Popular galloper The Cleaner beat one runner home in a disappointing return to racing in the Conquering Stakes (1400m) at Launceston on Wednesday night.
The Cleaner was found to have a virus after finishing midfield behind Winx in the Cox Plate but trainer Mick Burles said the gelding was ready to embark on a campaign aimed towards the Magic Millions raceday at the Gold Coast next month.
The Cleaner started as a $1.55 favourite on track but never looked a winning chance as the Barry Campbell-trained Admiral ($2.50) bounced back from an unlucky run in the Newmarket Handicap with a strong victory.
The Cleaner’s rider Noel Callow opted to take a sit behind the $101 chance One Shot Off but the winner of more than $1.3 million in stakes had no answer when the Victorian jockey asked him to pick up at the 600m.
The Cleaner’s lacklustre effort surprised Burles, who told Tasracing he would have the eight-year-old examined again to determine the cause of his failure.
“He had the virus that we were quite sure had come and gone because his blood work that I had done this week came back spot-on,” Burles said.
“But there is clearly something not right because Noel (Callow) said when he gave him a squeeze to extend 500m out he had nothing to give.
“That is definitely not the horse we all know so I’ll have to have him checked out and we’ll have those results in a couple of days.”
Champion local jockey Brendon McCoull had Admiral travelling midfield behind The Cleaner before improving sharply along the inside approaching the home turn.
Admiral went clear early in the straight before comfortably holding Geegees Goldengirl ($26) and Player One ($51) to score by three quarters of a length.
“I am rapt with his effort tonight but that is what I expected might happen,” Campbell said.
“We will now aim him at all the weight-for-age races because he is weighted out of running in handicaps.
“The horse was our best two and three-year-old and it’s always at the back of your mind whether they can come back at four and keep improving but I’m confident now that this horse is very special.”