THE reputation of the Lexus Stakes as a tip-top form reference for the Melbourne Cup was boosted once again yesterday when Saturday's winner, Kelinni, ran a slashing race to finish fourth, three lengths behind winner Green Moon.
The Glen Boss-ridden five-year-old gelding from the Sydney stable of Chris Waller backed up in terrific fashion. Always prominent, he ran in the first three throughout only to be deprived of a trifecta spot by Jakkalberry's late run.
It is the best performance by a Waller-trained horse in the great race and, with another year under his belt, the son of Refuse to Bend, who was having his 19th start, could be a lively contender, although he will surely be asked to carry more than the 51 kilograms he shouldered yesterday.
Boss, who knows plenty about winning this race, said the superior class of the winner was too much but Kelinni lacked nothing in gameness.
''He gave me a great ride. He lacked class when Green Moon put the gap on him but he toughed it out right to the line.''
Previously known as the Saab, the Dalgety and the Hotham Handicap (among others), the 2500-metre race on Derby day which guarantees the winner a Cup start should probably be called the Last Chance Saloon Stakes, although the winners have been far from hopeless cases.
The 2011 winner, Niwot, was the first Australian horse home - albeit in eighth position - but he at least picked up his $100,000 for finishing in the top 10 in the Cup last year. In 2010 the Lexus hero Maluckyday ran a gallant Cup second to Americain, while in 2009 Shocking won his way into the Cup field for Mark Kavanagh and three days later took out the big prize.
Maybe Better, the 2006 winner, finished third to the Japanese quinella Delta Blues and Pop Rock in 2006, while six years earlier Brew had set a precedent for Shocking by winning on the Saturday and then in the Cup.
Gai Waterhouse has yet to win a Cup and would have been delighted with the efforts not just of runner-up Fiorente but also sixth-placed Glencadam Gold. The English import had disappointed in the Caulfield Cup when favourite and there had been doubts over his Cup participation, but his trainer persevered and was rewarded with a gutsy run. He made the running under Tommy Berry until he was swamped in the final 400 metres.
A major disappointment in the race was four-year-old Ethiopia, one of the few Australian-bred runners in the field. The Pat Carey-trained galloper had stamped himself a stayer of promise with his triumph last autumn in the ATC Derby, but he finished a distance behind the second-last horse Tac de Boistron and his jockey, Rhys McLeod, reportedly said: ''He pulled up sore. When I asked for an effort he had no drive from behind.''