Protest heartbreak for connections of Awesome Rock in Australian Cup

Mar 23, 2016

For the third time in recent weeks the Flemington stewards room was the centre of drama, with stewards reversing the result of the $1.5 million Australian Cup.

The result meant heartbreak for the father-son training combination of Leon and Troy Corstens when their tough stayer, Awesome Rock, had the group 1 event taken from them and given to the Sydney-trained Preferment.

Protests on three important races lately, all at Flemington, have been major talking points. However, Saturday's objection was clearcut, leaving stewards no alternative but to uphold the objection by jockey Hugh Bowman of Preferment.

Bowman's mount was over a length behind Awesome Rock when that horse came into contact with Preferment, with the latter reducing it to a short half-head.

Again anxious owners had to wait as stewards considered their verdict and after a long break they moved Preferment from second place to first, giving the champion Chris Waller stable yet another group 1 victory.

 Chief steward Terry Bailey said stewards had no problem with the fairness of the race between the 400m and 300m mark, however they took exception to a bump from Awesome Rock on Preferment with 200m to go.

Bailey said that considering the short half-head margin between the pair they felt Preferment had been denied victory.

A philosophical Troy Corstens said later: "That's part of racing and I'm disappointed but these things happen."

In a sporting gesture Waller said that he felt for the owners of Awesome Rock in those critical minutes after the protest.

"I do feel for them, it must be very difficult, it was a short margin and today it went our way. But the horse is certainly deserving of a race like this as his form leading up to today had been very good," Waller said.

Most racegoers went to Flemington on Saturday convinced they would see a potential sprinting champion in Chautauqua and a classy former international Bow Creek, who could in time test the all-conquering Sydney mare Winx.

But it wasn't to be. Popular Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths had never made a secret of the fact he believed The Quarterback was a group 1 racehorse and on Saturday at Flemington racegoers saw why he held such a strong opinion of the horse.

"It was my first group 1, we've been getting close, but just couldn't nail it," he said. "The stable had been going really well, we're in the top 10 in the state but we just couldn't snare that group 1 winner."

In contrast Chautauqua loomed up in the closing stages in the Newmarket but couldn't find that scintillating final 50 metres he was able to show a fortnight earlier in the Lightning.

Bow Creek, as is his way, missed the start in the Australian Cup and despite weaving his way through the field in the straight he never loomed as a genuine threat of collaring the leading pair.

And for jockey Glen Boss, Australian Cup day was a highly forgettable affair. When the gates opened for the Kewney Stakes, his mount, Pasadena Girl, stood flat-footed and took no part in the race.

Forty minutes later the jockey was trotting his mount, Counterattack, to the gates when he was dumped near the winning post and the horse was scratched.

And in other news, high-class stayer Signoff has been scratched from the Adelaide Cup after running a high temperature soon after arriving in Adelaide.

PATRICK BARTLEY