Racing: Former Cup favourite wins Stakes

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Veteran galloper Alcopop has ended New Zealander Ocean Park's unbeaten run of spring weight-for-age wins.

Aided by Craig Williams' deft navigational skills, Alcopop ($6) relegated the Cox Plate winner into third place in the $1 million Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington.

Runner-up to Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup at his previous start, Alcopop, an eight-year-old, posted his first Group One win in the traditional Victoria Derby day feature.

He gave South Australian trainer Jake Stephens a breakthrough Group One win.

It's been a long path back for the winner. Three years ago, he started favourite in the Melbourne Cup and 12 months later, he was fighting for his life.

Now, at the age of eight, he's the form horse of the Melbourne spring with a Group One win against his name.

Alcopop has fought his way through form slumps, disease and injury to claim his first win at racing's top level.

For trainer Stephens, it was the success that justified the time and faith he's put into his horse.

But it also proved a bitter-sweet experience.

Stephens took the difficult decision to replace regular jockey Dominic Tourneur with Craig Williams in the Mackinnon.

"As a trainer, you've got to be ruthless at times," Stephens said. "I just hope Dom gets some satisfaction out of the win."

Tourneur had ridden the horse in 20 of his previous 32 starts, including his past two.

"I had to distance myself from it emotionally but it hurt," he said.

Alcopop raced himself into favouritism for the 2009 Melbourne Cup and finished a fine sixth to Shocking, only to be struck down by a serious lung infection.

He came back into training for the 2010 Cup but suffered a knee injury which Stephens said had been a blessing in disguise.

Alcopop ($6) finished more strongly than any horse in the race to beat Glass Harmonium ($14).

The $1.70 favourite Ocean Park ran on moderately for third a further long neck back.

With this year's Cup out of the question, Stephens will send Alcopop away for a long break with a view to returning next spring for another shot at the big one.

- AAP

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