Western Australian superstar Tommy Shelby reigned supreme in a memorable finish to the Group 1 TAB Australian Cup on Saturday night, prevailing in a spine-tingling duel down The Meadows home straight with Fernando Bluey.
Trained by Steve Withers, who also bred and part-owns the ‘people’s dog’, Tommy Shelby overcame box four to gun down leader Fernando Bluey in the shadows of the post to claim his second Group 1 trophy, having previously won the Hobart Thousand in December.
“I’m very proud of the dog,” said Withers.
“He’s just an awesome dog.
“He’s a dog we’ve bred from home, he’s been on the journey, he’s been everywhere, he’s done the job everywhere and he’s really put an exclamation mark on his career. I think he deserves it.”
Tommy Shelby was the fastest qualifier for the Australian Cup after a scorching 29.51s heat victory and he started $2.80 favourite in the $300,000 to-the-winner final, despite continuing a horror run of draws during the three-week Cup Carnival.
The son of Fernando Bale and Serena Fly High, named after the lead character from TV series Peaky Blinders, ran third from box six in the Group 1 Temlee invitational on opening night and then exited box five in his dominant heat performance.
Fernando Bluey, trained by 18-year-old Kayla Cottrell, was the $4.30 second elect from box six and he once again demonstrated great early pace to lead, courtesy of a 5.02s first split, while Tommy Shelby overcame an average getaway to drive into second.
WATCH: TOMMY SHELBY (4) overcame a tardy start to reel in a front-running Fernando Bluey (6) in a thrilling edition of the Group 1 TAB Australian Cup.
Tommy Shelby levelled up to Fernando Bluey turning for home and finished the better in a stirring drive to the line in 29.86s, with Lakeview Cruiser ($10) finishing third, giving champion stud dog Fernando Bale the trifecta.
“Your first instinct is good but I’m a little bit biased!” said Withers after the tight finish.
“He’s been in every big race but he can’t draw a box and to get through the traffic tonight I’m very proud of him.”
Tommy Shelby has now won 27 of his 41 starts, with his prizemoney skyrocketing to just under $750,000.
Adding further merit to Tommy Shelby’s Australian Cup heroics, he hasn’t raced in his home state since September 26 as he’s campaigned in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland, winning the Hobart Thousand and placing in the Melbourne Cup, Million Dollar Chase and Gold Bullion.
“He’s got an awesome temperament. He’s a pet at home and then he comes to the racetrack and turns it on,” said Withers.
Withers and fellow owners, wife Kira and Michael and Jodie Harders, have generously been donating 10 per cent of their owners’ prizemoney, five per cent overall, to various charities each month, with Bushfire Volunteers WA the beneficiary in February.
THRILL OF THE CHASE – AUSTRALIAN CUP NIGHT
WATCH: Catch all the emotion around the two Group 1s on Australian Cup night, a special on the Whelan family, Roz Russell in Lou’s Lounge and the announcement for a new million dollar race called The Phoenix.
Photos by Clint Anderson
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