Reliable Man gelding The Cunning Fox has reiterated his staying credentials when taking out the A$200,000 Bendigo St Leger Trial (2200m) on Saturday.
The Patrick Payne-trained three-year-old has now won three of his six starts and will be set for the Listed VRC St Leger (2800m) on April 25.
Despite being ridden just behind the leaders, jockey Billy Egan was patient before he pushed the button on the $3.90 favourite who fought off Ashy Boy by a half length.
Sporting the colours of Joe O’Neill’s Prime Thoroughbreds, there was further confidence when elusive Plumpton trainer Patrick Payne was on course at Bendigo.
“Patrick has done a great job, he said about a month ago that this was the race for him, we just had to work out how he was going to get him here,” O’Neill said.
“He had to run him in the Alister Clark Stakes (Gr.2, 2040m), which wasn’t ideal, but when Paddy turned up here today I thought, ‘this is a good sign’
“He’s a lovely progressive horse. He’ll go the Galilee Series Final now on Easter Saturday at Caulfield and then onto the St Leger.”
Winning Jockey Billy Egan was keen to stick closer to the fence on the turn and believes the handy stayer will continue to improve into the campaign.
“It was a very tough performance. He’s probably still a little bit fresh early in his campaign and a little above himself so I was hoping he might have switched off a little more in the run, but he is a tough bastard so I knew I was wearing out, but I knew he still had a fair bit there,” Egan said.
“I just wanted to stay in. I didn’t want to be taken off my course too much, I thought that could be the difference at the end of the race, I could feel him (Ashy Boy) coming and I just thought because he had done that little bit of work that might be the difference.
“I thought if I could save a length and cut through the inside that could be the difference and it was in the end.
“As stayers do, they get better deeper into their preparations, so he’s got a big heart and I think that’ll take him a long way. You know he’s a fighter.”
The Cunning Fox was bred by Sven Hanson and was a $34,000 yearling purchase by O’Neill on the Gold Coast.
Hanson and wife Carina bred and raced Reliable Man, who stands at Westbury Stud in New Zealand.
Reliable Man is the sire of three Southern Hemisphere Group One winners among his 31 stakes performers and he went within a neck of a Derby winner when Benaud finished runner-up to Hitotsu in the Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m).