He looked like a sitting duck in the final 100 metres, but Mr O’Ceirin managed to hang on and score a brave victory in a memorable Grafton Cup (2350m) this afternoon.
Mr O’Ceirin was forced to do a great deal of work early to get across from the outside barrier and leaders Zennista, Viola Ici and Fiumicino made sure that the race was run at a very honest pace.
After getting him in a strong position, jockey Blake Shinn sent Mr O’Ceirin for home coming around the bend and he hit the front with 300 metres left to run as the other leaders faded badly.
Peter Snowden-trained Yulalona and and Patinack Farm-owned Saint Encosta looked like they would gobble the five-year-old up in the final 100 metres of the race but Mr O’Ceirin managed to hold on for a gusty half neck victory from Yulalona and Reuben Percival.
Pre-race favourite Destiny’s Kiss raced at the tail of the field and despite the race being run to suit showed little in the final straight while the well backed Zennista was one of the first horses beaten after being asked to work far too hard in the early stages of the race.
The victory validated the decision of trainer Ciaron Maher to run the Postponed gelding in the race, after he considered scratching his star performer when he drew the outside gate in the barrier draw on Monday, while Mr O’Ceirin redeemed his performance in the Dominant Handicap (2040m), where he finished sixth despite starting the race as an odds-on favourite.
Maher has set the Caulfield Cup (2400m) as the main Melbourne Spring Carnival target for Mr O’Ceirin and with his victory today has now passed the ballot for the 2013 Melbourne Cup (3200m).