A nervous Pierro colt bloomed into a Melbourne Cup contender when Persan outslugged his rivals in the Group 3 Bart Cummings at Flemington.
Persan only won his maiden at Bendigo in May but will be in action on the first Tuesday in November after holding off a field of hardy stayers to earn a Lexus Melbourne Cup ballot exemption.
Co-trainer David Eustace said the now four-year-old has come a long way since arriving the stable in late last year.
“He came to us as quite a nervous horse. He wasn’t a very confident colt and he lacked a bit of condition when he came to us,” Eustace, who trains Persan in partnership with Ciaron Maher, said.
“We felt we had a really nice horse on our hands but did we think we’d get to a Melbourne Cup with him? Hey, definitely not.
“A few weeks ago we thought we might, but not three months ago.
“He’s changed a lot. He’s a much more relaxed horse and that’s taken him a long way. It’s great.”
TAB cut Persan’s Melbourne Cup quote from $101 to $34 after the stayer defeated the Mike Moroney-trained Sound by a length while Steel Prince was a nose away in third spot.
Persan will carry 50kg in the Melbourne Cup, which will leave Maher and Eustace the task of finding a jockey for him.
Eustace said Mick Dee was quick to put up his hand after the race.
Eustace said deciding on a rider could wait while the stable gets to work conditioning Persan for the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup.
“We’ve got to get him to stay two miles now, but he switches off lovely and he’s got tactical speed,” Eustace said. “He’s going to be in with a low weight.
“It’s great for the whole team and it creates a real buzz around the yard. We won’t mind that there’s no one here to watch it.”
German import Schabau finished fourth. His jockey William Pike blamed himself for the stayer’s defeat.
“Jockey error,” was Pike’s post-race offering.
Gilgai Stakes: Ollie admits error as Zoutori strikes again
– Brad Waters
Favourite backers groaned while Zoutori went about matching the deeds of the former star sprinter Chautauqua in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington.
The Everest-bound Tofane started as the $3.30 favourite but could only manage fifth after she found herself stuck behind other runners until it was too late.
Zoutori ($5.50) got home by a half-head over the Adelaide galloper Kemalpasa ($7.50) while Dollar For Dollar ($21) was a short head away in third spot.
Tofane’s trainer Mike Moroney said jockey Damien Oliver reported pilot error contributed to the All Aged Stakes winner’s unplaced run.
“He said he made a bit of a mistake,” Moroney said.
“He thought he was going to get a run to the outside rather than coming in, but it just never happened.
“She’s pulled up fine and it’s onwards and upwards.”
Zoutori’s connections were in much brighter spirits after the sprinter completed the Bobbie Lewis and Gilgai Stakes double in consecutive runs.
Chautauqua achieved the feat in 2014 before going on to win six Group 1 races.
Co-trainer Mathew Ellerton said trying to secure a slot in The Everest wasn’t an option for Zoutori but the son of Zoustar could tackle a Group 1 race over 1600m during the Melbourne Cup carnival.
“I think we’re being realistic and we’ll plot a course at home,” Ellerton, who trains Zoutori in partnership with Simon Zahra, said.
“We’re maybe thinking about the Cantala Stakes. But that may change.”
Santa Ana Lane, who is also bound for The Everest, finished two lengths from the winner in sixth spot.
Jockey Mark Zahra said the firm track might have played against Santa Ana Lane first-up.
Edward Manifold: Thermosphere turns heat on local fillies
– Leo Schlink
Damian Lane hailed Thermosphere’s courage and class after the Godolphin filly overcame a torrid run to claim the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m).
Rated by form judges a good thing based on ratings, the daughter of Exosphere was caught wide into a buffeting northerly but still managed to outclass Starelle ($26) and Chica Fuerte ($8.50) in a gutsy display.
Sent out a $3.10 favourite, James Cummings’ charge had only a short neck to spare over Starelle, but the nature of her victory impressed Lane.
“She dug in deep and finished strong so can’t knock her stamina at this stage,” Lane said, explaining the difficulty of being caught in the wind.
“I knew it would not work in our favour, put it that way, but lucky she was tough and she was strong when it counted.
“She had some quality formlines through good fillies in Sydney and obviously well-placed by the team to avoid them and bring her down here.”
Stable representative Sean Keogh said Cummings would not rush to identify Thermosphere’s next target.
“Coming into today, well-conditioned and winning a race like this is outstanding,” Keogh said.
“We’ll see how she pulls up and James will see she goes from there. She’s a classy filly and hopefully she goes a long way.”
Recent winners of the Edward Manifold include Alinghi, Serenade Rose, Mosheen, Amphitrite and Moonlight Maid.