Roger James & Robert Wellwood didn’t get to see their star filly Prowess (+360) in the Cox Plate, but after Mark Zahra produced a brilliant ride on the winner, the stable will be very happy to take home the Group 2 Crystal Mile instead.
A small field of six runners took part in the 1600m contest, with the race favourite Tuvalu (+160) and Just Folk (+2200) leading the field up to the 400m, before the moves began to come from the jockeys back in the field.
The first to make a move was James McDonald on Bankers Choice (+1000) which ultimately found the second favourite Antino (+170) and Blake Shinn in a pocket searching for a run between horses.
When the field began their run for the judge and a needle eye gap opened between the slowing leaders and Zahra was quick to take it and hit the lead.
Antino flew up the inside rail to finish a luckless runner-up.
2023 Crystal Mile Replay – Prowess | T: Roger James & Robert Wellwood| J: Mark Zahra
Representing the winning stable, Robert Wellwood spoke post-race.
“It is great to be back over here and winning again,” Wellwood said.
“Ideally we would have like to have been running in the Cox Plate but she just had a few little niggles.
“They weren’t major but just stopped her natural improvement at times.
“We’ve been able to get the preparation back on track but all going well from here we’ll head to the last day at Flemington and really looking forward to seeing her over further too.
“She’s in awesome order and in hindsight the setbacks have probably been a blessing in disguise.
“She’s developed and I really think come next year she’ll be even bigger and stronger. She’s pretty immature.
“It’ll be terrific to be here next year going 440 metres further.”
Mark Zahra brought up a riding double for Cox Plate Day, and he spoke post-race.
“I was able to have a really nice resting run,” Zahra said.
“The tempo wasn’t strong and Blake (Shinn on Antino) made a couple of moves to make the work a bit harder but all the meantime I was resting, resting, resting.
“Then I think it was J-Mac on Bankers Choice made a move early which pocketed Antino and I made a move at the right time and she was too good.
“She’s a big and strong as ever.
“She’s huge. She’s a big mare and I reckon she’ll improve a lot from today.
“There’s still a lot of improvement to come. When I got the gap I thought she’d scoot away but I reckon she’s still a bit ring rusty this prep and I reckon she’ll improve off that.”