Caspar Fownes' tenacious sprinter Lucky Nine fired a warning shot to any overseas raiders with designs on his International Day crown; a horse who was still recovering from his own failed foreign raid producing a comprehensive performance to win the Jockey Club Sprint.
Dull in the coat and short of peak fitness after a run in September's Sprinters Stakes in Japan, Lucky Nine put his problems aside to dominate his domestic rivals - and also deliver a blow to the confidence of Singapore's unplaced entrant Super Easy.
"Brett [Prebble] gave him a nice ride - he was jogging on the corner, and while his condition just gave out in the last 50m, he was still good enough to win it," Fownes said. "He was only 85 per cent right and there's nothing like a race to bring them on in the coat. He'll take so much improvement from this run. He has got a great record third-up and I'm looking forward to December 9.
"It's always hard to come back from Japan, the horses tend to lose their coats and he did the same again as last year, but it wasn't as bad. It was a good run by the second horse, but in saying that, I feel that in the next three weeks my horse is really going to come on from this run."
Fownes was referring to unlucky runner-up Time After Time, who proved he could mix it with the big boys with his fast-closing effort.
Jockey Douglas Whyte reported to trainer John Moore that Time After Time had been sandwiched between Lucky Nine and Little Bridge at the start, costing him a length at a critical stage, and possibly the race.
Little Bridge, also returning from a failed Sprinters Stakes bid, was a major disappointment. Little Bridge was beaten 51/2 lengths into ninth and left trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing worried his horse's breathing problem - he has been diagnosed as a roarer - had worsened.
"We'll go and see how he pulls up before we decide whether we push on to International Day," Shum said. "I hope he is OK, we may have to keep him to straight races in the future if it gets worse."
Super Easy seemed in contention with about 300m to go after taking up a handy position in the run, but finished an honest but unconvincing sixth.
Trainer Michael Freedman indicated he was leaning towards staying for International Day, but would consult with connections.
"We'll see how he pulls up and speak to the owners, but we're here and it's not like he has run badly. In the heat of the moment is not the time to make decisions though," he said.