack, with that tardy beginning. But he quickly recovered to settle in midfield under jockey Vlad Duric, albeit three wide.
As he swung for home, still out there on a limb, Tannhauser pounced on race-leader Nova Warrior (R Shafiq) with his customary burst that did suggest the early efforts to make up ground would after all be just a minor blip.
But longshot Lim's Sprint (Saifudin Ismail) rallied again with another broadside on his inside, while Lightning Fast (apprentice CC Wong) was shaping up as another horse who could claim the scalp of the $7 hotpot.
Tannhauser was on shaky ground, but Duric kept at him, and digging deep into his reserve tank, he fought back doggedly to get the nod by a neck from Lim's Sprint, who held off Lightning Fast by the same margin. The winning time was 1min 11.50sec.
Heaving a huge sigh of relief, trainer Michael Clements admitted it was not the prettiest of wins, but most importantly, he won.
Clements and the Jubilant Racing Stable had been tempted to run him in the Group 1 Singapore Guineas a couple of weeks ago, but decided to go for an easier path, with rewarding results.
"It wasn't pretty. He had to give ground and that's not easy over 1,200m," said the Zimbabwean-born conditioners' after the close shave.
"Under the circumstances, Vlad gave him a great ride. He was super impressive at his last two runs, and yes, there was a temptation to run him in the Guineas, but we felt he was still too inexperienced.
"Today's win is part of his learning curve. I'm happy with the decision we made (to bypass the Singapore Guineas).
"It was a very stressful run, and though he is only lightly raced, he is due for a let-up. He is a big gangly three-year-old, and we should not hammer him too much.
"I'll probably bring him back for the feature races later in the year."
Duric did not sound too troubled by the early scare, saying he just had to let Tannhauser find his own feet after the less-than- auspicious start.
"He was still very quiet even after he was slow out of the gates. I just left him alone," said the leading Australian jockey.
"It was a scrappy win, but he's a horse who is looking for more ground, 1,400m to 1,600m. It's good he did not go to the Guineas as he may have been found wanting.
"He will be an even better horse this time next year."
With that third win, Tannhauser sees his stakes earnings bulge past the $120,000 mark.