THERE was a distinct air of confidence when we talked to Manny Gelagotis about Levendi this week and that confidence paid off on Derby day at Flemington.
The three-year-old colt endured an unlucky run in the Caulfield Guineas last start after getting significantly held up in the straight and that form has been good enough to see it win the opener of the Melbourne Cup carnival.
Just when it looked like bad luck was going to stifle the son of Pierro again, jockey Ben Melham was able to clear a pocket down the straight and produce the talented three-year-old at the right time. He didn’t win overly convincingly, but winning a $200,000 to open the carnival is a nice start for jockey and trainer.
“We nearly copped the bad luck again. The horse has the upside to overcome the hindrance and it was a deserved victory,” trainer Peter Gelagotis said.
“We have a big opinion of him. We challenged him in the best race that was available (Caulfield Guineas) and we had no luck, we almost copped it again.
“For the people that have supported him, it’s a great start to the day.”
Melham had ridden Levendi at its first three starts, which included consecutive wins before he was replaced by Anthony Darmanin in the Guineas. Melham was happy to be back on board the talented colt.
“He’s a lovely horse. Things didn’t go his way in the Guineas and it’s good to see him come out today and display his true ability,” Melham said.
“He’s a horse that has matured all the time and to put away a good field today, he’s going to be a better horse in the autumn.”
Peter Gelagotis now has the decision to keep Levendi in work for the Sandown Guineas or to spell the three-time winner and prepare an assault on the autumn season.
“That’s an option (Sandown Guineas), but we’ll assess him, let him get home and recover,” Gelagotis said. “We’ll do the right thing by the horse as he’s rewarded us today.
“He’ll only be a better, stronger version in the autumn.”
The Gelagotis team has improved their spring carnival winning strike rate over the last couple of years with the likes of Mourinho and Hvasstan flying the flag.
“We’ve had some great success over the broader spring carnival over the years, but last year was the first time we had winners during Cup week,” Gelagotis said. “To be able to do it again, wow, special moment.”
Illustrious Lad lines up in the final race of the day for the team and they’re expecting a big effort from the $7 chance at Neds.
“I think he profiles so well for this race today,” Gelagotis said. “It’s a target race and his lead-up couldn’t be better.
“He’s got 58kg, but I think he has a class edge.”