Even champion trainer James Cummings admitted he harboured a couple of doubts about superstar middle-distance runner Anamoe before and during his remarkable victory in the Might And Power at Caulfield.
One – was he at full fitness following his incredible George Main Stakes win last start? That was after he pulled up slightly lame after that victory at Randwick on September 17.
And two – did he tell fellow champion and jockey James McDonald to mount his charge too late?
Cummings need not have worried about either because his four-year-old stallion proved he is now the best middle-distance runner in Australia.
2022 Might And Power Replay
And he will carry deserved favouritism into the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 22.
But at the turn on Saturday, Anamoe – also favourite for this race – looked gone.
However as all champions do, he lifted himself off the canvas and McDonald timed the run home beautifully, finding the lead inside the final 100m and hanging on to salute.
It was a truly memorable Group 1 feature worth $1 million over 2000m, and with an all-star field it lived up to all the hype.
Fellow high-profile middle distance runners I’m Thunderstruck and Zaaki pushed Anamoe all the way to the post, finishing second and third.
And Cummings had his star stallion perfectly prepared for the epic battle, handling all the scrutiny about Anamoe after his last-start victory.
“Great credit to my team at Osborne Park. It’s the scrutiny that was on the horse and fair enough,” he told Racing.com.
“And we were all over him like a rash like we are any of our horses, but the prep he’s had – his whole prep has been flawless apart from a few strides.
“And yet, they (doubts) echo in the back of your mind.
“So great credit to the team to have him here and in impeccable condition. I’ve never saddled up a horse in better order.”
Cummings also admitted a small flash of doubt entered his mind at the turn.
“I just begged him (McDonald) ‘don’t come wide at the 600, don’t fall for it. Wait on it’,” he said.
“And at the top of straight he might’ve been cursing thinking ‘he might’ve made me leave this run too late’.
“But that was a proper horse race with Alligator Blood who’s capable of skipping away at weight-for-age level, a Stradbroke winner. And so good in the Underwood.
“Zaaki’s burning before the turn and building up the revs. And what about I’m Thunderstruck getting the perfect run through?
“So Anamoe had to be the best horse. He had to be the champion and he’s a serious racehorse.”
What this means is Anamoe now has the perfect performance to build on for the Cox Plate in two weeks.
“He’s a run away I hope from being at his best, and we’re well and truly in business for his grand final,” Cummings said.
McDonald – cool as ever – also had a small bit of doubt enter his mind 400m out.
But when he asked Anamoe to lift, well, did he what.
“He deserves it, he’s a great racehorse. He had to lift off the canvas. It was probably the most proud I’ve ever been for him because everything has been pretty easy for him,” he said.
“But I was wondering at the 400 if he was going to be there for me. And he was there in spades, I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to coast to the line the last little bit.
“He’s a great horse.”
McDonald is mindful of the task ahead for the Cox Plate, but believes he has the ride to yet again lift for the big occasion.
“Obviously he’s been here before and won a Guineas, but I reckon that will just trigger his mind a little bit and an extra 40m (over 2040m) will be perfect,” he said.
“We won’t dodge that he’ll have to go to another level. But at least we know he’ll be there when the whips are cracking.
“And if push comes to shove, he’ll find it. And that was what was most impressive with today’s victory.”