A POTENTIAL tilt at the Traralgon Cup (1900m) or a trip to Moonee Valley beckon for Station One after a tenacious front-running victory in the $50,000 Dunkeld Cup (1800m) on Saturday.
The tough-as-nails five-year-old gelding found the front as expected for jockey Alana Kelly, but had to dig deep in the straight to fend off some fierce challenges, firstly from El Gladiator, and then Blazerro and Pitchanun, for a courageous win.
It was the son of Toronado's second career country cup victory, coming little more than 12 months after his success in last year's Kyneton Cup at Bendigo.
A resilient win continued an encouraging preparation for Station One, who performed soundly first-up in a strong edition of the Listed Seymour Cup (1600m), and was a gallant third second-up in the Kyneton Cup (2006m), beaten by two lengths by Harmysian.
Macedon Lodge trainer Liam Howley said he could not have been prouder of the win.
"The Kyneton Cup was our objective, but the race came up probably just a touch strong. It ended up almost a Group race," he said.
"But on the quick back-up he was nice and bright, so I thought we'd come back in trip and keep him nice and fresh and it worked.
"I think he's still maturing and I was just keen to get him a win and get his head in front.
"I looked at the Dunkeld Cup and it mapped nicely. It's traditionally been leader biased and I thought it would suit.
"But as the race panned out, they attacked him early and wouldn't let him cross. They really came at him multiple times, but he was tough.
"I thought he showed good maturity. As (racecaller) Ric McIntosh said, 'he lifted off the canvas'. I couldn't have been prouder.
"The old Station One would have put the white flag up when he was headed, but it was great to see him fight back."
The win followed a similarly brave effort in the Kyneton Cup in which Station One, who was chasing back-to-back wins in the race, took plenty of catching by Harmysian and the runner-up Red Sun Sensation.
That form was further underlined on Saturday after Red Sun Sensation finished second in the $500,000 Victorian Country Cups Final (2000m) at Caulfield.
"It was interesting, (jockey) Winona Costin said after the Kyneton Cup that she felt that if they were closer to him ... they were out wide, four or five off the fence and he was hard up against it ... but if they were two or three off the fence, he would have beaten them," Howley said.
"As soon as he caught sight of them, he really locked on again and really lifted.
"But I was really quite proud of the way he lifted on Saturday. It was very pleasing."
The old Station One would have put the white flag up when he was headed, but it was great to see him fight back- Trainer Liam Howley
Station One boosted his overall record to four wins and three placings from 22 starts for $236,000 in earnings.
His wins have come at four different tracks, including Cranbourne, Pakenham Synthetic, Bendigo and now Dunkeld.
Howley delivered high praise to Ballarat-based jockey Kelly, who rode Station One for the first time on Saturday, and produced a peach of a ride.
"I've always liked the way she rides, especially on those front-running horses," he said.
"She has a really good sense of timing about her. She sits quietly and has a really good pair of hands and I thought she'd really suit him.
"She rode him a treat. She never panicked and after they came at him early, she showed patience down the back and really let him find his rhythm and that's the key to him.
"He's not a sit and sprint horse and you can't be too tactical; you have to let him go through his gears.
"I thought it was a nice patient ride and, when she really needed to, she lifted him."
Having ticked off his second country cup victory, Howley's attention turned to the possibility of a third.
"I was looking at the calendar on Sunday morning and maybe something like the Traralgon Cup at 1900m might be the go," he said.
"He'll probably end up 75 rated, which makes things a bit tricky. You probably have to put an apprentice on if you run him in a 70 and he's not an apprentice's horse.
"So I've sort of pencilled in the Traralgon Cup and there's a 70 at Moonee Valley on a Friday night in early December.
"But I'll just give him a week off and reassess next weekend."
While there is more to come from Station One in this campaign, Howley said the end of New York Hurricane's preparation had dawned following his fifth at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
The four-year-old gelding has gone from strength-to-strength this calendar year, producing three wins and five placings from 14 starts since March, including an emphatic victory on his home track at Kyneton on cup day.
Howley said the son of Manhattan Rain had really thrived following a mid-year switch in base from Macedon Lodge to Kyneton.
"He had one bad run at Sandown (in June), where he just clocked off and didn't try a bit. But we took him home and played around a bit with his program and switched him from Macedon to Kyneton and it turned him around," he said.
"The simpler program really worked.
"His win on Kyneton Cup day was as good as a win you'll see, when he really put the hammer down and took off. He just loves that chase.
"He's never going to win by big margins, but when he's got something to look at, he really locks on and goes after it.
"He'll have a break and we will get him back mid-to-late autumn and try and find something nice for him.
"I think if he can get a bit stronger and get to that 2000m again, there is a decent enough race in him.
"He's been up since March, but we've carefully managed his program and he has largely always been three weeks between runs.
"He just loves racing. He never shows you much during the pre-conditioning phase, he just lobs along and does his work. He's a real boisterous character, but he never shows you much until he's up and racing.
"I probably could have pushed on - he certainly hasn't gone backwards. But from a timing point of view, I'd love to give him his chance at something better in the autumn."
New York Hurricane earned a touch under $100,000 for the preparation and finished outside the top five only twice in 14 starts.
His last five runs included two wins and two placings, including a second at Moonee Valley and an unlucky third in a strong benchmark 70 on Geelong Cup day.
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