Plague Stone proves hard to crack
GODOLPHIN'S highly regarded Plague Stone lived up to the pre-race hype in making an impressive return to racing at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Plague Stone's debut season had been thwarted by bad luck in his previous four starts but the rising three-year-old enjoyed racing off a fast early tempo before scoring a convincing win in the Rosebud Prelude (1000m).
Trainer James Cummings believes Plague Stone is essentially a "fast sprinter" and the times out of Saturday's race support his theory.
Plague Stone ran the 1000m in a fast 56.84sec, and his final 600m sectional was a brilliant 33.66sec.
"Hugh (Bowman) afforded the colt a smooth ride in transit and this gave him the opportunity to show his blistering finishing speed,'' Cummings said. "
He will keep building on this sort of performance and I like the look of The Rosebud in three weeks' time.''
Plague Stone opened at $1.90 before easing to $2.10 favourite. He wore down dashing filly Witherspoon ($5.50) to win by a half-length with The Tenor ($8) 1½ lengths away third.
Although Plague Stone did ease late in betting, there had been confident support for the colt, including a $20,000 bet at $2.10 on TAB Fixed Odds.
Bowman said Plague Stone would be even better when he got out to 1200m.
"He seems a short-course horse but I would imagine if he gets to six furlongs (1200m) and he races in the right manner, he will show a really good turn of foot,'' Bowman said.
Cummings stopped short of predicting Plague Stone could be part of his three-year-old team being set for the Group 1 $1 million Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill during the spring.
"I think he is a fast sprinter,'' Cummings said. "That is why I kicked him off at 1000m.
"He was forced to carry the weight (58kg) and I was really happy with the way he has kicked off his campaign.''
Plague Stone, a son of champion sire Lonhro, broke his maiden at his fifth attempt but showed considerable promise earlier in the season, including his luckless, half-length second to Written By in a Blue Diamond Prelude.
The form out of Saturday's race should hold up in coming weeks as Plague Stone is loaded with ability and the runs of his immediate chasers, Witherspoon, The Tenor and Ben Hercules, had merit.
Witherspoon has abundant speed and had a three-length lead on her rivals coming into the straight.
The Brad Widdup-trained filly maintained her advantage for most of the run home and comfortably held the remainder of the field at bay but could not withstand the powerful finished surge of Plague Stone.