The Danny O’Brien-trained local track and distance specialist Decircles upset the two top fancies in Thursday’s Standish Handicap to score his maiden Group 3 victory.
After running down the leader over the final 100m at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne’s New Year’s Day feature, Encosta De Lago six-year-old Decircles ($9) had three-quarters of a length to spare over the Robbie Laing-trained Lord Of The Sky ($4) with Lee & Anthony Freedman’s recent MSS Security Stakes winner Reparations ($3.80F) two lengths off the winner for third.
Decircles, who now boats three wins and two minor placings over the 1200m at Flemington, also ran in the Listed MSS Security Stakes (1200m) on Melbourne Cup Day but from the outside barrier (18) he could only manage to finish six and a half lengths away 11th.
He was also well-beaten in his final Standish Handicap lead-up on December 13 when put under pressure with 400m to go in the $80,000 The Lola’s Gift Handicap (1400m) before weakening out on the fence to run eighth to Mighty Like.
Jockey Stephen Baster had the ride that day and said there were plenty of excuses for the horse’s luckless performance, and was thrilled to win the Standish after retaining the ride for the Group 3 showdown.
“Everything went his way after everything went wrong last start,” he said after Thursday’s victory.
Baster was patient with Decircles in the Standish, allowing the horse to roll along on the back of Lord Of The Sky who looked to have the upper hand 100m out before the winner showed true guts to run him down and score a well-deserved victory.
“I was keen that he didn’t run down the middle of the track and when Lord Of The Sky went to the rail it gave us a bunny to chance,” O’Brien said.
“He finished strongly and deserved this win.”
Decircles also ran in last year’s Standish Handicap when third behind subsequent Oakleigh Plate – Newmarket Handicap fifth placegetter Flamberge.
Both of those Melbourne Festival of Racing Group 1 sprints will be considered for Decircles in the autumn but first O’Brien will run his stable “soldier” back at Flemington on January 17 in the $120,000 Listed Chester Manifold Stakes (1400m).
“He has been a good soldier for the stable,” he said.
A $275,000 buy from the 2010 William Inglis and Son Australian Easter Yearling Sale, Decircles has now won five of his 27 starts for $435,520 in prize money.
He showed early promise during his opening season as a two-year-old in 2011 when second to Running Tall three runs into his career in the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes.
Since then he’s undergone a successful wind-pipe operation and has also been gelded, the horse taking it all in his stride and continuing to bounce back according to O’Brien.
“The wind operation did not compromise him too much. In fact, it was our stable’s most successful wind operation,” he said.
“Even though he is a gelding, it is nice that he now is a Group 3 winner.”