After an unprecedented build-up to the race, The All-Star Mile on Saturday delivered the epic contest worthy of every bit of its $5 million prizemoney when Mugatoo edged out Russian Camelot in possibly the race of the season.

Not only are Mugatoo and Russian Camelot among the best horses in the land, they were handled by two of two best in Hugh Bowman and Damien Oliver, with both jockeys producing remarkable rides to find gaps and give their charges every chance of victory on a worsening Soft track at The Valley.

Four-time Cox Plate winner Bowman eventually claimed the prize when Mugatoo found his way clear on turning for home and held off Russian Camelot, who had been the beneficiary of a wonderful Oliver ride as he came off the inside fence to be produced to challenge three and four-wide on the home turn.

On the line, Mugatoo ($8), who made his way into the race via a wildcard, held a half-length advantage over Russian Camelot ($4.20), with three-and-a-quarter lengths to early leader Behemoth ($15) in third place.

Bowman revealed how much it meant to him to be matched-up against Oliver and to come out on top.

“Damien Oliver is someone I have looked up to from a very young age,” he said. “I have had the privilege to ride against him for a very long time now.

“We’ve both reached the heights of the sport. I could sense him waiting for me to run into trouble, but then all of a sudden, a gap appeared in front of me.

“I said to Cameron Swan (trainer Kris Lees’ foreman) that sometimes the best options are when you don’t have any and Damien really did have control of my fate.

“As things would have it, I got room in front of me and I think the best horse won on the day.

“That is just so exciting. It is amazing the emotion involved with this sport.

“After rides in Race 2 and 5 I was thinking the track is not ideal for Mugatoo to run a mile against this opposition, but when the rain that was forecast started, he came into contention.

“I did not expect to ride him like that. I was hoping to be three-deep, getting a trail up.

“I stayed to the rail, gave him the shortest way home. He got into a really good rhythm, but it was not as frantic as I expected it to be with the rain coming.

“Kris Lees has eyed this race off for a long time. He gave him one run in Sydney to prep for it. We all know his best distance is a bit further, but he’s come here in the right order and delivered on the big day.”

Lees said he could see the horse part-owned by Australian Bloodstock travelling well before the turn.

“Coming to the corner I was thinking ‘Just have no bad luck from here, please’,” he said.

“He was getting a bit tired once he got that clear running but up the straight, I thought the other one had his measure, but he really rallied and found. It was great to see.”

Not surprisingly, Lees is a big fan of The All-Star Mile concept after his connections gathered $2.25 million.

“It’s great. It’s been well received still with a restricted crowd, but the roar went up when the gates opened. It’s putting its footprint on racing now. It’s up and going, isn’t it?

“It’s right up there, great concept and great to be a part of it.”

Oliver said he thought he was a big winning chance on turning for home.

“Super run,” he said. “Had a great run through but just found a better wet-tracker on the day.”

Craig Williams was delighted with Behemoth’s on-pace effort.

“I’m so proud of him,” he said. “It was a gallant performance today. David Jolly and all his team have done a fantastic job with him.

“He did want to lug out around the turn, which is unusual for him, but that might have been because he was not that confident in that type of ground. But still his performance was excellent.”

The race turned out poorly for $3.50 favourite Probabeel, with the Kiwi mare not suited in the worsening conditions before dropping out to finish 12th, some 12 lengths from the winner.

Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet ($9.50) ultimately got the wet conditions he needed but could not sprint when the pressure came on and he could only manage ninth position.



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