Veteran galloper Justacanta continues to thrive in Australia this spring and landed his second stakes race of the campaign when winning the Gr.2 Linlithgow Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
A Group Three performer in New Zealand, Justacanta was transferred by trainers Shaun and Emma Clotworthy to Patrick Payne in Victoria earlier in the spring, after trialling well on two occasions.
The eight-year-old has run well in all bar his first-up assignment at Moonee Valley and came from last on Saturday under a perfectly timed Dean Yendall ride to run down a solid field to land his most lucrative spoils to date.
The son of Per Incanto relished being held-up for a late dash at his rivals to nail Kemalpasa and Isaurian, the same winning tactics that had been employed when he won the Listed Paris Lane Stakes (1410m) two starts back.
“Patrick was pretty keen on him on the way he’d been working and the way he’d been looking going into today,” Yendall said of the $17 winner.
“He did think it might be a bit strong for him, but it was worth a throw at the stumps. We hit that middle wicket and really knocked those bails clean off today.
“It was a funny run race. We split. It was only a small field but I didn’t expect to split like that. I thought my best option halfway was to follow Brooklyn Hustle to get the slipstream and just come off it’s back there.
“I thought I had plenty in hand and he attacked the line well. I probably rode him a bit ‘good’ at Caulfield (when a last-start third). He didn’t find the line whereas the start before he got held up and was really strong to the line.
“I was saying to Patrick when we rode some work at St Arnaud during the week that I thought I got going a little bit early on him at Caulfield. He didn’t really finish the race off.
“I had that in the back of my mind to have the last crack at them and Patrick was trying to do the same sort of thing.”
The campaign has proved a lucrative one thus far, with A$308,900 added to Justacanta’s prizemoney earnings in five starts in Victoria, having previously banked NZ$ $157,731 in 47 starts in New Zealand.
The current ownership group purchased the handy galloper for just $6,000 as a tried horse off gavelhouse.com, with the Little Avondale-bred son of Per Incanto winning three starts for Hamilton trainer David Greene.
The Clotworthy’s retain a share in the horse whose ownership includes neighbour Len Phillips.
“We just woke the neighbourhood up here,” an elated Phillips said.
“Patrick’s report on him this morning was really positive and this has been a six-month plan to get him to Australia to run at Flemington.
“We were looking at potentially backing him up on the last day over 1400m (Gr.3 Chatham Stakes) but now that he has won this, we will probably have to have a think about it and save him a little bit.
“All credit to Shaun and Emma. He was pretty touchy when we bought him off gavelhouse.com. He had some bad habits and they looked after him and got him to where he is now.”
Phillips had enjoyed previous success with Patrick Payne, having raced Orakei Overlord who won four races for the Plumpton trainer.
Bred by Little Avondale Stud, the son of the proven Street Cry stallion Per Incanto is the best of four winners from seven to race out of the Casual Lies mare Just Casual, a sister to the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner So Casual. – NZ Racing Desk