Grand Marshal will head to the 2016 Melbourne Cup after he produced a strong staying performance in the Moonee Valley Cup this afternoon.
The Moonee Valley Cup was set up for the swoopers when Authoritarian took on Gallante for the lead in the early stages of the race, while Godolphin stayer Second Wave was caught wide and overraced throughout.
Who Shot Thebarman tracked into the race nicely and looked the winner at the top of the straight, but in a repeat of the 2015 Sydney Cup, Grand Marshal proved too tough for his stablemate and finished over the top to win the Moonee Valley Cup.
Jockey Ben Melham scored an upset victory on Rebel Dane in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) last night and he was thrilled to record another feature race win in the Moonee Valley Cup.
“It has been a big couple of days and it is good to win on this bloke today,” Melham said.
“He has been running ok without winning and today he finally got the conditions to suit, with a solid tempo up front.
“The pressure never really came up and I was able to creep into the race down the side and I always sort of knew that I had the race at my mercy.
“It is good to see this horse back in form.”
Trainer Chris Waller admitted after the race that he was surprised to see Grand Marshal upstage Who Shot Thebarman in the final stages of the race, but was delighted with the performance of both stayers.
Waller confirmed that both Grand Marshal and Who Shot Thebarman will press on to the 2016 Melbourne Cup, but he is unsure whether either horse have the turn-of-foot to be genuine winning chances in ‘the race that stops a nation’.
“I would have thought that Who Shot Thebarman would have had a slight edge, but it is not the first time that Grand Marshal has edged him out in a big race,” Waller said.
“At least they are in good form and heading in the right direction.
“Who Shot Thebarman two years ago was the benchmark running third and then last year they didn’t compete – they both got knocked over.
“It is hard to say going on last year’s run, but they are both genuine two milers.
“Whether they have the dash to beat the overseas horses or the Jameka’s probably not, but we will have a good time trying.”
Pentathlon toughed it out to the line to finish third, while the likes of Gallante, Authoritarian and Second Wave all faded badly.