Malaguerra has held off a late charge from emerging Sydney sprinter Spieth to claim his second Group One win in a thrilling Darley Classic at Flemington.
Five-year-old gelding Malaguerra won the Group One BTC Cup earlier this year when trained by Lee and Anthony Freedman before his owner transferred him to trainer Peter Gelagotis after the sprinter’s winter campaign in Queensland.
Having his second start for his new stable on Saturday, Malaguerra ($9.50) justified jockey Ben Melham’s faith in the sprinter, as well as that of his trainer, as he got home by a short-head over a luckless Speith ($8.50) who struck traffic at a crucial stage before storming home.
Ultra-consistent Fell Swoop ($9) added a fourth Group One placing this year as he finished another long neck away third in the $1 million weight-for-age sprint at Flemington.
“I’m numb. I don’t know what to say,” Gelagotis said.
“He’s an amazing horse.”
Gelagotis also paid tribute to the horse’s former trainers for the job they did and said winning races such as the Darley Classic, his second Group One win as a trainer, was a trainer’s dream.
“I felt that I didn’t need to improve the horse, the horse was already proven. And all I wanted to do was maintain that,” Gelagotis said.
“At the end of the day, my time in the game is not going to be forever and I’m just grateful of the opportunity.”
Gelagotis’ first Group One win came with Mourinho in the Underwood Stakes last year.
For Melham, it was his 12th Group One win and second in the feature sprint of the Melbourne Cup carnival after steering champion Black Caviar to victory in the race six years ago when filling in for a suspended Luke Nolen.
Melham believes Malaguerra has been underrated but was full of confidence after his first-up second in the Schillaci Stakes.
“I came here as confident as you could be going into a Group One,” Melham said.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in the horse and I just know how well he can gallop.
“He didn’t let me down.”
Melham was fined $1000 for using his whip twice more than allowed before the 100m.
Favourite Our Boy Malachi bled from both nostrils for a second time and he is banned from racing in Australia again.
Trainer Bryce Heys came agonisingly close to his first Group One win with Spieth, who jockey Brad Rawiller said should have won.
“He’s a real high-quality horse and he’ll have his day in the sun,” Heys said.