A brilliant ride from Blake Shinn helped Junoob return to winning form in the 2014 Hill Stakes at Royal Randwick this afternoon.
There looked to be an absence of early pace in the Hill Stakes field and Shinn elected to take the initiative in the early stages of the race and take Junoob to the lead, dictating the pace throughout.
Australian Derby winner Criterion loomed at the top of the straight, but Junoob never looked like being beaten in the final stages and scored a comfortable victory from Criterion and the fast-finishing Bagman.
Shinn had already recorded wins on Kuro in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) and First Seal in the Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) and deserved all the plaudits for his well-timed ride on Junoob in the Hill Stakes.
“He is a big free-striding horse and he can be a little bit lethargic from the gates,” Shinn said.
“There was a lack of tempo prior to the race and I just didn’t want to be on the back foot and out the back with no chance.
“I just wanted to make sure that he stepped on the right foot and I got him into a prominent position.
“He was never going to lose, he got into a great rhythm and quickened at the 600.
“He had some form lines behind Streama last weekend and when he got a soft run he was always going to be hard to run down.”
Junoob started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with two flat performances in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Royal Randwick on August 23 and the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at the same venue on September 6, but trainer Chris Waller was hopeful that the Haafhd gelding would be able to return to his best form on a much firmer surface in the Hill Stakes.
“As I have said the last few weeks, it has been hard to know where we are at, but you can’t panic and we have stuck to our plan,” Waller said.
“Today we were going to know if he has come up or not and he needed those two runs on the heavy tracks to be fit enough for today.
“It helps when you have a smart rider on board who took the race by the neck at the 1600 metre mark and led.
“If the leader gets a soft run they win and if they don’t get a soft run it is tough.”
Junoob has been included in the nominations for the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m), Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) and Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).