Melbourne Cup favourite Incentivise kicked off his Spring Carnival campaign in style, leading all of the way to win the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
After winning a 1600m maiden at the Sunshine Coast on April 11, the son of Shamus Award went through his grades in Queensland for his breeder, part owner and former trainer, Steve Tregea, taking out five-straight races including a 12-length romp in the Group 3 Tattersall’s Cup at Eagle Farm on June 26.
Leviathan owners Brae Sokolski and Ozzie Kheir bought into the five-year-old gelding with big Victorian spring goals in mind, with the first box being ticked on Saturday.
Now trained by Peter Moody, the heavily backed favourite led the field from barrier three under Brett Prebble and held off the challenges from Mo’unga and Sir Dragonet.
Despite collecting the $600,000 first-place prize and keeping the picket fence intact, the gelding’s new trainer wasn’t fully sold on the win, keeping an open mind as he heads towards the first Tuesday in November.
“It was a very good effort, he didn’t look comfortable at any stage – I don’t think he got on his right leg,” Moody said on Racing.com.
“It’ll be interesting to have chat to Brett; he certainly didn’t change down in the straight, so nice improvement to come.
“Probably not the way we intended to go about it but I just left that totally up to Brett and as we’ve seen the further he gets into a race he builds nicely, so even though they got to him you know he was going to keep going.
Incentivise will now head to the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) on October 2, where a potential clash with Cox Plate favourite Zaaki beckons.
“We’ve only got one more run between now and the Cup which would probably be the Turnbull (Stakes), so time to build on it and hopefully we can get him on his Melbourne leg in some stage,” Moody said.
While the win made it seven straight for the former Queensland-based runner, it also gave Prebble back-to-back Melbourne Group 1 victories, after taking out the Memsie Stakes on Behemoth on August 28.
“I had to ask him for his little bit of speed from the barrier, but that’s totally understandably because he’s coming back from obviously longer trips,” the jockey told Racing.com.
“I also had to bear in mind there was no leader, so I was pretty keen to take the front.
“I thought he had a nice enough time in front, he got his action good and he was on his right leg, and it was game over I thought. Once I had him on his right leg, which he was at Cranbourne trials, I was never really doubtful.
Prebble won the Melbourne Cup in 2012 aboard Green Moon and believes Incentivise has what it takes to win it some nine years later.
“It’s a long way to go, a lot of water to go under the bridge,” he said.
“I’ve been in this position before, and you’ve got to be here (Flemington) on the first Tuesday in November in the same form as that.
“As long as Pete can keep him healthy and the horse keeps within himself, I think he’s good enough to win it.”
The win saw Incentivise shorten into $4.60 favouritism in the Caulfield Cup betting and $8.50 to win the race that stops a nation.