Shiraz has passed his biggest test yet to continue on his winning way in the Aurie’s Star Handicap.
In a head-bobbing finish to Saturday’s Group Three sprint at Flemington, Shiraz got his nose down at the right time to deny last-start Listed winner Play Master by the barest margin.
The Tony McEvoy-trained Shiraz started the $3.30 favourite in his first stakes test after two impressive wins in Sydney this campaign, and jockey Damien Oliver and McEvoy’s foreman Barry Wintle praised the gelding’s fighting qualities.
“I thought the second horse had me cold inside the furlong but he really dug in when I needed him to,” Oliver said.
Le Bonsir finished another three quarters of a length away third while Group One winner Trust In A Gust, who had 6kg more than his rivals in his return, finished seventh after over-racing without cover.
Oliver wasn’t sure whether he had won on Shiraz while Play Master’s jockey Craig Newitt thought he had got there on Play Master.
“I feel sorry for the horse because he was in front before and after the post,” Newitt said.
“He gave me a good ride, the other horse just rallied.”
Shiraz and Play Master are poised to clash again in the Group Two Bobbie Lewis Quality.
After starting his career country NSW with Dubbo trainer Peter Nestor, Shiraz has taken his record to nine wins from 14 starts and Wintle is convinced the best is yet to come.
“That was an amazing effort for a horse having his first try down the straight and for a horse travelling interstate for the first time,” Wintle said.
“He looked beaten there at the 100-metre mark but he just wants to win and that’s what he keeps doing.
“He’ll improve a hell of a lot down the straight the next time.”
After beginning quickly, Oliver was able to get Shiraz back to get cover behind Decircles until he had to peel to his inside at the 400m.
Shiraz made his run and got the better of Le Bonsir then had to kept finding as Play Master sprinted between runners to challenge.
Trainer Peter Smith said Play Master had tried his heart out again, falling just short of giving the trainer his first Group winner.
Article from justhorseracing.com.au