Five year old stallion Stratum Star was able give leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir his first win in Perth last Saturday by taking out the Group 1 $1m Peters Investments-Kingston Town Classic (1800m) at Ascot in a controversial finish.
The well fancied Scales Of Justice ($5) shot away in the straight and looked like having a winning break before Damian Lane drove Stratum Star ($10) up alongside of him ready for a fight to the line.
As the post was looming it appears that Douglas Whyte on Scales Of Justice misjudged the winning post a couple of strides early and slightly eased up on the Lindsey Smith trainer galloper and in a tight photo finish the judge gave the race to Stratum Star by the smallest possible margin.
The $4.60 favourite Perfect Reflection with William Pike in the saddle was just over three lengths away in third spot.
While Weir was celebrating Stratum Star’s second Group 1 win, the Western Australian Racing Stewards opened an inquiry in the Whyte’s ride over the concluding stages.
Whyte pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to ride his mount out to the end of the race and the inquiry was adjourned to a date to be fixed to allow Scales Of Justice’s trainer Lindsey Smith and managing owner Chris Wells to be present.
“I pleaded not guilty to the charge, I believe I did everything in the final stages to win the race and my mount lost no momentum in the finish,” Whyte told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Smith supported the former Hong Kong champion jockey and told stewards by phone that the result was the right one.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if he hit it two or three times,” Smith said.
Whyte had made the return trip from Hong Kong to ride Scales Of Justice in the Kingston Town Classic after scoring an all the way win on the four year old in the Group 1 $1m James Boag’s Premium Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot twwo weeks earlier.
Stratum Star has been a consistent Group 1 performer since his three year old days and was rewarded with a Group 1 victory in the $400,000 Anthea Crawford Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield during the 2015 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
The Stratum stallion had a quiet 2016 Melbourne Spring Carnival and Weir set him for the Kingston Town Classic after running second in the Group 3 $150,000 Yarramalong Racing Club Stakes (1500m) at Sandown on November 12.
Weir admitted that Stratum Star arrived in Perth a bit on the big side but tightened up nicely after some solid work and two barrier trials.
“When we got him here, he was a little bit tubby. So we gave him about half a dozen quick gallops and then we gave him a trial,” Weir said.
“But then his first trial showed he was a bit big so we trialled him again.”
Weir has several options for Stratum Star who could be set for either the Sydney Autumn Carnival or the Brisbane Winter Carnival with the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm a likely target.
“There are all sorts of options awaiting him. Sydney, Brisbane and I even heard someone talking of retirement, and when you think about it he’s a dual group 1 winner with a beautiful pedigree,” Weir said.
After winning his second Group 1 race, Stratum Star has now earned $1,652,460 in prizemoney from a total of six wins from thirty-three starts.