Hitotsu joins greats as dual Flemington classic winner
Champion colt Hitotsu created history in the $1 million Australian Guineas at Flemington today, becoming the first ever Guineas winner to head into the contest first-up and also setting himself up for a lucrative year that could result in a Lexus Melbourne Cup berth.
Hitotsu's long neck defeat of last year's Group 2 VRC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) winner Lightsaber under a heady John Allen ride also placed the Maurice three-year-old in rare company, joining King's High and Mahogany as three-year-olds to win both of Flemington's classics - the Group 1 Penfolds Victoria Derby (2500m) in the spring and the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) in the autumn.
An emotional David Eustace, who trains Hitotsu in partnership with Ciaron Maher, paid tribute to his UK-based parents who were trackside to witness their son take one of the jewels of the turf.
“It’s great to have mum and dad here,” he said. “I’m gutted that the boss isn’t here, he’s up in Sydney and we don’t get to share many big wins. I’m really proud of the whole team, though. It was an awesome ride and he’s just a really good horse.
“We were confident but I was a little worried about whether we had the speed to accelerate at the mile, but he needed every inch of the mile. It wasn’t a very nice last 100m. Johnny’s got so much faith in the horse and is rarely too confident, but he was really confident.”
Allen said that the fact Hitotsu managed to win the Australian Guineas fresh was testament to the horse’s ability, especially given the Irish jockey felt his horse wasn’t at home on the Soft 6 conditions.
“I thought he laboured a little bit on the ground,” Allen said. “I reckon he is better definitely on top of the ground but his toughness got him there and he was always going to outstay them at the finish. It was a great effort by the horse and all of the team.
“I was confident once I got to Lightsaber. He was wanting to hang out but we always had that momentum where we were going past him so once I could keep him somewhat straight, I was confident we were going to outstay him.” While Hitotsu was expected to head to Sydney to continue his campaign, Eustace confirmed that next Saturday's $1.5 million Group 1 TAB Australian Cup (2000m) remains a possibility, as does the $5 million The Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile (1600m) on Saturday 19 March.
“He’s in the All-Star Mile and that would have to be a possibility,” he said. “We know he gets further too. We’ll worry about it tomorrow.”
Long-term, though, all roads lead to the Lexus Melbourne Cup in November, with Hitotsu set to become just the third Australian Guineas victor to contest the Lexus Melbourne Cup in the same year after Gold Guru and Shamrocker.
Before that, though, a potential rematch looms for Hitotsu and Lightsaber in The Seppelt Wines All-Star Mile with trainer Peter Moody keen to run his colt in the feature.
“How many spots are left in the All-Star Mile?” Moody mused. “If he gets a spot, I think we’d run him there but otherwise we’d put him away and look to races up to a mile in the spring.”
The only filly against 14 colts, Bon's A Pearla, finished just over a length behind the winner in third, while Forgot You - racing in the same Ozzie Kheir colours as Hitotsu - rattled home for fourth ahead of the luckless Pinstriped and Group 1 winner Captivant.
Favourite Profondo finished a disappointing 13th, beaten 8.5 lengths, after hanging out badly from the 600m.
Image caption: John Allen salutes as Hitotsu takes the Australian Guineas.