Champion trainer Gai Waterhouse has her best chance to win one of the few Group One races to elude her after Dawn Passage qualified for the Stradbroke Handicap with a clear-cut win at Doomben.
Sent out the popular elect, Dawn Passage ($2.15) needed to win the Group Three Fred Best Classic over 1350m to get a ballot-free entry into the Stradbroke.
The colt shortened into $5 favourite for the winter carnival highlight when he romped away to beat Exhillirates ($6) and Subpoenaed ($4.50) on Saturday.
Waterhouse, who now trains in partnership with Adrian Bott, has had three third placegetters in the Stradbroke dating back two decades.
Dawn Passage was No.21 on the order of entry for the Stradbroke before Saturday’s race but now gets into the field with the same weight of 50kg.
Lightly weighted three-year-olds have a good record in the Stradbroke and Waterhouse has targeted the race for some time.
Trainer Chris Munce, who rode many Group One winners for Waterhouse as a jockey, was the stable representative at Doomben and said Dawn Passage was obviously the horse to beat next Saturday.
“I won two Stradbrokes as a jockey on horses down in the weights and Dawn Passage maps as well as them,” Munce said.
Jockey Brad Stewart, who earlier in the day won the Listed O’Neill Stakes on Vanna Girl, rode Dawn Passage and gave the horse a wrap,
“We sat outside the leader and he was far too good in the straight. He is the real deal as a top horse,” Stewart said.
Stewart can’t make the weight for Dawn Passage and Sydney jockey James Innes Jr will have the Stradbroke ride.
Innes has been in Brisbane in isolation which will allow him to ride next Saturday.
Dawn Passage has now won the Hawkesbury Guineas, Inglis 3YO Guineas and Fred Best Classic at his past three runs.
Larry Cassidy, who rode Exhilarates, said the filly had run well and would be a live chance if she backs up in the Stradbroke.
“I expected it to be run at much quicker pace and when the pace slackened she wasn’t suited but she ran on very well,” he said.
Michael Cahill said Subpoenaed had also not been suited when the pace early in the race had dropped off.