Moody’s Recommendation Rings True
Highly Recommended relished the jump to 2040m in the Alister Clark Stakes.
He had to survive a protest, but Highly Recommended earned a possible tilt at next month's Group 1 AJC Derby with victory in tonight's Top Cut Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
The mega-consistent colt vindicated Peter Moody's decision to remain in Melbourne for the $200,000 Group 2 rather than head to Sydney tackle Manawanui, Mosheen and company in the Randwick Guineas with his strong win in the 2040-metre event.
The victory confirmed Moody's belief that the son of Fastnet Rock, who finished fifth behind Mosheen in the 1600m Australian Guineas, was looking for ten furlongs which he will get another shot at in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas on 31 March.
“He's raced at the top level his whole career and we've really looked forward to getting him out to the mile-and-a-quarter,” Moody said. “ We targeted the Rosehill Guineas for him off the back of his spring campaign and it's slowly starting to come together.
“Very few horses win their first run at a mile-and-a-quarter, so it stands him in good stead going forward because they usually improve considerably off that one run at that trip.
“He's beaten a Derby winner (Sangster) there, so we might have to look beyond the Guineas maybe.”
The $2 million AJC Australian Derby (2400m) is at Randwick on 14 April.
Highly Recommended held a half-length margin over Ethiopia at the end of the Alister Clark Stakes, but had to survive a protest from that horse's rider, Rhys McLeod, before being declared the winner.
McLeod alleged interference around 200m from home and while stewards conceded he was impeded, they weren't convinced it cost him the race and let the placings stand.
Victoria Derby winner Sangster, who set a fast tempo and looked to have pinched the race at the 400m, held on for third in a promising return to form after two disappointing runs back from a spell.
Winning jockey Luke Nolen, who combined with Moody to win last Saturday's Australian Cup with Manighar, said it was a good performance and expected improvement in Sydney with the run at 2040m under his belt.
“Even though he pulled a little in the middle stages, I thought the overall performance was quite good and he's obviously a horse of a very good pedigree, so it's important to win Black Type with these type of horses,” Nolen said.
“Stepping to 2000 metres for the first time, they've got to be usually pretty good win and even better to win in stakes grade, so Pete's obviously done a very good job with him.”
Highly Recommended's win completed a winning double for Moody and Nolen, who combined to win the Essendon Mazda 55 Second Challenge heat with Kulgrinda.
The classy four-year-old wasn't able to better General Truce's benchmark time of 55.28secs for the 955m journey, but she still cruised to an effortless win under 60kg in 57.24secs.