Awesome Rock led from start to finish and was the first horse across the line in the 2016 Australian Cup at Flemington this afternoon, but the race was awarded to Preferment on protest.
The jockeys spent the first 200 metres of the Australian Cup looking at each other, but Stephen Baster finally took the innovative and went forward to take up the lead on Awesome Rock.
Hugh Bowman opted to move forward on Preferment, but Awesome Rock kicked away at the 400 metre mark and Preferment was unable to catch his rival in the final stages of the race.
Awesome Rock made contact with Preferment on a couple of occasions in the straight and Bowman elected to fire in a protest.
“You can see where I have gone to pull the whip and strike him for the first time, after already coming out five to six horses the leading horse has then drifted out underneath me and forced me to put my hands back on the reigns,” Bowman argued.
“My horse is entitled to a straight run to the line up the straight and the winning horse has taken advantage of that and come out underneath me.
“It is noticeable at the 400 metre mark that he has forced me to stop riding, change course, rebalance and then he has continued to move out beyond that until about the 100 metre mark where my horse has been afforded his right to get balanced and taken considerable ground from the winning horse.
“If I was afforded that straight run from the 400 metre mark, which I am entitled to, then there is no question in my mind that my horse wins the race by a significant margin.”
Baster admitted that Awesome Rock did drift out in the straight, but he argued that every jockey in the race was keen to get as wide as possible to find the best part of the track and he said that there was no contact made between the two horses.
After a lengthy deliberation, Racing Victoria steward Terry Bailey announced that the stewards were of the belief that Awesome Rock shifted out and cost Preferment ground between the 300 and 200 metres mark, which led to the protest behind upheld.
“We believe that from the 400 to the 300 we don’t have an issue with both horses shifting and we don’t have an issue in the final 200 metres of the race where we believe both horses shift out,” Bailey said.
“Our problem is between the 300 and the 200.
“As the field pasts the 300 metre mark it is here that Stephen Baster’s mount shifts out several horses and in our view you are at his heels at the time the shift starts.
“We don’t believe you have any other option but to go where Awesome Rock is going and Baster’s mount continues to shift between the 300 and the 200 metre mark.
“In our view, with the short half head margin, if this didn’t happen Preferment would have finished first past the post and the objection is upheld.”
Preferment is set to press on to the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 9, while Awesome Rock could head towards the same race.