A stack of 2014 Caulfield Cup hopefuls produced promising runs in the WeDrive Plate, but it was John Sadler-trained Henwood who returned to winning form in the $80,000 race.
Prince Of Penzance was returning to the races for the first time since he finished a close second in the Listed Roy Higgins Quality (2600m) at Flemington on March 1 and he produced a strong finish down the outside of the track to suggest that he could be in for a big 2014 Spring Racing Carnival.
The Pentire gelding has been included in the nominations for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m), while the Listed Bendigo Cup (2400m) could also be on the agenda after he was only narrowly beaten in the Listed Mornington Cup (2400m) in the autumn.
“He worked to the line nicely and it was a good starting point,” jockey Michelle Payne said after the race.
Prince Of Penzance’s stablemate Signoff is another horse that has been included in the nominations for the spring majors, after recording four straight wins in the autumn, and he was blocked for a run in the final stages; with jockey Ben Melham confident that his mount would have finished closer to the winner if he had found clear running.
“If it opened up he was going to make good ground,” Melham said.
Text’N Hurley was well-supported in the lead-up to the WeDrive Plate, but she was never able to get into the race and slightly flat to the line, while imported stayer Count Of Limonade had no luck in running.
While it was the resuming stayers that dominated the discussion after the race, Henwood was too strong in the final stages of the WeDrive Plate and he held off Eximius to score the second race win of his preparation.
Henwood was beaten at short odds on a couple of occasions in the Winter Championship Series and John Sadler said after the race that he was delighted to see the Savabeel gelding return to winning form.
“That was really good,” Sadler said.
“He was due to the win the horse, he ran well last Saturday and got a good run today and just went one better.
“He is a really decent horse and there are some people that have put a hell of a lot of work into him.”
Sadler has the chance to record a win at Group level at Caulfield this afternoon when Vain Queen contests Theshark.com.au Stakes.