Mystic Journey has confirmed early Cox Plate favouritism with a first-up victory at Caulfield.
Trainer Adam Trinder felt a sense of relief after Mystic Journey made a winning return in the PB Lawrence Stakes at Caulfield.
After an autumn campaign that saw Mystic Journey win the Australian Guineas and the All-Star Mile on firm tracks at Caulfield, Trinder held reservations about the soft going the mare encountered on Saturday.
It mattered little as Anthony Darmanin guided the $2.15 favourite to a three-quarter length win from Cliff’s Edge ($9) with Hartnell ($4) a long neck away third.
Trinder delayed Mystic Journey’s spring return, bypassing the last month’s Bletchingly Stakes.
While not convinced Saturday’s track would be to her liking, Trinder said he needed to get Mystic Journey’s program under way with October’s Cox Plate the goal for which she is the $5 favourite.
Trinder said Mystic Journey was showing the right signs in trackwork and trials but he still needed to see her perform on race day.
“It’s really pleasing to get them back to the races and see them do what you trust they’re going to do,” Trinder said.
“This takes a little bit of pressure off and I feel she is where she needs to be.”
Trinder said Mystic Journey returns to Tasmania on Sunday and was likely to start in the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington on September 14.
The trainer is keeping an open mind on the Group One Memsie Stakes at Caulfield on August 31 although his preferred plan is the Makybe Diva, into the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington and then the Cox Plate
“That’s what I’m thinking standing here but I’ll make up my mind as the week transpires,” Trinder said.
“Looking at her presentation and her nostril flare directly, I think we won’t see her for a month.
“If she is to run in the Memsie she’ll remain here for a Cox Plate campaign because with fortnight racing I don’t want to be travelling with her all the time.
“She is more comfortable in her own environment.”
Saturday’s victory was the first time Darmanin had been aboard Mystic Journey since her All-Star Mile victory in March.
Darmanin had his day soured because of an eight-meeting careless riding suspension after riding Behemoth in the Regal Roller Stakes.
Mark Zahra, rider of second-placed Cliff’s Edge, couldn’t believe the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained galloper was run down.
“I said to Ciaron I’ve never been so confident coming into the straight and being run down,” Zahra said.
“He was rolling in front but gave me a real good kick on the turn and I thought they’d struggle to beat him.
“But sure enough the white blinkers rolled up beside me.
“She is something special.”