Awesome Rock surprised his trainer and qualified for the 2016 WS Cox Plate in winning Saturday’s Group II Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley.

Awesome Rock is clear at the end of the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes. Photo: Darryl Sherer
Settled along the inside and worse than midfield at halfway, Stephen Baster was able to make ground along the inside on Awesome Rock before making room for himself around the home turn.

Once in the clear, Awesome Rock ($31) accelerated into the lead and went on to defeat Real Love ($41) by two lengths with Set Square ($20) three-quarters of a length off third.

The United States started the $6.50 favourite and was beaten 3 1/2-lengths into sixth place.

Troy Corstens, who trains Awesome Rock in partnership with his father Leon, said he was pleasantly surprised with the result.

“Coming into this I thought Mr Individual maybe worked a bit better than him here on Tuesday,” Corstens said.

“It put the thought in my mind that maybe he isn’t going as good as he could but I think he just saves it for race day.”

The win gives Awesome Rock an automatic place in the WS Cox Plate field and Corstens said that is the aim for the five-year-old son of Fastnet Rock.

“He’s got the ability there – we’ve aimed him at the Cox Plate all along but he needed to do something like that to convince us we could have a real crack at it,” Corstens said.

“It’s very satisfying to see the horse show what he’s got and I really think he’s got more improvement to come.

“He’s always had something of an x-factor about him, we’re so lucky the owners have been patient with him and given him the time to come into his own.

“He’s gone from being a boy into a man but we’ve got the golden ticket into the best weight-for-age race in the world so we’re going to make good use of it.”

Stephen Baster was completing a Group race double having won the McEwen Stakes aboard Wild Rain earlier in the day and said Awesome Rock was always travelling well.

“That was the best he’s felt under me today – he towed me into it,” Baster said.

“He was travelling that well, that’s what good horses do but he just pushed himself into it and was having a bit of a stargaze in the straight.”

The TAB shortened Awesome Rock from $81 to $26 for the 2016 WS Cox Plate.