Emerging stayer Vatuvei signalled his potential as a future big race contender by outlasting his rivals in the Group 2 Drake International Cup (2500m) at Moonee Valley today.
The four-year-old showed a genuine appreciation for the staying trip to finish strongly on the back of a quiet ride from Luke Nolen and claimed top honours by 1-1/2 lengths ahead of Reuben Percival and Ironstein.
Trained by Peter Moody, Vatuvei is still in the acceptances for the Melbourne Cup but currently sits at 44th in the order of entry with an allocated weight of 50kg.
That means, even with a penalty, the only likely way of qualifying would be to back up next Saturday and win the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) which offers the winner ballot exemption into the Melbourne Cup.
Nolen said it may be not be a bad thing that he is unlikely to make this year’s Melbourne Cup field, suggesting he could be a genuine contender next year.
“That may well be a blessing [not getting in]. It’d be great to see him have another season under his belt before he tackled the better stayers,” Nolen said.
“He switched off well on the back of a good solid tempo and he was very convincing on the line. He sticks.
“He’s a stayer with nice quality but I think in 12 months time he’ll be even better.”
It was just the third win of Vatuvei’s career and cemented his staying credentials with his previous victory coming over 2800m in the Listed VRC St Leger in April.
He was considered among the top fancies for the Queensland Derby in June where he finished fifth to stablemate Brambles.
Team Williams gave a big push for Midas Touch during the week and he started as favourite but got caught wide early in the race and laboured to finish in eighth position.