Stunin Cullen capped a remarkable return to Australian racing with a fighting victory in tonight's Gr.1 $125,000 Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup at Bray Raceway.
Stunin Cullen capitalised on a great drive from Anthony Butt to secure victory from fellow Kiwi raider Power Of Tara and Village Of Dreams in a track record time of 1.57.3 for the 2710m event.
The Christian Cullen entire battled during his last campaign on these shores when campaigning as a 4yo, he disappointed in the Perth classics before returning to Victoria to undergo an operation to rectify a breathing problem.
Renowned veterinarian Dr Alastair Maclean performed the surgery and connections haven't looked back since and tonight's victory was further proof on his exceptional ability.
Current Barastoc Grand Circuit leader Smoken Up started as a pronounced favourite after drawing favourably off the front row but the script was turned upside down shortly after the start.
Emerging star Villagem shot off the gate for Lisa Miles and the Village Jasper gelding became fierce when leading whilst Smoken Up raced without cover.
The lead time was covered in 79.6 seconds.
The pace was on as Villagem continued to fight against Miles leaving race favourite Smoken Up vulnerable as he raced without cover with the first quarter of the last mile posted in 29.6 seconds.
Villagem continued to pull hard in front but managed to steady the speed slightly in the second quarter as the split was covered in 31.1 seconds.
As the field moved down the straight, Power Of Tara was the first to make a move as he eased three-wide with Stunin Cullen grabbing the key position on his back and gaining great cover.
Heading down the back straight on the final occasion, Villagem continued to race keenly whilst Smoken Up and Power Of Tara moved up to apply more pressure.
The third quarter was posted in 28.9 seconds and Villagem began to struggle, Smoken Up was also under immediate pressure whilst Power Of Tara surged to the lead.
In the straight, Power Of Tara and Stunin Cullen come away from their rivals as Village Of Dreams took inside runs but the New Zealand trained pacers fought out the finish in epic style.
Stunin Cullen gained the upper hand near the line and scored officially by a head margin with 10 metres further back to Village Of Dreams in third.
Race favourite Smoken Up finished fifth.
The final quarter was covered in 28.4 seconds.
The drama continued after the event with driver John Caldow (Power Of Tara) protesting against the winner because of his whip action over the concluding stages.
The objection was ultimately dismissed and the placings stood.
“That's the first part of our Aussie mission complete,” winning driver Anthony Butt beamed.
“We got the right horse to follow up and we certainly got a genuine pace, things panned out perfectly really.”
Stunin Cullen will back-up in next week's Gr1. $425,000 BIG6 Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton which will be run under standing start conditions.
Stunin Cullen joins a very elite list of Ballarat Cup winners joining the likes of Popular Alm, Gammalite, My Lightning Blue, Bag Limit, Sinbad Bay, Our Sir Vancelot, Yulestar, Shakamaker, Just An Excuse, Flashing Red, Sting Lika Bee and more recently Safari to claim the time honoured feature.