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11/03/02 Old Comrade Downs Northerly in Australian Cup
0311oldcomrade.jpg (11512 bytes)Attempting a second straight Australian Cup the star Perth galloper Northerly has been upstaged by a fellow West Australian in today's $1.255 million Australian Cup at Flemington.

After racing midfield the Lindsey Smith trained gelding swept up on the outside of his hometown rival Northerly and the George Hanlon trained Rain Gauge to win his best race during a short, yet illustrious career.

By the little known WA based sire Old Spice, Old Comrade won his sixth race today and boosted his prizemoney earnings to nearly $1.8 million - an impressive figure considering today was only start number 20.

0311trophy.jpg (10447 bytes)A jubilant Smith, who labelled the win as "clearly my best," said he was confident his gelding would run well in today's Group One feature after encouraging lead up runs.

The winning trainer also paid tribute to horse's fighting courage and toughness he had shown during this somewhat unconvential program.

"He's amazed me with his courage," Smith said. "Each week I've brought it up to him and he's responded well."

In a strange change to his training regime Smith dropped the gelding back from 1400 metres at his first Melbourne start this preparation back to the 1100 metres of the Oakleigh Plate. Then a week later the gelding was backed up in the 1800 metre St George Stakes and after looking a chance of downing the favourite Northerly on that day his run ended just before the finish and he was three parts of a length from Northerly on that day.

0311oldcomrade2.jpg (11400 bytes)Just over a week later the gelding looked ideal and raced accordingly giving Perth based jockey Paul Harvey an armchair ride.

"The race was basically run to suit as the pace was on early and he got a dry track which was really to his liking," Harvey said moments after winning.

International plans for Old Comrade are still a chance, although a chance to represent Australia in Dubai later this month is hanging in the balance.

"He was due to fly out tomorrow," the gelding's owner Bob Peters said.

0311bobpeters.jpg (7915 bytes)"But if that is the only flight we can arrange for him then he will not be going. He would arrive too early for the race and he won't be able to be worked in the proper fashion."

"He takes a lot of work and he doesn't even do a lot on the track anyway," Peters said referring to the gelding's work agenda which normally includes hill work and swimming.

"It's no use taking a horse over there just to run. We have to make sure he is at his top," Peters added.

"Sunline ran third in the same race last year and she's a pretty good mare isn't she."

Racing authorities in Dubai are desperate to get the Perth star to their country for the World Cup meeting and connections would head there if a suitable flight can be found in the interim.

0311paulharvey.jpg (8870 bytes)Les Benton, a former local racing administrator, was believed to have also called Fred Kersley the trainer of Northerly aiming at convincing him to contemplate a trip to their country.

If Old Comrade was to head to Dubai connections have announced the Dubai Duty Free over 1777 metres on turf would be his target. As menitoned earlier Sunline ran third in the same race last year.

Damien Oliver, the rider of Northerly, said after the race he was pleased with the effort of the reigning Cox Plate winner.

"He ran terrific," Oliver said. "We were just beaten by a better horse on the day."

0311lindseysmith.jpg (9071 bytes)"Old Comrade is a brilliant horse and he sure enjoyed the better track today than we got in their last clash," Oliver added.

Connections of the third placegetter Rain Gauge, last year's Moonee Valley Cup winner, were thrilled with the effort of their Kenvain gelding.

George Hanlon said he was "tickled pink" with Rain Gauge before saying he was unsure which race he would target saying "there were a lot of options now and we will just have to look at them all."

The jockey who rode Rain Gauge, Patrick Payne, said the gelding would be "right up to the good races" in the near future.

Brett Prebble the rider of the fourth placegetter, the consistent three-year-old Royal Code, said his colt found the 2000 metres just a touch too far today.

0311oldcomrade3.jpg (9311 bytes)"He had every chance but he just didn't run out the race right to the finish. He's sure to appreciate dropping back in distance," Prebble said.

The disappointing effort of the race came from the consistent Roger James trained mare Piper Star who finished last in the field of eleven, some 16.4 lengths from the winner.

Giovana was lost to the race after going amiss following an impressive gallop on Saturday.

The mare has been retired and she will be served by Fusaichi Pegasus in her first season later this year.

PICS - Quentin Lang.

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