VICTORIA'S dominant trainer for the bulk of the past decade, Cardigan's Emma Stewart captured the Group 1 Victoria Derby for the second time at Bendigo's Lord's Raceway on Saturday night.
Stewart, six times the state's leading trainer, followed up her success in 2017 with Our Little General with a brilliant all the way win by Act Now ($2.30 favourite) in the $200,000 classic.
Superbly driven by Jodi Quinlan, the colt gave his rivals the slip down the back, setting up a comfortable 10m lead on entering the straight.
The son of Somebeachsomewhere's win was never in doubt from that point on, capping off an incredible performance to win by 6.2m over Blitzern, for the father-son trainer-driver team of Allan and Bailey McDonough, with Longfellow close by in third.
Stewart, who later clinched the $150,000 Group 1 Victoria Oaks with Ladies In Red, was rapt for both horse and driver.
"We have had some rotten luck in this race and we've have had so great colts, (who) failed to win it," she said post-race.
"He's a bigger sort of fellow and he's taken a long time to mature, but in saying that, all his runs have been terrific his entire career.
"He's been driven tough in a lot of those runs - he's just a fantastic horse."
Stewart praised Act Now's brilliant gate speed as 'a huge asset'.
"Jodi's actually been driving him terrific this time," she said.
"He seems to be drawing to lead and that's what he likes to do. And he's been settling well in his runs.
"I couldn't be happier for Jodi, actually."
The derby was dominated by the Stewart camp, with Act Now's stable-mates Longfellow (driven by Rebecca Bartley) getting home nicely for third and Major Moth (Damian Wilson) close by in fourth.
Even the runner-up, Blitzern is trained from their barn by Allan McDonough.
Quinlan, who has driven Act Now in all but the first three of his 21 career starts, could not hide her delight in the colt's performance.
"I've been fortunate enough to win a trotters derby, but never a pacers derby, so it's good," she said.
"He was awesome.
"When I went to get on him, Clayton and Emma said this horse is airborne. He was a little bit naughty when he went out onto the track, he had a bit of a buck which is new for him, but he's just feeling fantastic."
Bondi Lockdown, for Horsham trainer-driver Aaron Dunn, finished fifth, with the second favourite American Dealer ($3.60) back in ninth.
Act Now advanced his career record to 10 wins and seven placings from 21 starts for $354,535 in earnings.
His derby win delivered Quinlan the 15th Group 1 win of her career.
The pairing had previously been successful twice at Group 2 level in the Alabar Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for two-year-old colts and geldings and the Tatlow Stakes, both in October last year.
A big night for Stewart was capped with a Group 2 win by Jo An Jo in the Alabar Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for two-year-old fillies.
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