LEVENDI beat Ace High in a thriller; there was a protest to determine the result; a near fall resulted in a jockey suffering chest injuries — it was a classic in every sense of the word.
When the dust settled, Levendi was confirmed winner of a memorable Group 1 $2 million Harrolds ATC Australian Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick yesterday.
As brothers Peter and Manny Gelagotis embraced after Levendi gave them their biggest win, their celebrations abruptly stalled when the protest siren sounded.
It was like scoring a try only for the referee to check with the bunker — but worse.
While all that was happening, Corey Brown was nursing chest and rib damage after The Lord Mayor had all but fallen at the turn out of the straight the first time.
Brown’s injuries were severe enough to force him to relinquish his rides on In Her Time in the TJ Smith Stakes and D’Argento in the Doncaster.
Tye Angland, rider of Ace High, felt the winning margin of a nose was so narrow he was entitled to lodge his objection.
Angland told stewards Levendi had twice laid in and made contact with Ace High in the final 100m, forcing him to pull his whip to his right hand.
“Ace High was fighting back and, if we were able to maintain a straight course, I feel we would have won,’’ Angland said.
But Mark Zahra countered that Levendi had come from behind Ace High to beat him, describing the contact as minimal.
“Tye Angland was still able to ride Ace High with the utmost vigour,’’ he said.
Racing NSW stewards didn’t deliberate long before dismissing Angland’s protest, confirming Levendi ($6) the Derby winner from a very gallant Ace High ($5) with more than five lengths to Tangled ($26).
Peter Gelagotis said Levendi’s Derby triumph was an emotional moment for his “tight-knit family”.
“Being from a European background, we had a hard taskmaster in our father, god bless our mum back home, she is still there and supports us heavily,’’ he said.
“That passion was instilled in us by our parents, it’s a tough gig being European, and leaving our home country, our father started it, he gave it a go and we can honour his name.
“We’ve all started from humble beginnings and you get given opportunities in life. When you’ve got the guts and determination to take them.”
Gelagotis said Zahra’s ride was a magnificent example of patience and timing.
“You hope the rider is on the job with you and I don’t think we couldn’t have had a better guy on top who can be strong in a finish,’’ he said. “Mark had Levendi travelling well, we got a bit concerned when he peeled out and made his moved into the race.
“But Levendi was really strong at the top of the run and you could see he was going to let down and be in the finish. Full credit to Ace High he fought on strong, it was a great battle and fortunately enough for us we got the job done.”
Zahra admitted he wasn’t sure who had won a Derby finish that had everyone guessing.
“It is the moment of truth when you pull up and it’s going to be the most disheartening feeling ever or sheer joy,’’ Zahra said. “We didn’t know because I said you have won and Tye said I think you have got me.
“But Levendi is a beauty. He wanted to pull a little bit in the early parts but he switched off good and I just waited and waited and I knew Ace High would kick strong he is proven over the trip. I could feel when we both quickened there was no one else around it was a battle royale and the Gelagotis boys will be going mad I reckon.”