The Robert Smerdon-trained duo of Fontein Ruby and Crafty will head to the 2014 Crown Oaks after finishing first and second in the 2014 Caulfield Classic at Caulfield this afternoon.
Only three fillies had won the Caulfield Classic, previously known as the Norman Robinson Stakes, in the last thirty years, but Fontein Ruby was too strong for her rivals in the final stages of the race, while Crafty ran home strongly for second.
Jockey Mark Zahra elected to settle Fontein Ruby just off the leader Merion in the early stages of the race before she hit the front coming around the turn at the 250 metre mark.
David Hayes-trained Firehouse Rock looked to get his nose in front with 150 metres left to run, but Fontein Ruby fought back in the final stages of the race and Zahra was quick to pay credit to the toughness shown by the Turffontein filly.
“Smerdon has stood by me through thick and thin and it is great to repay him,” Zahra said.
“She is just a great horse and she is so tough.
“She has taken every challenge so far and I was quiet surprised with the way that she relaxed outside of Merion.”
Smerdon admitted that he would have run Fontein Ruby and Crafty in the Listed Ethereal Stakes (2000m) earlier in the day if it was not for the large amount of prizemoney available in the Caulfield Classic and he was thrilled that his fillies were able to beat the boys in the Group 3 event.
The Caulfield based trainer confirmed that both fillies would press on to the Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington during Melbourne Cup week, but he is yet to decide whether they will run in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) on Victoria Derby Day.
“They stayed really well and they both put in great performances,” Smerdon said.
“Crafty gets back and has to do the hard work going around them, but Fontein Ruby is up the front punching on from the start.
“She has a great constitution, whether she could run the 2000 was the big question because it is not in her pedigree, but she just keeps pulling something out.
“Fair to say we would have won in the fillies race if it was not for the generosity of the MRC and that big carrot there was great.
“The prizemoney was outstanding.”
Caulfield Guineas fourth placegetter Kumaon was well-backed in the lead-up to the Caulfield Classic, but he was never able to get into the race and he finished at the tail of the field.