An explosive turn of pace did the trick for DUTY FREE as the sprinter charged home to claim the $55,000 Natsteel Holdings Stakes Class 4 race over 1,000m on Sunday.
The New Zealand-bred gelding, at long odds of $99, narrowly edged past PROBO CHANDROSO (Danny Beasley) by a neck for an unlikely victory in a time of 59.85sec.
PALOMBARO (Corey Brown) was one and three quarter-lengths behind in third.
It continued a recent improvement in form for the six-year-old galloper, who has now won three races in his last six starts much to the delight of trainer John O'Hara.
"He's got a good turn of foot on him and he's a horse that comes home well," he said. "His form of late has been excellent and he's really turned the corner."
After just one victory from his first 22 starts, Duty Free has won three of his last six starts since August and has collected around $150,000 in stakes earnings for Rake Racing Stable.
This was Duty Free's fourth run in two months and will be his last for the year, said the Singaporean handler. "I'm going to let him rest up and decide what to do with him in January," said O'Hara.
The son of Keeninsky by Ciao has also made a habit of staging late charges, with his previous two wins coming from way back in the field.
A familiar pattern was to follow as favourite MAKAWAO grabbed the early lead while the other seven runners followed behind, with Duty Free hovering near the rear and appearing to fall further back as they came around the bend.
But jockey Saifudin Ismail refused to panic and upon his urgings, Duty Free came alive in the final 200m and stormed past everyone, including the fading Makawao, who finished a disappointing sixth.
"I knew the pace of the race, with the level of the horses here, was going to be quick," said Saifudin. "I expected the other horses to come on strongly."
"But I knew my horse had that one short burst which would be enough to get him over the line first," he added after claiming his ninth victory of the season and seventh overall with O'Hara.
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