Close call: Red Tracer (left) beats Catkins. Photo: Pat Scala
Red Tracer had not won over 1600 metres before Saturday, but she needed every centimetre of the trip to gun down stablemate Catkins, handing Chris Waller a group 1 double.
An easing $3.10 favourite, Red Tracer scored a final-stride win in the Myer Classic, adding to the group 1 Tatts Tiara she scooped at the Brisbane winter carnival.
Nash Rawiller was forced to extract every last ounce out of Red Tracer over the final 100 metres with the more celebrated of the Waller runners collaring Catkins ($8) on the line to win by a short half-head.
But Waller expects Catkins to be on the other side of the group 1 ledger next preparation.
''I think Catkins will be the next Red Tracer and her turn will certainly come,'' he said. ''She's a very good mare and has come a long way each and every preparation … this preparation especially.
''The connections might have to wait until next prep, but there's a group 1 there. Obviously we were looking at other ones finishing off, but in the last 100 metres it became quite clear we were going to fight out the finish and I thought Catkins had the upper hand.
''To Red Tracer's credit, she did pull it back. It's quite a surreal feeling and pretty special.''
Waller was a relieved man after Zoustar handed Jim Cassidy his 100th group 1 winner in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and Red Tracer only added to his celebratory day.
Forced to wait 29 starts to finally rack up a major, the Dane Shadow six-year-old returned to Flemington to dispel doubts she couldn't win over a mile.
Red Tracer tracked Catkins into the straight and peeled off the back of Craig Newitt's mount to set up a driving finish, with Fire Up Fifi ($6.50) safely held in third.
''She's a special mare and I think that's my seventh win on her,'' Rawiller said. ''I felt like she'd had enough 100 metres out because Catkins found again and we were really labouring, but to her credit her will to win got her through.
''I was very concerned mid-race because she was too keen and she was still pulling me out of the saddle at the 600 metres because I couldn't get her to switch off.''
Newitt praised Catkins, who will be geared towards the Coolmore Classic at Sydney's autumn carnival.
''She fights for you and I was in front every bit of the way bar the line,'' he said.
''Swap the runs around and I reckon I win by a couple of lengths. When the chips are down better horses pack it in, but she just keeps finding for you.
''The winner was pitchforked in at set weights. We all know what she's done. With another whole preparation under her belt, she [Catkins] will win a group 1, don't worry.''
Fire Up Fifi had sped home behind Red Tracer in the Tristarc Stakes at Caulfield a fortnight ago and again had too much to do in an on-pace dominated Myer Classic.
''We just got beat by two good 'uns,'' trainer Robert Heathcote said. ''You have to be proud of the mare to do that at weight-for-age.''