Despite a torrid run, former Kiwi galloper Irish Flame has continued his purple patch of form and demonstrated his toughness with a narrow win in the Ballarat Cup.
It was ex-New Zealanders to the fore as he is trained by former champion jumps jockey Brett Scott and ridden by Kiwi Michael Walker.
Irish Flame was originally trained by John Wheeler who provided Scott with many of his feature race wins as a rider.
The Ballarat Cup victory gave Scott one of his biggest successes as a trainer and his wife and business partner Kylie was overcome with emotion when the horse held on to win.
Irish Flame drew barrier 19 and Walker could not get a position closer than three-wide in the run but he was able to trail the frontrunners in fifth place.
Walker surged around the field to tackle the leader Pacodali early in the straight and then had to defy challenges from Affair To Remember and Game Keeper close to the line.
Irish Flame ($18) defeated Affair To Remember ($3.90 fav) by a half-head with Game Keeper ($20) the same margin away third.
The winner was originally an emergency for the race and only scrambled into the field when Power Scheme was scratched on Friday.
Scott said after such a wide run, he thought Irish Flame was in trouble but he hung tough to win.
“He was three-deep without cover for pretty much the whole trip as from the wide gate he didn’t get any favours in the run,” Scott said.
Walker said while Irish Flame had a hard run, they had only gone at a steady pace so he wasn’t too concerned.
The jockey admitted he had taken a couple of rides to get the hang of the horse, which helped on Saturday as he was prepared for Irish Flame’s trait of pulling up when he hits the front.
“He got the front today and he was going to win by three (lengths) but he pulls up when he hits the front,” Walker said.
“I was lucky that they got to me a long way before the post. He kicked again.”
Irish Flame was sent to Scott for this campaign and has now won almost $500,000 in prize money.
After consecutive seconds at Caulfield, Irish Flame completed a hat-trick of wins at Ballarat and Scott said he had improved with every run.
The horse will be aimed at the Sydney Cup next year.
Scott pointed out that Irish Flame is the only horse by Zed to have won a stakes race as a two-year-old in New Zealand.
Local mare Affair To Remember charged home from well back to finish second with Mark Zahra gaining runs through the field late to almost steal the race.