PETER ROBL took control of Saturday's Australia Day Cup on Shadows In The Sun as they passed the winning post for the first time, and never let go.
It was a smart show of horsemanship by the veteran, who felt Shadows In The Sun, a former South Australian Derby winner, was the strongest stayer and proved it by leading all-the-way.
But the front-running effort was not in the game plan going on to the track. "That was Peter's idea as they were going past the post," trainer Anthony Cummings said. "We wanted to be close and thought something would come across and lead us. Pete obviously felt happy to be in the lead, and it was not unlike his derby win.
"When they went 13 and 12 and a bit for a couple of furlongs down the back I thought, 'go' and he did."
Shadows In The Sun made it into a solid staying test when Robl decided to let him roll from the 1000m.
"I knew he was the best stayer and if it was genuine run 2400m I didn't think they could beat him," Robl said. "He is a group 1 winner at 2400m, so he had quality on his side.
"It was his day to stand up and be counted and he did it. The plan was actually to box seat and get going at the 800m but when nothing came across to lead me, I was happy. As I got to the 1000m I let him slide and make sure that nothing was going to come from behind me and dash quickly.
"By getting going then I took the sprint out of their legs and it turned into a battle of the toughest."
It was a brilliant ride by Robl and Kathy O'Hara admitted the move at the 1000m took her mount, Travolta, which was outside the leader, out of his comfort zone.
"My bloke was straight off the bridle when he went," O'Hara said. "He put a couple of lengths on us and we could not make that ground up."
Shadows In The Sun had 2½ lengths to spare from Travolta on the line, while the rest were led home by the favourite, Reuben Percival, another 1¾ lengths away.
Tommy Berry said it was a gutsy effort second-up by Reuben Percival after being runner-up in the Gosford Cup. "To do that, at 2400m second-up, was great and he's still got a lot more left in the tank," Berry said.
The first three home could meet again in the Mornington Cup on February 13, which carries the lure of an exemption for the ballot to the Caulfield Cup.
Cummings named it as an ideal target, especially given it is 2½ weeks away.
"He has always been a smart horse and a race like that has obvious attractions," Cummings said. "He races better with a bit of spare between his runs and he is going very well at the moment."
It was Shadows In The Sun's first win since his derby success 20 months ago but he has had his share of problems since.
"He actually got pneumonia in the spring a couple of years ago and took some time to come back from that," Cummings said. "Other than that he has had the usual issues young horses have with their legs as they are coming through but he has been sound."