French-born jockey Matthieu Autier experienced his greatest thrill in Western Australian racing when he guided Gatting to slashing victory in the $400,000 Group 2 Schweppes-W.A.T.C. Derby (2400m) at Ascot on Saturday.
In a muddling run race Autier had the Darren McAuliffe-trained gelding, who is named after Michael Gatting, the former England Test cricket captain, in fourth position at the turn before launching a powerful run in the straight.
The Hard Spun three-year-old shot to the lead passing the 200m and held off the fast-finishing favourite, Very Tempting, who got held up at a vital stage and lost momentum, but was never a threat in chasing down the winner.
Very Tempting fell 1 ¾ lengths short of Gatting, denying prominent owner-breeders Bob and Sandra Peters their fifth consecutive win in the WA Derby and ninth overall.
Rank outsider Chill The Champers ran a bold race after jockey Clint Johnston-Porter went forward to sit outside of the leader at the 1000m, before sweeping to the lead approaching the home turn, the Fred Kersley-trained filly holding on for a gallant third.
Gatting and Autier claimed the second leg of a feature race double after combining to win a nail-biting edition of the Listed Melvista Stakes (2200m) two weeks ago.
An emotional Autier heaped praise on Gatting and said he was still coming to terms with the victory.
“I just don’t know what to say because the horse did really good,” Autier said.
“He had a tough run because there wasn’t enough pace in the race for him.
“He pulled pretty much the whole race, but he has just got the best turn of foot for a stayer.
“I’m so happy and I still can’t believe I was able to do it.”
McAuliffe, who won a WA Oaks with Impressive Jeuney (2010), said Autier remained composed in a difficult race.
“It was really a horribly run race and I don’t know whether I want to watch the replay to be honest,” McAuliffe said.
“Matthieu never really panicked and tried to keep him out of trouble as best as he could.
“When he pressed the button at the top of the straight he just ran away from them.”
Gatting, who started at $5.10, improved his record to five wins and as many placings from 12 starts with stake earnings boosted to $433, 600.
McAuliffe said the emerging stayer had the ability to contest major races at the Ascot summer carnival.
“Without doubt he can and we have always though that,” McAuliffe said.
“We will let the dust settle and see what he can do.”