A return to Flemington has brought out the best in Grunt (O’Reilly x Ruqqaya) in the Gr.1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
The Mick Price-trained Grunt had been unplaced in his first two spring starts at Caulfield but relished getting back to the bigger track on Saturday, racing away to win the 1600m weight-for-age race.
The four-year-old entire's dominant win was his second at the elite level and he continued his good run of form Flemington after wins in the Australian Guineas (1600m) and CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) last autumn.
"He had to stand up today," jockey Damien Oliver said.
"His runs have been OK. He was only beaten a length first-up and two-and-a-half lengths second-up.
"But I suppose for a horse with the hype that he's had, we would have liked to have seen him finish closer.
"I've always maintained to Mick he appreciates Flemington so much better, the big open track.
"And he showed that today."
Grunt enjoyed a perfect run just off the pace in fifth before he ranged up at the 300m to issue his challenge.
Giving Oliver his fifth Makybe Diva Stakes win, Grunt burst clear to defeat Kings Will Dream by two lengths with another half-length to the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Jon Snow third.
The win has presented Price with a dilemma on which way to go for the rest of the spring with Grunt, who is entered for all the major races.
Price is yet to decide whether Grunt will go on a Caulfield Cup or Cox Plate path, while the Melbourne Cup at Flemington is also a consideration.
"It wouldn't worry me if we ended up in the Melbourne Cup with a lighter weight," Price said.
"All I know is he's a beautiful, big Flemington horse and it was a really dominant win today."
Bred by Trelawney Stud, Grunt was sold through their 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier draft for $220,000 when purchased by Mick Price in partnership with bloodstock agent Cameron Cooke.
Grunt is the third winner from as many foals out of winning Van Nistelrooy mare Ruqqaya who is a half-sister to Cox Plate winner Ocean Park, who also bred and sold by Trelawney. -AAP