Attrition edges out Antino in close Toorak Handicap finish

Attrition ridden by Beau Mertens wins the Toorak Handicap at Caulfield. (Photo by George Sal/Racing Photos)

The 2023 Toorak Handicap has provided Mitchell Freedman and Beau Mertens their maiden Group 1 success, with Attrition (+3000) just edging out Antino (+400) in a photo finish in the 1600m contest.

After going so close in his last Group 1 efforts, Mitchell Freedman finally got that Group 1 success that he has been working so hard for throughout his career, while Beau Mertens added his first Group 1 winning ride to his five Group level victories throughout his career.

As expected, Pride Of Jenni (+1400) went to the front and ran the race at a good tempo before pushing the button and setting the race alight at the 500m mark, which saw a number of jockeys go for their mounts earlier than they would have wanted to.

Amenable (+1800) took over with 300m to go, but Attrition and Antino were finishing stronger down the outside, and they claimed him with 200m to go and fought out the finish.

A glaring absentee from the contending runners was the race favourite Amelia’s Jewel (+130), who looked to be coasting behind the eventual winner, but she lacked that explosive turn of foot and ended up finishing an underwhelming ninth — beaten 5.5 lengths.

Mitchell Freedman was clearly emotional after the win, and he spoke post-race.

“What a ride from Beau and everyone in the team who takes a massive part in it,” Melham said.

“I’ve had, I think, three seconds in group ones before today and it is so good to get over the line because we have been nutted a few times.

“We always knew he was up to the level.

“He was very disappointing last start. Back to handicap, aided by a brilliant ride by a jockey that is well and truly on the rise.

“It worked out perfectly. We thought we’d take the bull by the horns today.

”He got back the other day and he just never got in the race. We knew we had to be in the race and put him in a spot.”

Beau Mertens was just as emotional as Freedman, and he spoke post-race after the win on Attrition.

“It is unbelievable. So much work goes into days like these and to do it for Mitch and these connections and this owner, it is such a big privilege,” Mertens said.

“I can’t thank my friends and family enough and my beautiful fiance Hayley.

“I don’t really get emotional that often but obviously with Dad’s passing earlier in the year, all he wanted to do was see me ride a group one winner.

“To come out and do it this spring, unfortunately he can’t be here and I know he was riding with me every step of the way today.

“I fought hard for the ride and I was super excited to get on it.

“It is a tremendous feeling to do my family and friends proud.”

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