Excel Stride proved a class above big name rivals Smoken Up and Caribbean Blaster in the My Lightning Blue FFA.
TAB Sportsbet have some difficult decisions to make when they frame markets for the 4YO Colts and Geldings Breeders Crown Final in less than 72 hours after an explosive program of racing at Tabcorp Park on Friday night.
The first surprise of an epic evening at Victorian harness headquarters came when red hot favourite Sushi Sushi went under to Mustang Mach in the Tabcorp Park Melton Cup Final.
As impressive as Dean Braun’s Messenger Stakes winner was however, the night belonged to team McCarthy and their stable star Excel Stride after his brilliant win in the My Lightning Blue FFA.
The forgotten horse in what rapidly loomed as a match race between two-time Miracle Mile winner Smoken Up and Chariots of Fire champion Caribbean Blaster, Excel Stride proved a horse apart.
“He (has) just developed and gotten bigger and stronger each preparation and tonight he just went super,” driver Luke McCarthy said after the win.
“We’d been looking for a race to kick off his Breeders Crown campaign in Sydney but they only had stand starts so we came down here thinking we’d run into a much easier race.
“Smoken Up was in Queensland and Jaccka Clive was off the scene so we thought it might be us and Caribbean Blaster and that was going to be hard enough.
“But for him to go that well with how much improvement he’s got in him was just super.”
Tabcorp Park’s fast class race was set up for Excel Stride when Lance Justice and Andy Gath honoured their pre-race promises to make it a last-man-standing affair.
With the early speed displayed by both Our Malabar and In Monaco the two favoured runners were required to record a brutal first section of 26.7-seconds to follow a lead time of 6.9 over the 1720m trip.
Smoken Up got the breather he was hoping for through middle quarters of 29.9 and 29.0 but could not match the paralysing sprint from John McCarthy’s son of Aces N Sevens with 600m to go.
Unmoved in the cart Luke McCarthy cruised home aboard Excel Stride - the likely favourite for Super Sunday’s flagship final – ultimately saluting by 5.7m from Smoken Up with Caribbean Blaster a further 1.2m astern in third.