On the run: Vatuvei and Luke Nolen head to the line at Moonee Valley yesterday. Photo: Pat Scala
MOONEE VALLEY CUP
YESTERDAY'S Moonee Valley Cup will play little part in the make-up of the Melbourne Cup field in nine days but could do so in 12 months' time after improving four-year-old Vatuvei ran away from the older stayers to win comfortably.
Vatuvei's jockey, Luke Nolen, said connections were ''not kidding themselves'' that their emerging horse could yet mix it with the best local and international stayers this spring. But he said the horse was showing all the signs that it might be a different story next year when he is a five-year-old.
''He's still a bit behind at this stage and we're not kidding ourselves,'' Nolen said. ''He has to rise another cog and a half to be competitive with those [Melbourne Cup] horses and he's not completely physically matured, so we'll wait another year with him. But he's going about it the right way and he's going to continue to improve.''
Trained by Peter Moody, who was not at Moonee Valley yesterday, Vatuvei ($13) was at the tail of the field at the 800-metre mark but moved into a position to pounce on the home turn and came through the field to chase down the brave Reuben Percival ($9.50) to win by a length and a half, with two lengths to the consistent Ironstein ($5) in third.
Vatuvei will be penalised for the win but he's on the Melbourne Cup limit weight of 50 kilograms and will only rise a few spots from his mark of 44th in order with the likely 1.5-kilogram penalty.
Trainer Gai Waterhouse said Reuben Percival, who refused to give in after being on-pace throughout, would progress to the Lavazza (2800 metres) on Melbourne Cup day and then the Sandown Cup (3200 metres). But she said she would still have two Melbourne Cup runners, in beaten Caulfield Cup favourite Glencadam Gold and the imported Fiorente.
''Glencadam Gold is in great nick and he just needs a bit of racing, so we're going to run him in the Lexus on Derby day and then go to the Cup from there,'' she said. ''Things didn't go his way at Caulfield but I'm very happy with him.''
As for Fiorente, who only flew into Melbourne eight days ago, Waterhouse said she was excited at the prospect of saddling him up on Melbourne Cup day.
''He's really improved with the sun on his back since he's been here and we're going to put blinkers on him for the first time in the Cup, and I think we'll see a pretty good horse,'' she said.
One man not sweating on a Melbourne Cup run is trainer Gerald Ryan, who said he would happily pay the second Melbourne Cup declaration for Ironstein after he finished off well for third. ''I'm happy with the way he's going so we'll pay up for sure,'' Ryan said.
''But he's 33rd in order, so he's no certainty to make the field. But if he doesn't we can do what we did last year and that is target the Queen Elizabeth [Stakes].''
Ironstein was balloted out of the Melbourne Cup last year so was eligible for a $100,000 bonus on top of the $150,000 first prize for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run over 2600 metres on final day at Flemington.
Ryan said Flemington would suit Ironstein more than Moonee Valley. ''He wanted to lay in as he did here in the JRA Cup, so getting to a big track will certainly suit him,'' he said.
The disappointment of the race was the imported Midas Touch, who opened at $3.70 and was out to $4.20 by race time.
He travelled forward but was caught wide and after finally settling in second placing behind the Adelaide Cup winner Rialya, was the first horse beaten before tailing off to finish last some 3½ lengths behind another import- Ibicenco ($7), who dropped out at the 600-metre mark.