FOR the third year running, the Caulfield Cup dreams of up-and-coming stayers were thwarted in the Mornington Cup by a street-smart bulldog as Tuscan Fire claimed automatic entry into this year's Caulfield Cup with a stunning win in the listed event.
Since the introduction of the ballot-exempt ticket to the Caulfield Cup, a string of progressive young stayers have fallen short of the mark in the rigorous Mornington Cup; West Australian veteran Guyno narrowly denied subsequent group 1 winner Cedarberg in 2011, well-travelled Tasmanian Norsqui defeated a string of good stayers last year, with Tuscan Fire trumping Durnford on Wednesday.
The victory was the latest chapter in an extraordinary story with trainer Dan O'Sullivan successfully turning Tuscan Fire into a standout dual-purpose galloper with a string of flat wins this summer following a winning season over jumps last winter.
''I'm very proud and I couldn't believe that it could work out as good as it did [on Wednesday],'' said O'Sullivan.
''It's a big thrill, just to have this horse achieve this is huge. Going back a little while I had a little plan in mind but didn't want to say it, people think you overrate your horse but it's worked out well so far.''
Previously seen breaking the hearts of his rivals with strong front-running displays, Tuscan Fire and Glen Boss took up the role of hunter in Wednesday's race, stalking the leaders to the turn before Boss released the breaks on the gifted stayer.
The pair burst clear of the chasing pack with Durnford staying on strongly, albeit slightly greenly, for Pat Carey into second place to give that trainer his second runner-up finish in the race in three years, with the Peter Moody-trained Macedonian close up in third.
It was Boss' third win from four rides on Tuscan Fire this campaign and the three-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey was thrilled in the performance that returned his first Mornington Cup win.
''All about Dan and the horse, it's an unbelievable effort,'' said Boss. ''Gee he gave me a great ride.'' Boss was later fined $1000 by stewards for celebrating the victory before the finish line.
Despite the presence of Durnford and a team of gifted stayers from New South Wales, Tuscan Fire was well fancied by punters in Wednesday's race, with the horse's brilliant summer form standing out over a history of jumps race successes.
And while now qualified for a Caulfield Cup berth later this year, O'Sullivan will let the dust settle before deciding on the next target for the in-form six-year-old. He did not rule out a return to the jumps.