Australia's greatest race could easily be Incentivise's to lose after the most exciting and improved racehorse in the country romped home in the Caulfield Cup.
Capping a meteoric rise, Incentivise trounced his rivals in the $5 million spring handicap to take a stranglehold on betting for the Melbourne Cup.
In spite of covering more ground than any other runner at Caulfield, Incentivise strolled to the lead on the home turn and relegated Nonconformist and Persan into the minor placings.
And while jockey Brett Prebble admitted to a moment of concern as the pressure went on, as far as Melbourne Cup trials go they don't come any better for 3200m at Flemington in 17 days.
"I was surprised he came off the bridle sooner than I would have liked," Prebble told the Seven Network.
"All that is telling me is look out Melbourne Cup. He is going to eat (the distance)."
Prebble is enjoying a golden spring, linking with Incentivise at the expense of Sydney-based jockey Glen Boss who couldn't travel to Melbourne because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"He is probably one of the most exciting horses I have ridden," Prebble said.
Incentivise's rise also coincides with a return to the turf spotlight for trainer Peter Moody.
Moody trained the champion Black Caviar during her unblemished career of 25 wins but he walked out on the game before rebuilding with a much smaller operation in 2020.
He spent almost two decades at Caulfield, adding a special touch to his first win in a race that was devoid of international runners this year.
Moody was a late arrival at Caulfield, preferring to spend the countdown to the race with his family.
"They have been my biggest supporters since I have been back," he said.
Moody took over the training of Incentivise for the spring after the horse made a name for himself during the Queensland winter carnival and figured in a partial sale.
Incentivise landed at Moody's as the winner of his past six starts and after claiming two Group One races for the new stable, was sent out one of the shortest-priced favourites in Caulfield Cup history.
But coming from the deepest barrier draw made it a tough contract and Incentivise ($2.30) was trapped on a limb for most of the race.
Nevertheless, Prebble still had enough horse underneath him to fully commit his mount at the 800m and Incentivise did the rest.
The further he went the bigger the margin became and 3-1/2 lengths separated him from his nearest chaser Nonconformist ($9) at the finish.
Persan ($31) was another 1-3/4 lengths away in third, just ahead of Sydney mare Montefilia.
It was the most decisive Caulfield Cup win since Might And Power had 7-1/2 lengths to spare in 1997.
And it also brought some joy on an otherwise tumultuous day for part-owners Ozzie Kheir and Brae Sokolski after their 2020 WS Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet was put down after a trackwork accident.
Australian Associated Press