Lunar Flare (outside) winning with Michael Dee aboard (Image: Racing Photos)
Lunar Flare made something of a Melbourne Cup impact at The Valley on Saturday when he put paid to a number of fringe chances as a brave winner of the $1 million Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup.
The six-year-old mare by Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente is not in Tuesday week's $8 million race but by delivering her knockout blow on Saturday, she harmed the chances of a handful of runners of making the final field.
Saturday's runner-up Floating Artist is now qualified for the Melbourne Cup but has moved to just 37th in the order of entry, while unplaced efforts from Attorney (23rd in order), Pondus (25th), Future Score (29th) and Good Idea (32nd) would have had their connections concerned just 10 days out from the big race.
Not that any of that bothered winning trainer Grahame Begg, who was runner-up last week in the Caulfield Cup with Nonconformist but went one better with the mare, who was coming off a win in the Listed Harry White (2400m) at Mornington.
"It's absolutely outstanding," Begg said. "She's been a model of consistency right through, right from the time I got her. She took a bit to work out but keeps stepping up to the line.
"We had a few doubts with the track deteriorating a little bit but she's hard fit, came off a good mile-and-a-half run a few weeks ago and what a great job.
"We're so pleased to win for the connections. Great race to win, fair dinkum, a million-dollar race."
WATCH: Lunar Flare's win
Begg said Lunar Flare had been initially entered for the Melbourne Cup but was not paid-up for along the way.
"I didn't leave her in the Melbourne Cup because I thought at the time she'd get beaten when it was time to pay up and I thought it was a bit hard to try and run her in a Melbourne Cup after a disappointing run, but she's done her job up to now so we'll have to consider what we'll do," he said.
"A Queen Elizabeth (Stakes on final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival) or something like that."
Starting at $12, Michael Dee steered Lunar Flare to a narrow victory as second favourite Floating Artist ($3.80) made a late lunge at her on the inside to just miss by half a head. Nine-year-old Sound ($26) was just three-quarters of a length away third.
The $2.20 favourite Pondus looked set for victory as he took command before the final turn but he was soon under pressure and wilted into fourth, just ahead of last year's Moonee Valley Cup winner Miami Bound in fifth.