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Gelagotis eyeing shot at history following 'fantastic' Group 1 win

Peter Gelagotis (left): delighted with Levendi's Group 1 victory
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Trainer Peter Gelagotis looked a happy man as he was munching on a sausage and egg sandwich in between saddling up a few at the Cranbourne jump outs on Monday morning.

This had more to do, of course, with having trained his third Group 1 winner two days earlier than what looked a tasty toastie. But a man has to eat, as do his horses, so Group 1 win or not, it was back to work as usual. Limited time to celebrate but time enough, in between the usual mundane tasks at the trials, to reflect on his ATC Derby win with Levendi.

"It was just fantastic," Gelagotis said. "Great for everyone concerned and great for the horse. The winner's a very good horse and had the better run but our bloke was just too good. He's a very good horse, which we've known from the word go. Someone told me he's run the second fastest ever Derby time."

That someone, by my reckoning, would be right. Only Octagonal, in 1996, was quicker.

Levendi, interestingly, claims the time silver by just 1/100th of a second - the same margin as Saturday's victory - from Ethiopia who won the Derby in 2012. Pat Carey's charge did not quite reach those heights again but he did run, which is readily forgotten, fourth in that year's Cox Plate and that's the path Gelagotis is inclined to pursue with Levendi. That may or not be Winx dependant.

Five horses have completed the ATC (AJC) Derby and Cox Plate double which means, like most things in racing, it can be done, although it's some quintet - Phar Lap, Dulcify, Kingston Town, Strawberry Road and Bonecrusher. Against that, of course, is that the majority of Derby winners are aimed at the Cups rather than Moonee Valley's jewel.

"He's a horse with genuine class, not a slow Derby winner. He's a Group 3 winner at 1600 metres and won the Group 2 (Tulloch Stakes) at 2000 metres so I think many would see him as a legitimate stallion prospect," Gelagotis said.

His half-brother, by Sebring, was sold on Tuesday by Widden Stud for $500,000 to George Moore Bloodstock which underlines how the family is valued. Levendi was foaled, raised and sold by Widden Stud for $1400,000 at Magic Millions - on behalf of Robert Anderson.

Levendi's path to the Derby was eventful as he finished 25 lengths last of 18 in the Australian Guineas at the second run of this campaign. "He crashed into the fence and the roses on the lane leading out onto the track and I was still picking thorns out of his side well after the race," Gelagotis said.

The other thorn in his side was pushing forward on a suicidal early pace and it was a run best forgotten according to Gelagotis and his brother Manny, who fulfils various roles from stable manager and spokesman to bloodstock buyer.

They were right, with an Alister Clark Stakes second to Cliff's Edge following before his Tulloch Stakes and Derby wins.

The Gelagotis team had had only two previous Derby runners in Sydney - Big Col and Hvasstan. "Big Col seems a long time ago now, in 2009. He was a bit stiff and only beaten about five lengths. Hvasstan was a good galloper but not quite good enough for that Derby," Gelagotis said.

Hvasstan had earlier run fourth in the 2012 Victoria Derby which was just two weeks after the death of their father Mick, who’d been an inspiration as the archetypal hard working, successful immigrant from Greece who not only did very well in business but also successfully trained horses.

"I was definitely wiser for the experience of having had the two previous Derby runners and hopefully we will be for our first experience in Dubai," Gelagotis said in reference to Illustrious Lad's recent fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai.

Illustrious Lad will be given a four weeks freshen after completing quarantine requirements and be prepared for the spring, as will Malaguerra, Gelagotis' second Group 1 winner after Mourinho, who hasn’t raced since last year's Darley Classic.

"He's had a mild suspensory issue but I'd say he's fully sound now. I do a lot of the rehab work myself on the treadmill but he might also go back to Lee Evison who does such a great job with these issues and tendon problems. We've seen what he did with Gailo Chop. Either way I'm confident Malaguerra will be back for the spring," Gelagotis said.

Gelagotis says he's proud of what his stable has been able to achieve. "Most of the time I've only had 18 or so in work so I think we've done all right. We've expanded now to 30, 35 in work with a second base at Coronet Bay which gives us access to the beach but I'll never abandon Moe, not even if Manny likes to push that idea from time to time. No way I’m leaving Moe," he said.

The Gelagotis boys can divide opinion. Manny is well known for his forthright opinions and the stable copped some flak for taking on The Cleaner but that wasn’t by their initiation. One thing you can’t deny is their passion and enthusiasm.

Peter has the manner of a good country bloke, with an infectious smile, who might ply his trade Monday to Friday and turn out for the local footy club on Saturday afternoon. Wouldn’t surprise if he still did but for the races intervening. Plenty of footy and soccer was played as the brothers grew up.

Manny's successful round ball career, which included playing in the National Soccer League, is well known. Not so well known is that he might have been an AFL player according to Peter who played both codes himself.

"Manny was drafted as a 16-year-old by Footscray after he was awarded best player in a Herald Shield final but mum and dad wouldn't let him go. He was a good footballer (AFL) and much better than me at both codes," Peter told me in an earlier interview.

Pardon the obvious pun, but they just might be kicking some goals this spring.


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The winner's a very good horse and had the better run but our bloke was just too good
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