Awesome Rock has gained ballot-free entry into the 2016 Cox Plate with a smart performance for success in the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley this afternoon.
Awesome Rock failed to make anything of an impression when tenth in the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) first-up on August 13th, and began only fairly in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes this afternoon; settling midfield.
Settling into a good rhythm, jockey Stephen Baster pressed the Fastnet Rock entire steadily forward rounding onto the final straight, and threaded the horse between runners before asking for an extra effort.
Responding with a huge turn of foot, Awesome Rock savaged the line for a comfortable win from a brave Real Love; Set Square boxing on for third ahead of Japanese import Tosen Stardom.
Baster has ridden Awesome Rock in each of his six starts in 2016 so far and was thrilled to pilot the tough five-year-old in his return to winning form this afternoon.
“He’s probably given me one of my greatest moments in racing and one of my greatest heartaches in the Australian Cup, losing on protest,” Baster said.
“Honestly today I didn’t think he could win. I thought he’d only been going OK in track work but to his credit, he’s a race day horse – he just puts in 100%.
“I was lucky I got a beautiful run on him today and I’m lucky that Leon (co-trainer Leon Corstens) and the owners have stuck with me. He’s definitely up there with my favourite horses I’ve ever ridden.
“I planned on box seating but he didn’t begin brilliant. I didn’t panic because a mile isn’t his go, I’d just let him cruise into it.
“The further we went the stronger he got on the bridle. He took a split at the top of the straight and put them away.”
Co-trainer Troy Corstens was on hand for Awesome Rock’s return to the winner’s circle in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes, and confirmed that plans are likely now to target the Cox Plate 2016.
“Coming into this he had a gallop on Tuesday morning and it put something in the back of the mind that maybe he isn’t going as well as he was,”
“I think he’s just saving it for race day. He’s really annihilated them there.
“He won an Australian Cup and I know we had it taken it off us, but he’s got the ability there.
“We’ve had him in the Cox Plate the whole way along but he really needed to do something like that for us to take the next step up and say we can have a real crack at it.
“We were thinking the Emirates on the final day, but we’ll probably shift it back to the Cox Plate now, have a crack and see how we go.”
Awesome Rock has posted three wins and a further seven minors through twenty-one career starts to date.