Tenacious Archedemus digs deep to take The Gong
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Tenacious Archedemus digs deep to take The Gong

The old warrior came out in Archedemus when he fought back to win $1 million The Gong (1600m) at Kembla Grange on Saturday.

The seven-year-old Archedemus ($18) defied the doubts of co-trainer Michael Hawkes and jockey Jay Ford and found more than favourite Dawn Approach ($5.00) in the charge to the line to win by a short neck with Think It Over ($41) 1½ lengths away in third.

Archedemus (left) and Dawn Passage settle down to fight out the finish of The Gong.

Archedemus (left) and Dawn Passage settle down to fight out the finish of The Gong.Credit:Getty

Archedemus had been set for The Gong and it showed in the final 200m as he dug in and more fancied stablemate Rock was left down the track. Hawkes hinted there might be more to come, whether that be in next month's Villiers Stakes or next year.

"Archedemus is probably the fresh horse on the scene, to be fair, and Rock has probably had one run too many," Hawkes said. "We have a lot to look forward to with him in the autumn. It was only our first crack and, even though he is a seven-year-old, he's just starting to turning the corner."

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Hawkes admitted thinking Archedemus was in trouble at the halfway point as he sat on a frantic tempo set by Positive Peace, but he shouldn’t have doubted the pre-race instructions to jockey Jay Ford.

“I said to Jay I hope he jumps, and I said to him you have to go that half-length quicker than slower because these older horses start to think when you start going slower,” Hawkes said.

"He is the kind of horse where you've got to go that half a length quicker than slower and just try and get his mental attitude right.

"Probably halfway out I was worried they were going a little bit too quick. It was a very tenacious and gutsy effort and all credit to Jay and the horse, they've definitely come together on the right day."

Ford had followed the plan to perfection but, when Dawn Passage loomed at the furlong marker, he thought he might have to settle for second.

"He was in quite a mood pre-race and even behind the barriers he got very stirred, which he can do sometimes," Ford said.

"The plan was to lead but when Positive Peace cleared out we just sat off. I thought we went reasonably controlled, and that's why I turned it up from the 700.

"I thought his best chance was if we could get a break on the field.

"He maintained his gallop all the way and was brave when Dawn Passage challenged.

"To be fair, I thought Dawn Passage had my measure, so I think he's rallied pretty strongly.”

Dawn Passage’s rider, Tim Clark, could only admit he was beaten by the stronger horse.

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“The winner was too good. We got past the winner but he has just out-toughed him,” Clark said. “It’s hard to say he hasn’t run a strong mile. He has gone super, he’s raced really well."

It completed a great spring for Hawkes with a pair of horses the stable picked up from owner Ross Williams.

"Ross Williams, the owner, gave me a call and asked if we'd take this horse on and Angel Of Truth,” Hawkes said.

"It was something we decided to do and try to get both horses back to form. Angel Of Truth nearly won a Metrop and this bloke, well now he's won a Gong, so he is well and truly back to form."

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