Unheralded young trainer Rhys Radford, veteran jockey Craig Staples and underrated galloper Great Shot conspired to defeat some of the biggest names in Australian racing in the $1 million Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot on Saturday.
With the majority of pre-race attention focused on defending champion, Scales Of Justice, Perth-owned star, Black Heart Bart and interstate raider, Tom Melbourne, Great Shot was friendless in betting and unwanted by punters, starting at $28.
But the Magnus gelding defied the doubters in stunning fashion by leading and holding off a spirited challenge from Black Heart Bart who lost no admirers in defeat, running his heart out with top weight of 59kg and going down by a half-head.
Perennial placegetter Tom Melbourne, from the Chris Waller camp, was a neck away third, continuing a frustrating run of minor placings in major races for the enigmatic son of Dylan Thomas.
Scales Of Justice faded to 12th after sitting outside of Great Shot. There appeared nothing amiss with last year’s Railway Stakes champion, but trainer, Lindsey Smith confirmed his injury interrupted campaign, which included an unsuccessful stint in Melbourne, has come to an end.
Local stars Variation, Material Man and Pounamu, who attacked the line in the quickest last 600m, ran strong races to finish just outside the first three placegetters.
Radford, aged 26, who took over the training duties from his father Warren’s stable a few years ago, was left reeling in almost disbelief after the race.
The fledgling trainer said he hoped rather than believed that Great Shot, who was purchased for $31,000, would be a genuine Railway Stakes contender.
“I thought he would run a great race and I couldn’t have got him any better,” Radford said.
“We were just hoping his best would be good enough.
“I have never had a horse who tries as hard as he does.
“He is a credit to himself because he never gives it away.
“I can’t believe it and it might take a day or two to sink in.”
Staples, who has been with Great Shot throughout his 24-start journey, said Great Shot was fortunate to be still racing.
The five-year-old suffered a back injury that seriously threatened to end his career in the middle of the year.
“Credit to the horse who is so tough,” Staples said.
“He is lucky to be racing and showed what heart he’s got.
“I was always confident because I knew what was in him.
“He hasn’t been sound for a long time, but was pretty sound today (Saturday).