Tom terrific: Fan favourite back in the winner’s stall

Perennial placegetter Tom Melbourne broke his 1044-day win drought while stablemate Religify broke down in what was a bittersweet listed Carrington Stakes (1400m) for the powerhouse Chris Waller stable.

As comeback kid Blake Shinn did the unthinkable and got Tom Melbourne to win his first race in three years and first Sydney, Religify was 200m past the winning post being treated by vets.

Religify missed a place and was quickly loaded into the back of a truck. Initial reports were the eight-year-old would survive but not race again.

Tom Melbourne had become known for forever finding one horse better than him with five wins early in his career in Melbourne and 13 placings.

But Tom Melbourne ($5) showed his best to win by more than two lengths from Flow ($4.20) and another Waller runner, Tangled ($26). If all goes to plan and the public get behind ‘‘Tom’’, he will be aimed for the $5 million All Star Mile at Flemington on March 16.

Waller, who was in London during the week for Winx’s World’s Best Horse awards, took to Twitter and quipped: ‘‘#RoyalAscot or @allstarmile … I’ll decide tomorrow. Regards Tom M’’.

Waller stable representative Charlie Duckworth was reminded about Tom Melbourne’s popularity as he was continually congratulated on his way to the winner’s stall at the front of the Randwick grandstand.

‘‘People were like, oh my God, he’s done it, he’s done it’,’’ Duckworth said. ‘‘It was like he had won the World Cup. He’s put them away relatively easily. He loomed up like a champ and hopefully he can go on with it.

‘‘That will be massive for his confidence. He didn’t do it the hard way, he loomed up at the top of the straight and cantered up to the others. He won’t come home and think, ‘that was hard work’, he’ll be like, ‘that was fun and I might do it again’. We’re hoping to head to the Al Star Mile. He’s doing OK with the votes Obviously everyone has a horse and their connections are using different ways to get them to vote for their horse.

‘‘I don’t mind whatever incentives you’ve got. But winning on the track is the best form of advertising.’’

As for Religify, Duckworth said: ‘‘He will retire, without a doubt. At this stage it’s not a catastrophic injury, and we’re hopeful it’s only soft tissue. We’re still finding out.’’

Shinn, who could not have asked for a better return to the saddle after five months recovering from a serious neck injury, was one of the first jockeys to ride Tom Melbourne when he was to Waller.

‘‘He’s got a bit of a cult following, and it’s awesome to get him home,’’ he said. ‘‘He was well in at the weights. I thought today was his opportunity to win if I could give him a nice ride and he really delivered for me.’’

Duckworth praised the immediate impact Shinn had on his return. ‘‘He’s come here with a good book of rides from good trainers because we all know the homework he does is priceless and he will deliver, whether it’s his first day back or he had ridden all year,’’ Duckworth said. ‘‘I’m delighted he got the job done for us.” -The Daily Telegraph

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