Tonopah Beats Prince Of Penzance In RA Lee Stakes

Darren Weir-trained Tonopah held off fast-finishing stablemate Prince Of Penzance to record a narrow victory in the 2016 RA Lee Stakes at Morphettville this afternoon.

Tonopah wins the R A Lee Stakes at Morphettville. Photo by Jenny Barnes.

Tonopah wins the R A Lee Stakes at Morphettville. Photo by Jenny Barnes.

Tonopah went into the RA Lee Stakes on the back of a narrow victory in the Drink Driving Grow Up Handicap (1600m) at Morphettville on May 7 and he was given another outstanding ride in transit by jockey Dean Yendall to record back-to-back wins.

The Rock Hard Ten gelding hit the front a long way from home and he got tired on the line, but he had done enough to record the biggest win of his racing career to date.

Tonopah has developed into a very consistent performed since he joined the Weir stable at the end of 2014 and he now has a black-type race win on his racing resume after only making his debut at Listed level in the Hareeba Stakes (1200m) at Mornington on April 2.

While Tonopah was the first horse to cross the line, the big story coming out of the race was the return to Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance.

Jockey Michelle Payne originally elected to settle Prince Of Penzance at the tail of the field, but she was caught three horses wide and she elected to allow the Pentire gelding to roll forward.

He was still caught very wide throughout and he was the widest horse in the straight, but he savaged the line in the final stages of the RA Lee Stakes and he would have won the race if it was only slightly longer.

Prince Of Penzance went into the Melbourne Cup as a $100 chance following credible performance in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 2, the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield on October 10 and the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) on October 24, but he was the beneficiary of a very slow tempo and an outstanding ride from Michelle Payne and he was able to take out ‘the race that stops a nation’.

The six-year-old is expected to return to the spelling paddock and he will likely be set for another tilt at the Melbourne Cup, where he will have the opportunity to become the first horse to win the race in back-to-back years since the great mare Makybe Diva.

Alpine Eagle went into the race as a clear favourite, but his performance was fairly lacklustre on face value and his racing career is now at a crossroads.

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Thomas Hackett

Thomas is a passionate and opinionated racing journalist and punter who has been obsessed with horse racing since he backed Saintly to win the 1996 Melbourne Cup. An international racing enthusiast, he has his finger on the pulse of racing news not just from Australia but all around the world.