Locally-owned Admiral’s Joker is headed for Flemington, targeting Group 1 glory, after storming to victory in the $200,000 bet365 Seymour Cup over 1600m on Sunday.
It was the very lightly raced seven-year-old gelding’s fourth win on the trot and trainer Kylie Vella, who was in tears after the win, is now targeting either the $2 million Cantala at Flemington on November 2 over the same classic mile as the Seymour Cup or the $2 million LKS MacKinnon Stakes over 2000m a week later.
Admiral's Joker was ridden to perfection in a disappointingly small cup field of six for the listed Seymour race, as jockey Craig Williams timed his charge down the straight to finish a long neck in front and apparently with plenty left in the tank.
For Damian Lane, riding second-placed A Shin Rook, it was a case of a Caulfield Cup one day and almost a Seymour Cup the next.
Racing’s jockey du jour after his big win in Saturday’s $5 million Caulfield Cup had three rides at Seymour. He won two of them but could not quite make it a treble and cups double.
Only a few days earlier Vella had concerns her red hot galloper might not even make the race.
“We had a hiccup that started Sunday when he was off his feed and had some coughing,” Vella said.
“In the next few days we had three sets of bloods which all came back perfect, but we also had to miss a gallop we really wanted him to have,” she said.
She didn’t feel any pressure with her horse being the favourite.
“It’s not my money,” she said with a laugh.
“Form sets the price and hopefully he’s the favourite for the right reasons”.
And he was.
With superstar Williams on board and in such a small field, she said she had not told him much pre-race “because he’s one of the best judges of form there is, and he knew exactly what he would need to do”.
Betting remained rock solid all day for the odds-on favourite and the win took his career earnings to $403,125 for a horse owned by Seymour Racing Club committee member Frank Butler and his family.
It has been a stunning rise and rise since Admiral’s Joker finally broke his maiden at Warrnambool in January. Since then he has won at Flemington and Caufield and twice at Geelong, explaining why he was sent out one of the hottest favourites in recent cup history.
The horse had a four-week freshener over April-May before coming back to win a trial in May and then an 1800m on a Saturday at Flemington before Vella put him back in the paddock for the next 16 weeks.
He came out of the spell as fast as he was going before he went in – sizzling to a long-neck win over 1118m at Geelong on September 15 and backing that up two weeks later with an even better finish in a field of 11 at Caulfield to win by a length over 1400m.
“It’s a fantastic result and it’s such a joy to have a horse like him in your stable. It makes getting out of bed that early really easy and it is great to see him finally delivering on his potential,” Vella said.
“Looking forward, the ideal would probably be the McKinnon, but we’ll speak to Craig (Williams), have a strong coffee and regroup to think about it.”
Williams has already put up his hand for the horse’s next start.
He said he still couldn’t believe how “really lucky I was” to get introduced to Admiral’s Joker.
“Steve (Vella) rang up and he was really sick and he offered me the ride, and as I knew the horse I said I’d love to,” he said.
“Since then he has let me be a part of his preparation. The only credit I deserve is to be lucky enough to be on him. Kylie and Steve deserve all the credit for managing an older horse after going through its growing pains and other things happening and the owners have supported the decisions they’ve made and have a look at him – he’s done a great job.
“His last three runs have been three wins and he’s a really, really exciting horse.”