Supporters of raging hot favourite Performer (by Exceed And Excel) in Saturday's $150,000, Group 3, ATC Canonbury Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens in Sydney received the shock of their life when the top-rated colt of the current juvenile racing season just managed to scramble home by a head.
A proverbial distance of a nostril would be far more precise.
Sent to post the $1.70 favourite of a five-horse affair that in no way lacked in quality, Performer played his part perfectly during the course of the contest, racing beautifully settled in third place in an ideal manner.
The unbeaten son of Exceed And Excel then proceeded to take control of the race with 100 metres to race, before matters started to turn ugly for his connections and backers.
Instead of the early leader Stratosphere (by Snitzel) conceding defeat and running a comfortably held second, the Peter & Paul Snowden trained colt kicked back to draw level with Performer in the shadows of the post.
A photo-finish was necessary to split the two gifted youngsters, with the favourite getting the verdict by the very smallest of margins.
This brace of tremendously exciting colts finished two and a half lengths clear of the minor placegetter Exceltic (by Excelebration), who in turn crossed the line 1.8 lengths ahead of Dio D’Oro in fourth.
Trailing home fifth-of-five was Catanzaro, who finished 5.4 lengths in arrears of the winner.
Stratosphere and Glyn Schofield (5) with Performer and Kerrin McEvoy outside, picture Stevehart.com.au
Performer is now two-from-two after winning the Listed ATC Breeders’ Plate in brilliant fashion during the spring.
Trained by Chris Waller on behalf of Mr C J Waller, Mr N A Greenhalgh, Mrs M Greenhalgh, Magic Bloodstock Racing, Mystery Downs, Mrs C M Cook, Mr R Smith, Mr I Bruce, Carpe Diem, Mr D N Fuller and Werrett Bloodstock Pty Ltd, the Rosehill-based mentor revealed after the victory that Performer would now head towards the Todman Stakes on his way to the Golden Slipper — to be run this year on March 24.
Unaccustomed to having such a precocious 2-year-old in his care, Waller also revealed after the win that he has consulted fellow trainer John O’Shea regarding his experiences with 2YOs and has also checked the programme of past Golden Slipper winners such as Vancouver.
Almost certainly heading towards the same coveted target is runner-up Stratosphere. Having his first race start in the Canonbury, the high-priced son of
Snitzel showed abundant speed and courage on debut and looks very much in the same league as the winner.
Official starting prices for the event were $1.70 favourite Performer, $9.00 Stratosphere, and $3.30 Exceltic.
The registered time of the race on the Soft 5 surface was 1m06.21s, with the final 600m having been run in a very respectable 33.60s.
Stride for stride, picture Sportpix.com.au
Canonbury Stakes, photo finish picture ATC