Clayton Douglas returns to scale with his first Moonee Valley winner, Midas Man (Image: Racing Photos)
Angry Gee held out well-tried favourite Quilista to win the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge - but more importantly, earned trainer Jerome Hunter a share of the lead in the popular series. The winning time of 55.12s matched that of the John Macmillan-trained Mile High on Manikato Stakes Night as the quickest over the 955m trip this season. Should they remain unsurpassed, Macmillan and Hunter will be handed $27,500 cheques respectively for their efforts, but there are another six races remaining this night racing season.
There was a bit of a body blow for Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young's NZ Derby hopeful Persian Empire, and the biggest of the blows might've been pre-race. A sharp drift from $2.25 to $3.60 with some corporates was a warning sign, and while taking up the running in the 2040m, the three-year-old was beaten at the top of the straight as Midas Man ended up out-bobbing Big Pat's Pontiac in the Benchmark 70 over the Cox Plate trip.
And on Midas Man, what an achievement by trainer Robert Kingston, whose small stable is flying. The lowest handicap rater at 59 in the Summer Stayers Series heat, Midas Man prevailed in town - in a preparation that started at the Balnarring picnics in December.
Viennese Star was a well-tried filly on debut, and while she got the job done, the Aaron Purcell-trained filly certainly gave the stable a few nervous moments when awkward out of the gates. But Mark Zahra, who was having his only ride of the night, stayed cool and calm in the situation and lifted her to victory in the 1000m race for fillies over fellow debutant Metronome (Mick Kent).
Craig Williams posted an early double to join Damian Lane level on 31 metro winners atop the premiership standings. His first winner Sanctimonious made him earn it, as the horse wasn't suited to The Valley or the early tempo, but still did it comfortably by 1.25 lengths on the line. Then, he resumed a union with an old friend Cuban Fighter with success in the 3000m race. Williams' only prior ride on the Robbie Laing-trained horse was when he finished second to Authoritarian in the VRC St Leger on Anzac Day 2015.
"To a lot of purists, it wouldn't have looked a beautiful ride, but it was the right ride for this horse on the night." - Tony McEvoy was full of praise for Craig Williams' ride on Sanctimonious. Now the stable is eyeing off the Group 2 VRC Sires' Produce, via a 1300m race at Sandown. McEvoy has fond memories of the Sires' at Flemington, winning it back in 2004 with Barely A Moment when it was a Group 1 affair.
"They bet $4 at the picnics - that was the best part of it!" - trainer Robert Kingston has the Midas touch at the moment, and his four-year-old gelding Midas Man was a tough victor in town on Friday night. Amazingly, he went from the Balnarring picnics in December to city winner in a touch under two months' time. And as Kingston pointed out, he took some of the bookies' cash at Balnarring too.
Craig Williams - Moonee Valley double
Shaun Dwyer/Damien Oliver - Moonee Valley double
Clayton Douglas - first Moonee Valley winner
55.12s - remains the 55 Second Challenge season-best time, but now two horses own the top mantle, after Angry Gee matched Mile High
Robert Kingston - six winners and three seconds from 11 runners in 2018. Low flying