Chris Waller’s Group 1 winning stallion Vanbrugh, carrying the colours of part-owners Windsor Park Stud, was back in the winners’ stall on Caulfield Cup Day taking out the Group 3 Coongy Cup 2016 over the imported and also back-in-form Tom Melbourne.
A now four-year-old son of Encosta De Lago, Vanbrugh was at his peak last spring in Sydney winning the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m).
He was also brave in the autumn including a fourth to Tarzino in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) over the same distance.
This time in Waller had kept the galloper to shorter distances targeting the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m).
Things went amiss in that October 1 run at Randwick however with Vanbrugh following an excellent lead-up run for fourth to Winx in the Group One George Main Stakes over the Randwick 1600m.
He was back up to his pet trip today in the $150,000 Group 3 Coongy Cup (2000m) and he relished getting back out over the trip.
Young jockey Ben Melham had the mount, his first on the horse, and gave Vanbrugh a peach of a ride in a genuinely run race.
After roughie hope and eventual fourth placed Rose Of Virginia took up the surprise early lead, eventually veteran nine-year-old The Cleaner did as expected and moved up to set the pace after working hard from out wide.
The Cleaner hit the lead at the top of the hill, while the Lee & Anthony Freedman-trained Tom Melbourne moved into second.
Melham meanwhile has Vanbrugh settled into a lovely position just off the pace in fifth working into the race nicely as they approached the home turn.
The hot favourite It’s Somewhat coming off the gun lead-up form in Sydney including a last start win in the Group 3 Craven Plate (2000m) was ridden for luck by Hugh Bowman.
Looking ready to retire from the racing game, The Cleaner quickly dropped out of contention as he was headed by lightly-raced Dylan Thomas six-year-old Tom Melbourne into the straight.
Vanbrugh then moved up quickly on his outside and the two fought it out.
With 100m to go Vanbrugh ($5) got into the clear and held out Tom Melbourne ($4.80) by a neck, while the beaten favourite It’s Somewhat ($2.50) crossed a notable distance back for third.
Tom Melbourne with the tongue tie on was much improved after his sixth to Real Love at Moonee Valley last start in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2000m), but Vanbrugh still had too much class.
After getting held-up and coming off a chequered path, It’s Somewhat should still have finished closer based on his short price in betting.
All the credit then went to the strong winner Vanbrugh who Melham had rated a good chance pre-race.
“I was able to ride him into a nice spot,” he said.
“He travelled really well throughout the run and he was really strong to the line".
Waller is now considering next-up options for the Coongy Cup winner who he hopes could feature at Flemington on November 5 in the new-look $2 million Group 1 Emirates Stakes (2000m) – formerly the Mackinnon Stakes – as the bigger name hopes drop out for the season.
“He’s a Group 1 winning colt and the 2000m has obviously seen the best of him today,” Waller said.
“I’m not 100% sure [where to next], but the beauty of the spring is there’s so many options.
“We’ll be sticking to the 2000m distance.
“He’s a colt and already a Group 1 winner so we’re entitled to aim a little bit higher and try to build on that value.
“Maybe the Mackinnon [sic] falls away [class wise], and it would need to, but we’re ready to go in whatever race eventuates.”