GAI Waterhouse and Adrian Bott have repelled the international raiders, contriving a memorable Geelong Cup quinella as the Melbourne Cup aspirations of Withhold crumbled.
The Waterhouse-Bott training partnership led in locally-owned Runaway ($16) and Northwest Passage ($9.50) with Chris Waller’s import Finche $(4.80) third.
The disappointment of the race was Withhold, who bled from both nostrils, and is now automatically banned from racing for three months.
Roger Charlton’s powerful stayer also pulled up lame in a foreleg in a miserable debut for the British camp.
Sent out a $3.20 favourite, Withhold faded from second in the run to finish eighth.
Runaway currently sits at No 49 in the Melbourne Cup order of entry and will need a significant penalty from Racing Victoria’s Greg Carpenter to climb into the 24-horse field.
With only 50.5kg, Runaway would probably need to win the Hotham Handicap on VRC Derby day to gatecrash the Cup.
Trainer Gai Waterhouse gets a kiss from part-owner Anthony Mithen after Runaway's Geelong Cup win. Picture: AAP
Jockey Stephen Baster, who delivered a sublimer front-running effort, challenged Carpenter to chime in with a hefty re-handicap.
“He’s got to get a penalty, come on Greg,” he laughed.
“He’s a tough horse. I was obviously worried with the step up in class, third up, but Gai and Adrian and the team have done an amazing job.”
Based on previous year’s results, connections can probably expect no more than a 1kg penalty.
A jubilant Waterhouse said: “They had no chance of running him down, he had no intention of stopping and he won’t either when he runs again.”
Waterhouse said she would monitor both Runaway and Northwest Passage over the next 24 hours before making plans.
She has no doubt both the pair will furnish into long-term quality stayers
“I’m not the handicapper. I’d imagine he (Runaway) would get a penalty today and that always helps,” Waterhouse said.
“But they’re two very exciting stayers. This has proven over the years to be a great lead-up to the Melbourne Cup and they’re peaking at the right time.
“They’re both nominated for the Melbourne Cup ... that’s their mission and been their mission from day one.”
Stephen Baster celebrates after winning the Geelong Cup on Runaway. The winner was bred just outside Geelong at Rosemont Stud.
Owner Anthony Mithen said the Geelong connection made the win something to cherish. “He was bred at the farm and I think that makes it all the more the special,” Mithen said. “He’s wearing the colours and we still own a good chunk of him. “We took him to a sale and sold him to Gai and then went back in him actually.”
Runaway was a $150,000 yearling purchase for Gai Waterhouse and Julian Blaxland at the 2016 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale from Rosemont Stud.