Hugh Bowman has warmed up for his ride on champion Winx by claiming the other Group One race at the two-day Cox Plate carnival, the Manikato Stakes.
The Darren Weir-trained Brave Smash took out Friday night’s 1200m-sprint in a thrilling finish from Irish raider Spirit Of Valour with Kementari in third place.
Winx and Bowman line up for an attempt to win an historic fourth Cox Plate on Saturday at Moonee Valley.
Weir kept an ace up his sleeve, waiting until Friday night before applying blinkers to Brave Smash’s race gear.
“He was set for The Everest but found a wet track which we hoped he’d handle,” Bowman said.
“I said don’t put them on the Everest.I didn’t think he needed them. But he was primed for this evening.
“He always runs well here at Moonee Valley and I think the blinkers added have certainly helped.”
Weir said he contemplated putting the blinkers on for The Everest in which Brave Smash finished eighth behind Redzel.
“The plan was to put the blinkers on in the Everest but Hughie said he probably didn’t need them, but he needed them tonight to get in the right spot,” Weir said.
“He got a great ride. He pinged the gates and got into a really nice spot.
“We thought we had him right going to Sydney but in the end it was the track.
“You get it wrong a lot but we got it right tonight.”
Brave Smash is one of a growing number of imported Japanese horses Weir trains for Australian Bloodstock.
Weir said the team headed by Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell were a pleasure to deal with.
“We haven’t had a great six months or so, but they never whinge,” Weir said.
“They stick solid and I’m sure they’ll find more of these types of horses.”
Aidan O’Brien’s travelling foreman TJ Comerford said the team was pleased with the performance of runner-up Spirit Of Valour who presses on to the VRC Sprint at Flemington on November 10.
“Aidan is very happy,” Comerford said.
“It’s not easy bringing sprinters down here to Australia but he’s done a great job.”
The well-supported $4.40 favourite Sunlight finished seventh with jockey Tim Clark blaming a slow beginning.
“We got in an awkward position and then in the straight we didn’t get a clear crack at them,” he said.