After almost two years of trying, Durendal has finally broken through for his first win in Western Australia, taking out the Group 3 Colonel Reeves Stakes (1100m) at Ascot this afternoon.
The gelding had previously been placed in 12 blacktype races since coming to Western Australia, including last year’s Winterbottom Stakes.
Durendal finished second in the Crawford Stakes first-up this campaign, before a fourth placing in the Prince Of Wales Stakes saw him jump as one of the outsiders in today’s $150,000 event.
Belter, who was first-up today, set a relatively slow tempo in front, while Mc Gruddy settled outside the leader with Durendal.
Scales Of Justice, a surprise runner in the 1100m event before next week’s Railway Stakes, settled close to the speed, while short price favourite Dainty Tess settled towards the rear.
Belter and Durendal had a comfortable time in front and it was clear on straightening they would fight out the finish.
It took him a lot of the Ascot straight for Durendal to get past Belter, but at the 50m mark the gelding drew away to win by a half-length.
Mc Gruddy said it was relieving to finally steer Durendal to victory and indicated the drop in weight helped today.
“It’s like a Group 1 win,” he said.
“He ran third in a Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes and it’s all well documented how many placings he’s run.
“Today with 55kg, I was sort of confident, but I knew Lockroy had been working well.
“He always gives it his all, but when you carry big weights it makes it hard.”
Scales Of Justice finished an admirable third, as he looks to repeat his 2016 Railway Stakes heroics in next week’s Group 1 event.
Dainty Tess finished fourth, a performance which jockey Chris Parnham described as “tough”.
The seven-year-old headlined a big day for jockey Shaun Mc Gruddy, who teamed up with Freo in the Group 3 R.J. Peters Stakes (1500m) as well.
Freo was taking the step up from 66+ company to the $150,000 feature and the bold move paid handsome dividends for Mc Gruddy and trainer Daniel O’Connor.
The winner of the Peters Stakes gets automatic entry into the Railway Stakes, however Freo wasn’t nominated by the time weights were released on Monday, meaning he won’t run in next week’s event.
O’Connor, the former Irish jumps jockey who recorded his biggest win as a trainer, said he would consider paying the late nomination to get Freo to the Kingston Town Classic on December 8.
Meanwhile, trainer Neville Parnham has enjoyed a unique two state double today, with a winner at Ascot and Sandown.
Parnham’s day started off in fine fashion when consistent sprinter Malibu Style took out the Listed Doveton Stakes (1000m) at Sandown.
He capped off the day when Dark Prospect saluted in the Crown Towers Handicap (1800m).
Malibu Style’s win guaranteed him a spot on the plane back to Perth for the Winterbottom Stakes.