Incentivise, Australia’s most talked about racehorse, is arguably our best too.
Only Zaaki, who came out and beat a crack field in the Cox Plate – Australia’s best race – in three weeks could rival Peter Moody’s now indomitable Caulfield and Melbourne Cup favourite.
While the hype and hopes of a Flemington match race between Incentivize and Verry Elleegant failed to materialize, the $1 million Group 1 Turnbull Stakes still delivered spades.
All that was really missing was the rumble of a 20,000-strong crowd at headquarters.
Incentivize gave them a shot on Saturday, but the five-year-old former Toowoomba galloper, who has gone from a Sunshine Coast girl to a double Group 1 winner in eight starts, absorbed the heat.
He was with his eyes out of the barriers.
He had his eyes straight in the back.
He turned his eyes towards home.
INCENTIVIZE IS A GROUP 1 STAR! ⭐
— Racing.com (@Racing) October 2, 2021
But when leader Mount Popa folded and runs from Sir Dragonet and Verry Elleegant faded under pressure, Incentivize only got stronger.
“Show a lot of courage,” Moody said.
“He’s a damn tough horse, isn’t he.
“He has been there to be beaten down the straight in both runs, but he has shown tremendous courage.
“This will really take him to the Caulfield Cup in two weeks.”
Champion jockey Brett Prebble praised the “great effort” after achieving a third Group 1 in five weeks.
“He’s got his mouthguard on and really has a dive for you,” Prebble said.
“It’s hard to get a horse like that.”
After winning the Group 1 Memsie Stakes on Behemoth, Prebble claimed the Makybe Diva Stakes aboard Incentivise.
“He can take it and take whatever is served to him and run them into the ground,” Prebble said.
“He couldn’t go much faster but he saw that other horse (Young Werther) coming towards him.
“He showed today that it was no fluke in his last Group 1.”
Peter Moody with Incentivize after winning the Turnbull Stakes. Photo: Brett Holburt – Race Photos via Getty Images
Just as Moody and Prebble left Flemington victorious on Saturday, so was Danny O’Brien, delighted with Cup contender Young Werther’s performance.
“We put him up for the Cups and today was a day for him to stand up and show where he was,” said O’Brien.
“He did that today. Turnbull (Stakes) Day is in a way a moving day.
“If you want to do well in the Cups, or the Derby or the Oaks, you want to do well here.
“I think if he comes back here in the Melbourne Cup it will be the right choice for him.”
Chapada, the $126 outsider, intently finished third, while Verry Elleegant held onto fourth.
“Somewhat disappointing at first glance,” jockey Damian Lane after his first session on Verry Elleegant.
“She traveled sweetly in flight and presented herself well…she didn’t accelerate as well as she can.”
Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained triple threat Sir Dragonet, Persan and Explosive Jack lost no admirers by doing promising Cox Plate and Cup trials of their own.
Sir Dragonet, who blinded the Makybe Diva, was “ridden upside down”, while Persan and Explosive Jack landed late after being caught flat-footed as the sprint continued.
Immediately after the race, Incentivize tightened $3 to $2.80 with TAB for the Caulfield Cup, but later in the afternoon tightened to $2.30 and also tightened $8 to $6 for the Melbourne Cup.
Since the TAB has already paid out to Zaaki to win the Cox Plate on October 23, the bookmaker might consider winding down its exposure to Incentivize in the Caulfield Cup on October 16, while still doing well in the TAB market for the Cox Plate for $15.
* Brad Waters contributed to this article