Everyone knew it would be a frantic dash to the first turn, and they all thought they knew who would be there. But nobody, not even his trainer Peter Lagogiane expected Handsome Prince to be the one to emerge as the leader heading around the bend.
All week it had been spoken about whether Shadow Mist, Flying Ricciardo or Tommy Shelby would lead. All three were there as expected, but there in the middle, poking up between them, was Handsome Prince, and as everyone held their breath, it was the dog wearing the seven rug to cut to the rail, and assume control.
“I knew if he found the fence he would excel this dog, he jumped well, he pushed up hard,” Lagogiane said. “Look he showed a bit of pace last week. He went 5.49s (for the first section) all he had to do was improve a bit. I don’t even know what time he ran … hey, it doesn’t matter.
“Once he found the front, he couldn’t get run down.
“What a little marvel this guy has turned out to be, and I must thank Pat (Ryan, his previous trainer).
“When he drew box seven, Shakeel (Latimer) the owner, said don’t worry, we will still win it, and he had faith in us and the dog and so did my wife JODIE. She said all week, stop worrying, stop stressing, let it be. And I thought she’s right, whatever it is, it’s etched in stone.”
For Lagogiane – who has only had the dog in his kennel for a bit over a month after Latimer purChased it from Tasmania - it was case of de ja vu all over again.
Back in 2018 he won the race with Mystic Riot. Just like Handsome Prince in 2020, she wore the black number 7 rug.
When he won the race with Mystic Riot, Lagogiane danced down the Wentworth Park straight. Everyone wondered how he would top it if he won again.
Again he made the dash down the straight, but this time he collapsed to the track in tears.
Asked what this one means in comparison to the previous win, again the emotion got to him. “This is just amazing. I am … I’m just lost for words.”
“I guess I am a real millionaire now. We won half a million two years ago (the trainer’s 50% share) and half a million now.”
When it came to times, that first sectional was 5.44s and the overall time was 29.72s, almost a length slower that Mystic Riot ran in 2018, but like Lagogiane said, times meant nothing.
The most inexperienced runner in the field, Xerri, turned in a sensational performance to run home after parking on the leaders early and grab second 1¾ lengths back, with West Australian star Tommy Shelby gallant in finishing a close-up third.
The TAB Million Dollar Chase was naturally the headline act on a massive card at Wentworth Park, and there were a number of other features.
He is the only dog in their kennel, but what a dog Sunburnt Highway has been and continues to be for John and Judith Richardson. A finalist in six Group 1 races during his career, Sunburnt Highway won his big feature on Friday night at start 107, the $100,000 TAB Masters Meteor.
Racing in amazing form at this stage of his career, Sunburnt Highway made it five wins on the trot when he jumped well, then powered to the lead up the back and raced away for an impressive 29.87s victory, the 19th time he has won at Wentworth Park from 70 starts.
His older brother, Tornado Tears, the track record holder at Wentworth Park had to be scratched from the final due to an injury, but little brother Here’s Tears jump to the lead and stayed there for the entire trip to capture the Group 3 Sydney Cup over the 720m.
Clocking 42.33s, Here’s Tears had 3¼ lengths to spare over Sunset Bourbski with Show Me Confetti a further 2¾ lengths away in third.
While still very green, the well-bred dog has abundant talent and a promising future.
And to catch a perfect night, Lagogiane also won the MDC Consolation, with the dog he calls pony, Shetland, leading as well, and holding off all challengers to take the win and yes, he too work the seven rug.
Like his kennelmate in the main event, once Shetland had crossed to the rail round the first turn, it was unlikely any dog would run him down, and while runner-up Aston Zodiac tried valiantly, Shetland was able to score a comfortable win in 29.91s, with Canya Star taking the minor prize.