The Cox Plate is over two months away but Mystic Journey made an emphatic statement ahead of spring when winning Saturday’s G2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
Mystic Journey ($2.15 favourite) appeared in the mounting yard as a mare that had plenty of improvement still to come.
Her credentials at the start of her four-year-old season were going to be tested by Godolphin’s warhorse Hartnell, winner of the Lawrence in 2017 and runner-up in last year’s renewal, who also appeared more advanced in condition.
Adam Trinder had stressed in the lead-up to the Lawrence that Mystic Journey was vulnerable on any turf surface not rated good so the soft (5) ground also posed questions.
And the way Saturday’s Lawrence was run would have made Trinder anxious. Cliff’s Edge ($9) strung the field out whilst covering the first 800 metres in 49.45 seconds with Hartnell ($4) settling third in advance of Mystic Journey in fourth under regular rider Anthony Darmanin.
Mystic Journey had to earn victory, she was there to be beaten.
But displaying the trait of many great horses that have come before her, Mystic Journey found a way to win, peeling off the back of Hartnell and reeling off her final 400 metres in 22.39 seconds to score by three-quarters of a length.
Cliff’s Edge fought on determinedly for second, with Hartnell, unable to match the instant acceleration of Mystic Journey, strong through the line for third, a further long neck away.
“You can be confident but its one thing to do it under raceday pressure and do it – I thought she was great there today,” Trinder said.
“She was soft, Anthony (Darmanin) wasn’t hard on her in any regard, and she still showed great will and determination. That’ll hold her in great stead moving forward this preparation.”
Mystic Journey is likely to have her next start in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on September 14, bypassing the G1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 31.
“It’s a Group 1 race (the Memsie) and can’t be taken lightly, but we’ll do what’s right by the mare and my feel is a month between runs (for the Makybe Diva) and (give her) three runs before the Cox Plate.”
Hugh Bowman described the third-placed performance of Hartnell as ‘really positive’.
“He wasn’t as sharp as the winner obviously but I think if the winner hadn’t of closed me out then we might have got Cliff’s Edge,” Bowman said.