Light Fantastic outshines Weekend Hussler

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<p>JEFF ZERBST</p> <p>SYDNEY – Spring racing has just begun and already we&rsquo;ve had a corker!…

<p>JEFF ZERBST</p>
<p>SYDNEY – Spring racing has just begun and already we&rsquo;ve had a corker! In a race dripping with significance for further features, Light Fantastic (13-4) out-sprinted Weekend Hussler (7-10) to win the weight-for-age JJ Liston Stakes (G2) over 1400m at Caulfield on Saturday and lay claim to being Australia&rsquo;s finest.</p>
<p>Rated 122, Weekend Hussler is the nation&rsquo;s darling after winning six G1 races last season. Unbeaten Light Fantastic (Craig Newitt) has now shown he&rsquo;s capable of stealing the silverware this term. The rivalry between the four-year-old geldings will set the turf ablaze this springtime.</p>
<p>Both runners raced off the early pace, with Brad Rawiller keeping Weekend Hussler a length or so ahead of the grey Light Fantastic. The latter came off the bridle first and looked to be hard at work at the top of the straight. Light Fantastic and Newitt weren&rsquo;t toiling in vain. They moved up to Weekend Hussler on the slow track with 200m to run and won a thrilling war of attrition by 0.75 lengths. Middle-distance specialist Maldivian (14-1), a G1 winner, stayed on well for third, only half a head behind Weekend Hussler.</p>
<p>The final 600m was covered in a slow 37.44 sec and the win falls short of proving Light Fantastic is the better animal. Weekend Hussler had a hoof abscess earlier in the week leading up to the race and might have been less “forward&rsquo;&rsquo; than his rival. The two share early favouritism at 15-4 for the Cox Plate over 2040m at Moonee Valley on 25 October.</p>
<p>Light Fantastic has now won five from five, and $775 000 – well short of Weekend Hussler&rsquo;s haul of $2.4 million from his nine victories in 12 starts. The former&rsquo;s trainer, Mick Price, isn&rsquo;t concerned with comparisons or the plans his rival Ross McDonald is hatching.</p>
<p>“I have only one plan and that&rsquo;s to win the Cox Plate with Light Fantastic,&rsquo;&rsquo; he said. “I thought we&rsquo;d get beaten today and I wouldn&rsquo;t have minded because he was underdone. But it&rsquo;s nice to get the win.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>Newitt, who has never shied from his view that Light Fantastic is the best around, was cock-a-hoop after the win. “We&rsquo;ve beaten the horse they say is the best in the land. I can&rsquo;t wait until Light Fantastic gets over ground. He switches off in his races and when he gets over 2000m he&rsquo;s going to be scary.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>Losing trainer McDonald wasn&rsquo;t doing any soul-searching after the Liston. “He&rsquo;ll improve a lot with the run. We&rsquo;re in for a long spring and I&rsquo;m quite happy.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>In Sydney, Glen Boss got his spring campaign off to a great start with a win aboard Chris Waller-trained Triple Honour (2-1) in the G2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens. He flew past Captain Bax (7-1) late to win by 0.75 lengths with David Payne&rsquo;s Hurried Choice (7-1) only weakening late to finish a 1.25-length fourth under Jeff Lloyd. It was a good run from Markus Jooste&rsquo;s mare.</p>
<p>Payne had three runners in the day&rsquo;s other big feature, the G3 Run to the Rose (1300m), the main preparation for the $1-million Golden Rose over 1400m at the course in a fortnight. Sheikh Mohammed&rsquo;s trainer Peter Snowden saddled 14-10 favourite Desuetude (Kerrin McEvoy) with Gai Waterhouse&rsquo;s filly Maybe I at 3-1. Payne sent out Emperor Bonaparte (7-1), Baci Amore (15-2) and Royal Thief (60-1) in the battle of the three-year-olds.</p>
<p>McEvoy pushed forward on Desuetude to race outside the leader and then went clear with 300m to run. Maybe I (Blake Shinn) moved up to challenge 150m out to look a likely winner while Payne&rsquo;s Emperor Bonaparte (Lloyd) and Baci Amore (Corey Brown) ran on powerfully.</p>
<p>Desuetude showed true grit to kick again inside the final 100m and got home345 by a short head from Maybe I, with Emperor Bonaparte only 0.75 lengths behind in third. Topweight Baci Amore was a length back in fourth from a wide draw and Payne&rsquo;s Rock of Gibraltar colt is right on track for the Golden Rose.</p>

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