King Mufhasa appreciated the absence of the world's highest-rated sprinter Black Caviar when he raced to a comfortable win in the A$502,000 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday, securing his ninth group one victory.
With the unbeaten Black Caviar, who has won 19 straight races including nine group ones, having a let-up before she resumes in May, the 1400m weight-for-age feature was set up for on-pacer King Mufhasa with Nash Rawiller aboard for the first time.
Trainer Stephen McKee said Michael Rodd, who won the Toorak Hcp (1600m) on the 7-year-old last spring, had first refusal.
However Rodd was required by Mark Kavanagh at Morphettville.
"Nash was able to dictate the race and we know how good Nash is in front," McKee said.
"Without Black Caviar and a few other horses it made it a lot easier."
Sent out $2.60 favourite, King Mufhasa led in a leisurely run race and had 1 lengths to spare over Cox Plate heroine Pinker Pinker ($3.60) with 3-year-old Adamantium ($10) 1 lengths away third.
"I was actually quite excited to run against Black Caviar. I don't think a Kiwi horse has but, obviously, with her out of the way it makes the race winnable," McKee said.
"He has always run against group one level for the best part of his career so it's good to see him get another one."
The Pentire gelding has now had 49 starts for 18 wins and 11 placings and $2.5 million in prizemoney.
McKee said King Mufhasa would return to New Zealand today to prepare for his trip to Sydney for two autumn carnival starts.
"We'll probably come back for a couple of races in Sydney - the George Ryder or the All-Aged Stakes or both - but we will just look at how he takes the heat today and the trip home," the trainer said on Saturday.
Rawiller was rapt with King Mufhasa's effort. "He is an old cracker, isn't he? Full credit to him.
"He is probably not the best horse I've ever ridden but the stats suggest he is one of the hardest triers.
"To win his ninth group one today in Australasia, and more importantly in Australia, is a magnificent effort for an old horse.
"I could hear Pinker Pinker coming but every time I asked for my bloke he gave a little bit more."
Former German stayer Lucas Cranach is pressing Americain for Australian Cup favouritism after a stunning first-up win in the group two Peter Young Stakes.
Having his first start since finishing third to Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup, the 5-year-old thrilled his Australian connections with his dazzling acceleration to win his first race since joining Anthony Freedman's stable last spring.
After settling last, jockey Nash Rawiller bided his time and declared it a "soft win at the finish". Lucas Cranach ($7.50) scored by 1 lengths from another German import, Illo ($11), trained by Bart Cummings, while former English stayer Manighar ($6) completed an international trifecta.
"It was a very, very impressive win and we will go to Flemington with a bit of confidence," Freedman said.
"Nash rode him exactly as we wanted and it was good to see the horse produce that turn of foot which we know he's got. It augurs well for the longer races."
Kerrin McEvoy said Illo ran an encouraging trial for the Australian Cup and Manighar, who won first-up at Caulfield two weeks ago, again looked a winning chance in the home straight but was beaten in a photo-finish for second. AAP