Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes 2016: Awesome KO, but the Winx bout is the one that counts

Sep 03, 2016

IN many ways it was an upside down result, helped by traffic carnage at a key point, but once the dust settled on Saturday’s Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, longshot winner Awesome Rock emerged with a golden ticket and a mighty challenge.

The ticket is now a free pass into the Cox Plate and a clash with the champion Winx, whose grip on the race may have loosened slightly after racing in two states on Saturday.

Hartnell’s Chelmsford Stakes romp at Randwick in Winx’s absence now has him a stand-alone second favourite at $10 for the Cox Plate, run on October 22 and the mare has now eased to $2.70.

Bookmakers reacted to Awesome Rock’s runaway win in one of the Plate’s traditionally reliable lead-ups — he is now $26 — but while there was joy at gaining the golden ticket, there was an instant reality check in the Corsten’s camp.

Co-trainer Troy Corstens said “I’m not going to make a stupid statement saying we can beat her (Winx) — she’s a superstar going into possibly the best weight-for-age race over 2000m in the world.’’

“But you know what? We’ve got a golden ticket and we’re going to take full advantage.’’

Most Cups and Cox Plate lead-ups are littered with hard luck runs and the Dato was no different, courtesy of a bunching of the field approaching the home turn and a severe right-hand turn from winning jockey Steve Baster, which cost him a 13-day suspension.

Awesome Rock left his carnage in his wake, racing away to beat Real Love ($41) by two lengths.

Most clobbered in the interference were Japanese import Tosen Stardom — a mighty fourth — and The United States, who was squeezed out before rallying late for sixth.

Tosen Stardom remains a $17 shot for the Plate, with The United States at $21.

The ATC Australian Derby winner Tavago raced surprisingly close on Saturday and was surprisingly well backed ($13 into $9) before fading for 11th, while Ciaron Maher’s ex-Oaks-winning mares Set Square (third) and Jameka (7th) were close-up.

For Team Corstens the disappointment at losing the Australian Cup on protest in March has long abated, with a focus on this new challenge.

“You can’t dwell on the past. The Australian Cup was what it was.’’

Corstens said Awesome Rock “he’s gone from being a boy to becoming a man”.

The Mackinnon Stakes, run over the Australian Cup course at Flemington, had long been the aim but the Plate is now irresistible.

“We’re going to have to change tack now,’’ Corstens said.

“He won an Australian Cup, he’s got the ability there and we had him in the Cox the whole way along but he needed to do something like that to stay on that path and say “righto let’s have a real crack at it.

“We can sit back for the Cox now, have a crack and see how we go.’’

Both Corstens and Baster said a couple of plain gallops leading into the Dato had dulled their confidence.

He galloped Tuesday morning and Mr Individual worked a bit better than him and in the back of my mind maybe I thought wasn't quite going as well (as last autumn,’’ Corstens said.

“Maybe he saves it for race-day.’’

Baster said the win “helped’’ heal the Australian Cup wounds and said Awesome Rock was a far better horse than when he lost to Preferment in stewards room.

“That’s the best he’s ever felt under me, he towed me into it,’’ he said.

“There wasn’t a lot of room there. He towed me and that’s what good horses do.’’

MATT STEWART, Sunday Herald Sun