Saturday, 18 August 2012
: The right race conditions coupled with a spot-on preparation paved the way to the return to the winner’s box of honest middle-distance performer Maurice Utrillo in the $150,000 Causeway Classic Stakes (1800m) on Friday night.
| Maurice Utrillo|
Photo by Racing and Sports
Twenty starts have come under the belt of the six-year-old by Sadler’s Wells since his last win in May 2011, but barring a few placings, they had mainly been barely noticeable.
But his last couple of runs without blinkers when he made late ground towards the business end did suggest a return to form, especially his last-start fifth to Chase Me in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1800m) three weeks ago.
With only 52.5kg allotted in the Set-Weights race and a perfect draw in barrier No 1, the connections could afford to believe the previous five-time winner could bounce back to his best in Friday’s mini feature.
The Patrick Shaw-trained gelding was also well supported in the betting ($29) despite being pitted against up-and-coming sorts like Dujardin (Joao Moreira), Lightning Thief (Greg Cheyne) and Freezemaster (Stephen Baster).
Stoked up by jockey Barend Vorster at the point of turn, Maurice Utrillo
, who had all along followed in third on the rails, swung for home right on the hammer of even-money favourite Dujardin who had tried to pinch the race when he whipped around the field to race past the leaders Sakima (Saifudin Ismail) and Keep Away (Alan Munro) at the 300m.
The Laurie Laxon-trained stayer, who finished fifth in the Emirates Singapore Derby, dug deep and looked home and hosed, but Vorster would not let up on his mount as they kept chipping away to eventually wear down Dujardin inside the last 100m for a well-earned head victory. Keep Away boxed on well to hang on for third place another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was a pretty smart 1min 53.62secs.
“He’s always been an honest horse and the key was to finding the right race for him. He’s been running on at his last races and he fully deserved the win tonight,” said Shaw.
“I have to say he was also well weighted, had a nice draw, and Barend put him in the right spot throughout the race.
“We also took off the blinkers a few runs back and it’s paid off. We just wanted to play around and keep his mind on the job or else they can get stale.”
Vorster, who has now partnered the Irish-bred to five of his six wins, said he had every reason to be confident of victory going into the race.
“He was a happy horse coming into the race. His work had been very good and everything fell into place,” said the South African hoop.
“They went really quickly at the 800m, but I just bided my time as he’s a horse with a short but steady burst.
“Once I got a clear run, he quickened really well and I knew he would get there.”
Maurice Utrillo is now the veteran of 35 starts for a handy record of six wins and 10 placings for stakes earnings inching close to the half-million mark for South African owner Fred Crabbia.