The honour for Perth’s best three-year-old will be officially announced at a gala function next month, but officials can unpack the trophy and present it to Variation after he scored a classy win in the Listed Aquanita Stakes (2000m).
The Stephen Miller-trained gelding ended his three-year-old season in spectacular fashion, overcoming a distance query and an awkward barrier draw to power home and defeat the closing runs of Western Temple and Jackpot Prince.
Variation’s class and a sublime piece of riding from Brad Parnham was instrumental in his ¾ length victory, his second straight feature race after becoming the first horse to win the WA Guineas-Belmont Guineas double last fortnight.
WA Derby champion, Gatting, who was in contention to challenge Variation’s three-year-old crown, snatched the lead inside the home straight, but after a torrid run racing wide throughout, the gelding faded to fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths.
The gallant loss was no compensation for trainer, Darren McAuliffe, but the talented stayer gets his chance to bounce back and atone when he fronts up to his preferred distance range in Saturday week’s Belmont Classic (2200m).
Gatting will compete in the Listed feature without Variation, who will go to the paddock for a deserved spell before Miller maps out an ambitious Group One programme in the Railway Stakes (1600m) and Kingston Town Classic (1800m) later in the year.
“That has always been the plan,” Miller said.
“The horse will be a big chance in them.
“He has to improve because he is only doing it against three-year-olds.
“But I think he will improve and that’s where we are going to head.
“To put him over 2000m was a big ask of the horse.
“But he came through with flying colours.
“He is an exceptional little horse.”
Parnham missed Variation’s Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) success last November, but he has relished the opportunity and partnership in 2017.
In an almost identical ride to the Belmont Guineas two weeks ago, Parnham angled across from a wide draw to land Variation in the winning spot.
“I got a perfect run into the straight,” Parnham said.
“You can’t over think it and you have to go out there with an open mind.
“He is a very good horse who continues to improve and improve.
“I think he has earned his spot in the Railway and will probably give it a good show.”