Cleveland flies home to claim Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup

Cleveland ridden by James McDonald wins the Moonee Valley Gold Cup. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Racing Photos)

Cleveland (+550) may have already had his spot sewn up in the 2023 Melbourne Cup field, but after claiming the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup, the Kris Lees-trained galloper may have found the form that he brought over to Australia earlier this year.

The former European-trained stallion was yet to win on Australian soil since arriving in March this year, but after a strong performance in the St Leger at Randwick last start, he appeared to be back at his best.

Regal Power (+5000) set up a strong tempo during the first half of the race before upping the ante with 1000m to go, which saw a few jockeys rev their mount up early to get going down the side of the Moonee Valley track.

After travelling wide for the entire trip, Vow And Declare (+600) and Future History (+650) took over on the home turn and appeared to have the race within their keeping before James McDonald and Cleveland flew home down the outside to nab the leading duo in the final bounds.

Finishing just behind the top three were two of the favoured and unlucky runners in Lunar Flare (+280) and Athabascan (+500), who received very economical runs of the rail but couldn’t get into clear air to stake their claim in the final 200m.

2023 Moonee Valley Gold Cup Replay – Cleveland | T: Kris Lees | J: James McDonald

After training the winner of the Moonee Valley Gold Cup, Kris Lees spoke post-race.

“He got a lovely ride, just chimed in at the right time,” Lees said.

“He’s just taken little improvement out of every run, we decided to take the blinkers back off today and I thought he reacted really well.

“He’s got a few little quirks but he’s a lovely horse and I’m really honoured to be training him in these colours and great to get a result for them.

“He knees his chin as he goes along but he was alright when he straightened up today, he let down really well.”

“He’ll come on again, I think he’s found a bit of form and I think he’ll hold it now.

“I’ve been mates with Nick (Williams) for a very long time, I’m very fortunate he’s given us an opportunity to take some nice horses and I repaid him with one today.”

James McDonald picked up his first win of the Cox Plate carnival on Cleveland, and he spoke post-race.

“He was really solid, he was there for me when he curled up on the bend and gave a great turn of foot, he felt excellent, onwards and upwards,” McDonald said.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do with him but he was good there.”

When asked about going to the Melbourne Cup next, McDonald was happy to pour cold water on the win.

“It wasn’t that impressive, he only just fell in as well so, I don’t know if he’ll run two miles…” he joked.

“It’s very competitive, take the top three out, they look the class acts but you never know, it’s two miles, down in the weights, you’re a chance.”

Cleveland is now a +2500 chance in the 2023 Melbourne Cup futures market with online bookmakers.

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