Australia: Bold Avdulla steers Spirit to 100-1 shock

Flemington on Melbourne Cup day

PICTURE: Getti Images Avdulla floors rivals with bold front-running ride
By Mark Scully in Melbourne 7:50AM 3 NOV 2016

Report: Australia, Thursday

Crown Oaks (Group 1) | 1m4½f | turf | 3yo fillies

Lasqueti Spirit (Lee Curtis/Brenton Avdulla) delivered one of the biggest shocks in the history of Australia's oldest fillies Classic as she blitzed her rivals with a devastating front-running display.

Sent off a 100-1 shot, Lasqueti Spirit appeared to have taken inspiration from Usain Bolt, who was Wednesday's special guest at Flemington, as she shot off into a huge early lead.

The field was strung out in a manner rarely ever seen in a Crown Oaks but Lasqueti Spirit showed no sign of slowing up and had a huge lead as the field entered the straight.

It seemed certain she would grow tired and come back to her rivals but she kept finding to leave Avdulla screaming in jubilation as the pair crossed the line three and a quarter lengths clear of Harlow Gold in second.

Eleonora, who almost caught Bolt with a kick in the parade ring, took third, with short-priced favourite Yankee Rose unable to land a blow from way back in the field.

Avdulla admitted even he doubted his filly's chances of winning the race but said the further Lasqueti Spirit went, the more confident he became.

"I was confident I could run top eight but every time I asked her to find a new gear, she just kept improving for me," he said. "When I had a look at the first big screen at the 400, I was five lengths clear and I thought she'd stay on for a nice position.

"When I went past the next big screen at the 200 I was still clear in front and the last 100 metres was pretty special. That's the thing about being a 100-1 shot, nobody wants to go out after you.

"This is special. When I got the chance to come and ride her, even though she was a 100-1 chance, I wanted to come down. You jump at the chance to ride during these four days at Flemington and to go away with the feature today, I can't believe it."

The jockey celebrated victory in a brazen manner, bowing to the crowd as his mount flew past the winning post. Unfortunately for Avdulla, his elation has earned himself a $1,000 fine from the authorities, but he was left unperturbed.

"I just stood up and I've got no idea why I bowed," he said.

"Looking back at it now, it is a pretty good one but it was just a spur of the moment thing.

"My ride was pretty good so I thought I'd recognise the crowd and thank them for their attendance."

Golden Slipper horse comes good

Lasqueti Spirit's pedigree hardly screams Oaks winner and co-owner Frank Cook revealed connections had originally hoped the filly would make a contender for the Golden Slipper, Australia's biggest six furlong contest for two-year-olds.

"I told Lee Curtis to buy us a horse for the Slipper and now she's won an Oaks instead," he said.

Curtis himself added: "This is the race we've been building her towards. She was right for today and it's been the plan all year.

"We had nothing to lose today, we were 100-1, so we could afford to take the gamble and ride her a bit silly and if it comes off, we're geniuses!"

Curtis also paid tribute to Avdulla as he fought back tears and said: "I can't describe this, it's just so special.

"This is what we get out of bed for, I'm just really humbled. Brenton is a good friend of mine and he's a great rider. I'm always happy to get him on and I knew he would be right for this filly today."

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