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Virtuous Circle breaks drought at Flemington

8 June 2024 Written by Racing & Sports

Virtuous Circle will continue a winter campaign which trainer Liam Howley hopes may lead to another Melbourne Cup start.

Trainer Liam Howley says criticism of the time between wins for Virtuous Circle is unjustified after the gelding returned to winning form at Flemington

Virtuous Circle registered his first win in more than 650 days when taking out the RDA Daylesford Lesley Hewitt Trophy (2000m) on Saturday. 

The four-year-old last tasted success in August 2022 in a three-year-old 1500m race at Moonee Valley

Virtuous Circle followed up running third in the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) and the Group 2 The Vase (2040m) at The Valley before later in his three-year-old year running second in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m). 

His four-year-old campaign was all geared around the Melbourne Cup (3200m) in which Virtuous Circle finished 18th, after which he was gelded. 

Virtuous Circle ($14) was having the third start of his current campaign and under Ethan Brown scored a three-quarter length win from Beltoro ($11) with the $3.30 favourite Silent Surrente the same margin away third. 

"People are quick to forget in this game," Howley said. 

"He's only had 16 or 17 starts and I think we're still scratching the surface with him. 

"Gelding him after the Melbourne Cup, certainly had an effect on him. We gave him time and the team at home have done a super job with him. 

"We've never lost faith, but today is a great result." 

Howley said a winter campaign, which was likely to stretch to the Group 2 Hotham Handicap (2500m) and the Group 3 The Bart Cummings (2500m), both at Flemington and both ballot exemption races for the Melbourne Cup, was on the agenda for Virtuous Circle. 

He said he wants to continue to build the confidence of Virtuous Circle. 

"We know they run on confidence," Howley said. 

"He came back after his last start and had a real temper about him. He was angry and has been angry ever since, and I took that as he was ready to win. 

"His work during the week suggested he was ready to put his hand up and remind people of who he is, and we lowered the bar this preparation to give him some confidence. 

"The Cup was really unkind. The ground that day, he really blew up and we had to look after him, so the softer tracks are his go, and I was worried about the Good 4 today. 

"He's got a big tank on him, so we'll keep him ticking along, tip toeing through the winter."