Fans let out a roar when former Horse Of The Year Lankan Rupee hit the front 250 metres out in Sunday’s $150,000 Group III Bletchingly Stakes at Sandown but out of the corner of the eye, the red, white and blue silks of the in form Reward For Effort gelding Ability were looming large.
Making his first start since finishing fourth in the Group I Darley Classic last spring, Lankan Rupee was striving for his first win since the Group I Lightning Stakes in February 2015.
But he could not hold the challenge of the hard fit Ability as the pair put three lengths on the chasing pack.
With Dwayne Dunn in the saddle, Ability made it four wins on the trot, collaring fan favourite Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice) in the closing stages to win by a long-neck with Duke Of Brunswick (Magnus) three and a half lengths back in third.
Ability had earned his maiden stakes win at his previous start in the Listed All Victorian Sprint Final (1200m) at Flemington.
It has been a meteoric rise for the 5yo gelding who looked exposed as something well short of stakes class at three.
Just as it did for Lankan Rupee, a gelding operation has transformed Ability.
He won four of his six starts last season.
Carrying the colours of the late Phil Sly, the Robert Smerdon-trained gelding advances his record to 7 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds from 16 starts with earnings of $369,000.
“I was in a bit of trouble there, he just didn’t step that well and they came across me,” Dunn said
“Tashbeeh pulled back in my face and put me in a very awkward spot. “I just had to take my medicine. The outside of the track is playing a bit better and I wanted to get there. Just at the 600 he floundered and dipped, he didn’t handle the track that well until he balanced up.
“To carry weight like that, the 1200 was a question mark but I think he has put that behind him today.
“We’ve always had a big opinion of this horse, the gelding operation had to be done but that’s turned him into a racehorse.
“Robert has placed him beautifully. He’s coming through the grades – it’s early in the spring but hopefully, he is the new kid on the block.
“Phil Sly was such a good supporter of mine and it’s great to see his colours live on.”
Consigned to the 2014 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale by Yallambee Stud, Ability (pictured as a yearling) was knocked down to Matchem Racing for $150,000.