The rise of Keayang Cullen continued at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night with an easy Minuteman Free-For-All win.
It was billed as a potential showdown between Keayang Cullen and ageing superstar Smoken Up but the old warrior just wasn’t able to go with the Terang terminator, who gave none of his rivals a chance in a flawless start-to-finish triumph.
Driven by young up-and-coming reinsman Jason Lee, whose cool-under-pressure style has him touted as one of the sport’s stars of the future, Marg Lee trained Keayang Cullen pinged to the front from gate one in the 2240-metre event.
Lance Justice took Smoken Up around fast starter Exciteusinthecity (Tim McLean) early to park outside the leader, while Chris Alford angled second-favourite Magical Telf behind Keayang Cullen from gate two.
Not much changed for the next 1400 metres as Keayang Cullen carved out first and second sectionals of 31.6 and 29.5, setting himself up for a dash home in the last 800m.
Smoken Up always sat back just slightly in the run, not eyeballing the leader and attacking at the bell from the chair as was once his caper.
Keayang Cullen was running some good time in the last 1200 metres though, sprinting down the back in 28.3 to get Smoken Up – an impressive last-start Globe Derby winner – off the bit.
When the leader swung the home bend it was clear he had Smoken Up’s measure, but the two-time Miracle Mile superstar – and Australasian mile rate record holder with a 1:48.5 mark – kept on giving his all.
Exciteusinthecity emerged down the outside in the final 150 metres, while Magical Telf had every conceivable chance to run down Keayang Cullen but couldn’t despite an economical drive by Alford.
Keayang Cullen kicked home in 27.4, recording a last half-mile time of 55.7 seconds to win by 3.2 metres, with Exciteusinthecity running second – he’s racing in career-best form – and Magical Telf third.
Teo Enteo never looked a winning threat but ran on fairly for fourth, while Jack In Flight was fifth of the seven ahead of Smoken Up, who beat only outsider Our White Knight to the line.
Leading up to last night’s race Jason Lee said he would love for Keayang Cullen to get a crack at the Miracle Mile in Sydney next season.
Given his picket fence form line and utter domination of the current free-for-all crop in Victoria, the Terang star’s invite is surely in the mail.
Smoken Up meanwhile will have his send-off at Tabcorp Park Melton on September 6 in the Casey Classic, where he will be hoping to draw an inside barrier and to be given the chance to race where he does best - out in front.
Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria