A feather separated the two main chances in the Group 1 $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m) with the judge’s decision going the way of Victorian colt Levendi over the local three year old Ace High.
The titanic struggle all the way down the Randwick straight between the two three year olds provided one of the highlights on day one of The Championships at Randwick today but then Levendi had to survive a protest from Ace High’s rider Tye Angland for inference over the concluding stages.
Racing New South Wales Stewards took evidence from both connections of the winner and runner up and were quick to dismiss the objection.
The win of the Peter Gelagotis trained Levendi ($6) denied Ace High ($5 equal favourite) a second Derby win after the David Payne trained colt won the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington during the 2017 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Winning jockey Mark Zahra had Levendi positioned in the middle of the pack in the middle stages of the race and brought the Pierro colt to the outside and loomed up to Ace High at the 250m marked.
Both horses showed tremendous courage as they went stride for stride to the post with Levendi lucky enough to get the bob in on the line.
The Chris Waller trained Tangled ($26) was also doing his best work over the concluding stages to fill the third spot while equal favourite Furore finished in sixth place.
Levendi put himself into Austalian Derby calculations with a last start win in the Group 2 $200,000 Tricolours Racing & Syndications Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill last Saturday.
Gelagotis didn’t hold back with the after race celebarations and was seen hugging his brother Manny during the emotional post-race interview.
“He was travelling well but we just got a bit concerned but when he peeled out he moved into the race real good. He was really strong at the top of the run and you could see he was going to let down and figure in the finish,” Gelagotis said.
“But credit to High Ace, he fought on strong and it was a great battle and fortunately for us he got the job done.”