It's rare for a horse to win a group race in consecutive years at the Melbourne Cup carnival, but the Anthony Cummings-trained Fontelina managed the feat with a hard-fought victory in the group 2 Yellowglen Stakes (1200 metres) on Saturday.
In fact, the last dual winner of the Yellowglen was the tough sprinter Redelva in 1987-88.
Last year Fontelina won the race first-up, but this time he was coming off a close second in the group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes over 1400 metres. Despite the drop back in distance, Cummings was confident the horse could win again.
"I was really pleased with the way the horse had prepared and we thought he had improved on last year, and he had to because there was a lot more depth to the race and he had to carry more weight," Cummings said. Fontelina shouldered an extra 3.5 kilograms on top of the 54 kilograms he carried in 2012.
Cummings said he had considered going to the group 1 Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley last week with Fontelina and was naturally pleased with his choice.
"He's been better all this preparation and his run in the Rupert Clarke was excellent," he said. "We had the choice about coming here or heading to the Manikato Stakes, but we elected to bypass that race for this and it's turned out to be a good choice."
Fontelina ($12) began well and jockey Peter Robl was able to position him just in behind the strong speed set by fellow Sydney galloper Steps In Time.
Robl was able to get him into the clear inside the 400 metres to make his move and after taking a little while to wind up, he grabbed the tiring Steps In Time inside the final 100 metres to win comfortably.
After taking up his usual position just off the speed, Spirit Of Boom ($11) charged home late to be one length away in second place, with Rarefied ($26), also closing strongly over the final stages to be a nose away in third.
Robl said he could not have hoped for the race to turn out better for Fontelina.
"We knew Steps In Time was going to run along and everything just turned out perfectly. We got a run when we needed it and he found something when I needed him to find," he said.
"His run at Caulfield showed how well he was going this year and we tossed up going to the Manikato, but we chose this option purely because he had won up the straight before."
Cummings was full of praise for Robl, who has built a great record in Sydney, after formerly being based in north-east Victoria.
"Peter has been a great part of our success in Sydney and he is starting to make his presence felt for us here in Melbourne now," he said.
In a wide betting race, Shamal Wind started the $6.50 favourite and after settling just beyond midfield ran on nicely to finish sixth without looking a winning chance.