High-profile South Australian trainer Ryan Balfour only brought a small team to the Godolphin Seymour Cup meeting on Sunday but blitzed the field with Balf’s Choice to win the $150000 feature event.
It had won three of its past five starts — including the Balaklava Cup last month — but still managed to fly under the public’s radar.
Punter attention was focused on favourite Moss N Dale, which had won its previous two starts, and Gai Waterhouse’s Ecuador, almost as short-priced.
Balf’s Choice had finished fifth at his last start (at 1800m it might have been just beyond his reach) and worried his backers in the mounting yard when he turned on a manic display of pre-race jitters.
The Godolphin stable also had a chance of winning its own race with Big Blue but he couldn’t go the pace in the run to the line and finished well back in sixth.
Balf’s Choice had an easy ride early, under cover sitting one out and one back and was able to switch off until they straightened for the run to the line.
At about the 250m mark Moss N Dale almost cannoned into the winner as Joe Bowditch drove his horse into a gap that had opened.
But Balf’s Choice steadied, ranged up alongside Radipole and was too strong over the closing 100m.
There must have been some punters kicking themselves after Balf’s Choice blew out from 10/1 to 18s — much of that sparked by the horse’s pre-race carry-on — as he paid $15.20 on Superbet.
Ryan Balfour said the win was not only a big thrill for him, it was also one of the biggest in his career as a trainer.
‘‘He’s named after my dad (the late trainer David Balfour) so he’s a very special horse for us,’’ Balfour said.
‘‘It was a great ride today by Joey, we were a bit worried after his last start when he came back covered with sand.
‘‘We took him to Murray Bridge on Friday but it is a different track, undulating, and this was the other option so it is fantastic to get the decision right.
‘‘We think he’s got Flemington written all over him, and all Melbourne’s bigger tracks, so we might keep him in Victoria with some big meetings coming up — maybe the Eclipse Stakes (a group three race over 1800m at Sandown towards the end of the spring racing carnival).
‘‘We’ll just let the dust settle, we’re really overjoyed with this but we’ll still look and see what might suit him.’’
Bowditch said he had to waste to get the ride but the horse made it easy once they jumped. Balf’s Choice got ‘‘into a lovely rhythm’’ in that safe spot near the pointy end of the field.
‘‘There was a little bit of a flat spot coming round the corner so he took a little while to wind up but once he did he was strong on the line,’’ he said.
‘‘He has really come into his own this time in and I look forward to riding him again.’’
Another highlight of the day was Matt Cumani training the first double of his fledgling training career — with Jordan Childs aboard both horses.
The pair opened their account in the first of the day with Tristano in the $25000 Classicbet In App Store maiden over 1600m.
They backed that up in the $25000 Carlton Draught Handicap over 2200m with the favourite Greycliffe putting on a flawless performance to win — and maybe earn itself a tilt at the Derby.
In a seriously local celebration three generations of the Hope family combined to land their own impressive winner on cup day.
The stable run by Lee and son Shannon saw grand-daughter and daughter Tahlia in the saddle on Proud Wolf in the $30000 Chase Nightclub Handicap over 1000m.
Shannon Hope agreed the horse hit the line strongly, describing the win as a ‘‘big performance’’.
‘‘Tahlia was very patient on him, rode him beautifully and looked for the right gap,’’ he said.
‘‘He liked the softer track, he was going to Moe the other day but the rain didn’t come until later so we kept him for this one and once he got out he put the race away very quickly.’’
Top-weight in the dash for cash, with a 60kg load to carry, the syndicate-owned six-year-old gelding benefited from Tahlia’s 2kg claim as an apprentice, pulling away from outsiders Steel Trigger (50/1) and Sasyuri (17/1) with the well-backed Miss Vista sixth.
However, that claim is only a few winners away from coming down to 1.5kg.
‘‘I was told to keep him travelling strong and when he gets clear let him have one crack at them,’’ Tahlia said after the race.
‘‘It took a fair while to find what we needed and I was getting a little bit worried, but as soon as he saw the gap he went for it.’’
In the first race of the day the Hope team combined with Dashing Declan, featured on the front page of last week’s Telegraph.
Unfortunately he didn’t live up to his name and ran fourth, six lengths off the pace.
Tahlia also rode Chasing Glory for Seymour trainer David Bourne but could only manage fourth in the Mitchellton Wines Handicap over 1600m.