The erratic Suncraze is now equal favourite for the $500,000 Country Championship after his last-stride win in the qualifying heat at Scone.
Trained by Melanie O’Gorman, Suncraze was the $1.90 favourite for Sunday’s $150,000 race over 1400m but looked as if he might have left his run too late to catch Caerless Choice ($7.50).
He picked up under Corey Brown and surged to the line to win by a long head with both horses now qualified for the final at Randwick on April 7.
In his 12 starts, Suncraze has never finished worse than second, recording his fifth win in the Scone feature.
“I’ve said before there’s three or four of him in a race,” Brown told Sky Thoroughbred Central.
“He’s a lovely horse but he does little things wrong and it’s taken me a while to work him out.
“He stargazed a bit today.”
O’Gorman admitted she had been feeling the pressure leading into the race.
“It is a big relief,” she said.
“I was as nervous as I’ve ever been and I was feeling the pressure. I thought maybe this is the day we don’t run first or second.”
O’Gorman said she felt the pressure was now off and she would concentrate on having him spot-on for Randwick.
Suncraze has joined Kopi Luwak at the top of the market at $4.60 while Caerless Choice is an $11 chance.
The Paul Messara-trained Caerless Choice won last year’s Scone qualifying heat before finishing fourth in the final on a heavy track.
“I’m very happy with that effort,” Messara said.
“He will improve with the run and be cherry ripe for the final.”