CACTUS AMOUR proved that he is far from being over the hill with a breathtaking victory in the main bout of an eight-race card yesterday at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
The out-of-form American-bred six-year-old came from far back to run down Just Call Me Roger in the homestretch and just get up by a head to win the 1,600-metre contest for 90 & over rated horses.
Cactus Amour, who was at odds of 5/2 when he failed to beat a horse last time out in the Arima Race Club Cup three weeks ago, was the longest shot on the board at 16/1 this time.
But punters could hardly be blamed for giving up on him, as in addition to failing to finish in the money in his last three outings, the 2010 ARC Cup and Gold Cup winner was making his very first appearance on the turf and giving away between four and 9.5 kilos to his eight opponents.
Cactus Amour, who had finished in the top two in 16 of his previous 17 starts before his struggles began in December, was way back in seventh approaching the far turn in the day's fourth event.
But the Glenn Mendez-trained son of Cactus Ridge was travelling very smoothly under multiple champion jockey Brian Harding and had already assumed second position turning for home, thanks to a dream opening on the rail.
However, stable companion Just Call Me Roger, who had finished fourth in the Grade One Champagne Stakes and runner-up in the Eric Durant Memorial on the grass last year, looked the winner as he was clear of the field by about three lengths.
The American-bred five-year-old was certainly not dying in the lead and Cactus Amour had to pull out all the stops to get up just before the finish line and remind fans that class is class.
Mobthewarrior was also making eye-catching progress in the second half of the race, but the Canadian-bred gelding encountered traffic problems at the home turn and was forced to settle for third, 3 ¼ lengths back.
Fellow former Canada-based Silverleo, who was narrowly edged out by Just Call Me Roger for favouritism, finished another three lengths adrift in fourth in his first start since coming down from Woodbine Racecourse.
Last year's Independence Cup winner First To Fly rounded out the top five as the first of three HI-5 betting races returned the handsome dividend of more than $25,000.
Strikes Not Spares, who had gone down to Montejo by a short-head in the ARC Cup last time out, apparently did not act on the turf and finished ahead of only Personal Exchange.
Cactus Amour, who was winning for the ninth time in 22 career outings, is owned by S.I.R. Stables and was the second horse to score in the colours of the sons of late champion owner Naz Ahamad for the day.
Two races earlier, their Pistons And Rings, who had finished a very disappointing last as the second favourite in the Flamingo Stakes the Saturday before, proved that a distance of ground was exactly what he was waiting for when he beat a bunch of 60-40 rated horses by three-quarters of a length over a distance of 1,750 metres.
Racing continues at Santa Rosa Park on Saturday.